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Chocolate Workshop Gives Kids a Taste of Yummy Fun

Feb. 10, 2008 — On Saturday morning the walkway to the Bodine Visitors Center, edged with bright purple bougainvillea and orchids, was peaceful and serene. But inside the center it was anything but flowers and serenity as kids chattered and laughed like old pals, making and learning about a favorite subject: chocolate.
Above the din, giving instructions on how to make the treats, was Marilyn Chakroff, volunteer at the St. George Village Botanical Garden.
"I love how they start out quiet and then halfway through everyone becomes friends," Chakroff said. "Something like this gets people to interact with each other,"
The Second Saturdays workshop is held at the garden once a month for children accompanied by an adult. This three-hour workshop, attended by 36 parents, grandparents, step-parents and kids, was chock full of hands-on fun and the history of chocolate.
Chakroff instructed the children on how to make a chocolate drink, fudge and candy. Best of all, the end products had to be sampled.
The children ground cocoa beans with mortars and pestles, then mixed up a bitter chocolate drink of the ancient Aztecs, spicy and bitter. When the kids tasted it, small faces scrunched up in looks of, well, distate.
Then they mixed sugar in new batches, and that was a little more appealing to them. Chakroff said chocolate drinks were the first stimulant, around long before tea and coffee.
Fudge was made using zip-lock bags containing four ingredients which the children mixed together, squishing the doubled bags in their hands. A pound of powdered sugar went into the mix. The participants were licking their fingers after sampling the sweet treat.
Adults were impressed with the tasty outcome. "This fudge is tasty, easy to make and something kids can do to keep them busy," Vera Falu said.
The children also made molded chocolates from wafers they melted in the sun, then spooned into plastic molds of sea creatures and shells. While the kids waited for the chocolate to harden, they took a hike in the rainforest section of the garden to see an actual cacao tree. It was a chance to romp and blow off steam, running and laughing.
Pitching in and lending a hand were sponsors of the workshop Jerry and Fran Tobin, longtime members at the garden. "We are really pleased to see the success of the program," said Fran Tobin. "And this is a great way to make use of the Bodine Center," added Jerry Tobin.
The programs are offered the second Saturday of each month as part of the Education Outreach Program. "We are fulfilling our education mission getting parents and children together with Second Saturdays," said Lesley Hoffman, administrative director at the garden.
According to Hoffman, the chocolate workshop was so successful they will hold it again during the year. "These workshops are a chance for the children to run around the garden and have fun with a learning experience at the same time," Hoffman said.
Kimberly Nelson, wife of Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, said "We're having so much fun I'm signing us up for the next workshop too."
That one will focus on making and using dried flowers, on March 8. Pre-registration is required and the cost is $5 per person. For more information call 692-2874.
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