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History of The Great Chocolate Experience

Glenda Bequette believes that it is possible to do neat projects even under the most adverse conditions, and The Great Chocolate Experience is proof that she is right! Read her comments about the history of this technology-based math project for kids.

"This January will be the fourth year for this project. I started the project in 1995 while I was teaching third grade in the Valmeyer School District. Valmeyer is located approximately 25 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri, on the Illinois side. In 1993, Valmeyer was devastated by the flood of 1993. We had water up to the second floor of our high school. The town was evacuated, and most of the students were living in FEMA trailers for about three years. The original project did not take place in a 'normal' classroom. At the time, we were in modular buildings at the Monroe County Fairgrounds -- the whole school, K-12.

"We did not have any type of Internet access or 'fast computers' (Apple IIe's and IIc's). I wrote a mini-grant to Illinois Computing Educators for $1,000. The $1,000 barely paid for a phone line to come into the building and software for my classroom. The next problem was an Internet-capable computer to do the project. So, every day for five months I brought my computer from home to school and back so that my students could have access to do this project. I had to take it home every night because of 'insurance/liability.' I didn't want to take my printer back and forth every day, so my students got in the habit of e-mailing everything they wanted to print to one of the teachers at the high school who had a printer and access to e-mail during the day. He would print everything for them, and then they would go knock on his trailer door, and he would hand the papers out!

"This project required lots of teamwork, and my students never gave up! The first year I opened it up only to second- and third-grade classes in the United States, and we had three classes [that didn't fit the criteria] that sent us e-mail letting us know they wished they could join. One class was from Canada, one was from Hong Kong, and one was a seventh- and eighth-grade class in Bernie, Missouri. They said, 'We love M&M's, and we want to participate!' So my students made them the 'Official Statisticians.' (Third graders can't do percentages very well.)

"Needless, to say I'm still very proud of those kids! They are now eighth graders. This past spring, I had the opportunity to go down and visit them. The first thing out of their mouths was, "Where's the chocolate?" My students really believed in the adage, 'If you think you can or you think you can't -- you're always right.' CAN'T wasn't part of their vocabulary."

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