Friday, May 13th, 2011
By Shelley Grieshop
St. Henry students hit with Chocolate Fever
  ST. HENRY - Willy Wonka would be proud - maybe even a little jealous - of the activities held this week at the elementary school.
Chocolate Fever was the theme for this year's Creative Arts Festival, and that meant luscious lessons on the sweet concoction derived from the seed of the tropical cacao tree.
"The students have been asking intriguing questions about chocolate and constructing their creative ideas of chocolate using a variety of visual art forms and media," elementary school art teacher Shelly Zeller said Thursday morning.
Art projects - big and small - lined the walls and floors of nearly every hallway and filled shelves in the library.
A buffet of art-related activities were held all week beginning with "candy bar day" on Monday and ending with "chocolate fever day" today. On Thursday, children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade moved from class to class as special guests spoke and gave tasty demonstrations.
"There's something you probably don't know about me," physical education teacher Lori Schwieterman told her audience of first-grade students. "I make cakes, Barney cakes, Mickey Mouse cakes, tractor cakes ... all kinds."
Schwieterman - who skipped the apron in favor of her usual attire of gym shorts and T-shirt - gave a chocolate cupcake to each child and instructed them on how to ice it.
"It looks yummy," student Lauren Beyke said.
After frosting the cupcakes, the children were urged to get creative with toppings.
"I want sprinkles," shouted one little boy as he licked icing from his lips.
Down the hall retired art teacher and veteran cake baker Elaine Broering helped kindergarten students frost and decorate soft, chocolate cookies. After the little ones began tasting their creations, she asked if anyone had ever baked them a special cake.
"My mommy did," Sloan Holdheide said. "She made me a castle cake."
"Was it really good ... did it taste good ... was it pretty?" Broering asked.
Grinning, Holdheide shook her head up and down.
In Room 118, professional chef Terry Roode Rutschilling discussed the world's chocolate obsession with a group of second-graders.
"How much money is spent on chocolate each year in this country?" she asked. "I'll give you a hint; it's in the billions of dollars."
After numerous guesses from the class, Rutschilling said the answer is a whopping $16 billion.
"Remember that amount. Your parents would probably never guess that," she said.
Next Rutschilling distributed pieces of dark chocolate and milk chocolate chips and asked the children to rate the taste of each. To ensure the children would savor the flavors, she directed them to "let the chocolate melt in your mouth" before swallowing.
"Just like church," student Ben Franck said.
Student teacher Kendra Obringer explained to Rutschilling that many children in the class had recently received the sacrament of First Communion. Instructions for swallowing the host were very similar, she added.
The dark chocolate received poor reviews from the young critics. Rutschilling said the response was due to its low sugar and fat content.
In the library down the hall, Mercer Health nutritionist Julie Hemmelgarn also was discussing dark chocolate and its benefits, such as the antioxidants it contains.
"It's much healthier for us than other chocolates," she said. "But that doesn't mean you can eat it all the time."
The group of children gathered on the floor weren't pleased with the news. One little boy looked toward the hallway and whispered to a friend.
"I think we're going to get cookies," he said.
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