The Hershey Co. has launched a unique distance learning program linking school children in Hershey, Pa., and Ghana through real-time, high-definition technology that creates a common, virtual classroom.
The program allows approximately 80 elementary students to learn together based on a curriculum developed by teachers in Hershey and Ghana. Hershey is the largest U.S. chocolate maker and Ghana is a world leader in cocoa production.
The Hershey Learn to Grow: Ghana Distance Learning Program is a first-of-its-kind program developed in collaboration with the Milton Hershey School, the M.S. Hershey Foundation and Hershey Story Museum, Cisco, and African partners that include the Assin Fosu school, Ghana Education Service, Ghana Cocoa Board and Source Trust.
“We are thrilled by how well our students have responded to this new way of learning about Ghana and seeing links between cocoa growing and chocolate making,” said Joel Crowley, fourth grade teacher at Milton Hershey School. “Everyone in Hershey has been inspired by the passion the children and teachers in Ghana have for learning together through this powerful technology.”
“In Ghana, we are focused on bringing the highest quality education to our rural schools and believe this technology-based programming is a major step forward,” said Eric Gyeke, headmaster of the FOSCO Demonstration School in Ghana. “Our children are delighted by the relationships they are forming with the Milton Hershey School students.”
Using high-definition telepresence video technology from Cisco, 11- and 12-year-old students in Assin Fosu, Ghana, a rural town located in the Central Region, are participating face-to-face in a life-like virtual classroom program with fourth-grade students located on a different continent at Milton Hershey School (MHS) in Hershey, Pa. The MHS students connect to Ghana from The Hershey Story Museum’s Chocolate Lab located in downtown Hershey, Pa. Teachers from both schools, in addition to educators from the museum, lead the sessions together, following the same curriculum and lesson plans.
Based on the early success of the Hershey’s Learn to Grow: Ghana Distance Learning program, the partners have decided to extend the program—originally slated for 10 modules over two months—through the full academic year and explore opportunities to further expand the program.
“At Milton Hershey School, we try to emphasize to our students that they are a very important part of a bigger community, and this program takes it one step further,” said Dr. Anthony Colistra, president of the School. “Students are engaging with their peers in Ghana for valuable lessons in subjects like geography and science. While they are participating in this experiential learning exercise, they are also finding out that despite distance and cultural differences, they have a lot in common.”
The Ghana Distance Learning Program is one component of a comprehensive set of programs implemented by The Hershey Company to engage with cocoa communities and improve the lives of cocoa families around the world.
Students from both countries connect every two weeks and go through six structured lesson plans over the course of three months. The lessons help the students gain a better understanding of each other’s cultures and create a global connection. Students look at factors that impact daily life in each country, from climate and weather to understanding local geography. They also learn about how cocoa connects their respective local economies.
The students in Ghana live in one of the highest cocoa-producing regions in the world. Together, the students will learn how their countries partner to take cocoa from pod to a finished product. The Ghanaian students will share information about cocoa farming and learn how cocoa, the key ingredient to chocolate, is grown and where it originates.
The U.S. students and teachers, who live in the same town where some of the world’s most famous chocolate products are made, will share information about how the cocoa grown in Ghana becomes delicious chocolate products. The students in Ghana will get to taste chocolate bars made in Hershey, Pa., with many trying chocolate for the first time.
Each of the distance learning sessions incorporates a cultural exchange activity, an interactive lesson, which ties into the curriculum and a “Q&A” session between the students. This distance-learning program is part of The Hershey Co.’s multiple initiatives to reinforce cocoa sustainability and accelerate farmer and family development in West Africa, where 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown. The program was made possible through a unique public/private partnership between The Hershey Company, Cisco Systems, Milton Hershey School, The Hershey Story Museum and Source Trust.
Source Trust is a non-profit organization focused on sustainable farming practices, which improve the lives of farmers and their families. Earlier this year, The Hershey Co. partnered with Source Trust to create the Hershey Learn to Grow farmer and family development center in Assin Fosu in Ghana’s central cocoa region. The distance-learning program is now part of the Learn to Grow program.
Over the next five years, The Hershey Co. will expand and accelerate programs to improve cocoa communities by investing millions of dollars in West Africa and continuing to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government to drive long-term change in cocoa villages where families will benefit from the investments in education, health and economic opportunities. Earlier this year, Hershey announced a $10 million commitment to accelerate its programs in West Africa. In addition, Hershey recently committed to third-party certification by 2020 for 100% of the cocoa used for all of its chocolate products.
For more information about Hershey’s cocoa sustainability programs in West Africa, visit: www.HersheyCocoaSustainability.com.