Studying Treasured Pleasures
Cindy Knight
By Cindy Knight
High School Social Studies  
November 26, 2018  
“After this, I’m going to need some coffee.”
“Never underestimate the power of chocolate.”
“Pretty please, with sugar on it.”  
Does any of this sound familiar? There is a lot of history behind these sentiments. Forest Ridge High School students have some exciting options in the Social Studies department, among them is an exploration of world history through the lens of some of our most treasured pleasures. Coffee, Sugar & Chocolate: Pleasure, Power & Shame is the title of a new one-semester class that takes the class through Earth’s tropical regions and examines how people from very far away have become involved with the production and consumption of these goods. These are essentials of modern life, aren’t they?  
Aside from the fascinating content -- studying the history of coffee in this most caffeinated of metropolitan areas -- the most enjoyable and valuable aspect of this class has turned out to be its student leadership. Students have a schedule of leadership for the whole semester and each time the class meets a team of two manages everything that happens in the classroom. While we all read the same material and create questions based on that reading, class leaders come up with innovative activities and discussions. Their slideshows are true works of art.  
This class reminds me that when students have developed the necessary skills and are supported by a clear structure, they devour information and challenge themselves, and each other, to make sense of it. I celebrate this opportunity to support that discovery. I am impressed by the way students integrate the information from this class with other learning and their own ethical development. Current issues like the recent grocery tax initiative and the migrant crisis fit seamlessly into our discussions.  
Slavery and other forms of labor, globally-traded commodities, environmental trauma, human migration, ethically-sourced consumption and the obesity epidemic are just some of the topics we cover. We also look at the difference between a latte and a cappuccino and ask why Hawai‘i is part of the U.S. Wow! We cover a lot. Every single student brings her full focus to each class. And afterward – even gouté (a snack or treat) is part of a rich and complex history.
  • Forest Ridge Blog