Unique Social Innovation Virtual Classrooms Link School Children in Pennsylvania and Ghana

The Hershey Company has launched a unique social innovation distance learning program that links school children in Hershey, Pennsylvania and Ghana through real-time, high-definition technology to create a common, virtual classroom. This program gives 80 elementary students the opportunity to learn together based on a curriculum developed by teachers in Hershey and Ghana.  Joel Crowley, teacher at Milton Hershey School, says, “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. Everyone is inspired by the passion the children and teachers in Ghana have for learning together through this powerful technology.”

This is a creative collaboration where, Hershey, the largest U.S. chocolate maker, has come together with Ghana, a world leader in cocoa production. It is a first-of-its-kind social innovation initiative that has been developed with the Milton Hershey School (MHS), 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. Using high-definition tele-presence video technology, the 11 and 12 year-old students in Assin Fosu, Ghana, a rural town located in the Central Region, are able to participate face-to-face in a life-like virtual classroom program with fourth-grade students located half way across the world at MHS, in the U.S.  Teachers from both schools lead the sessions together, following the same curriculum and lesson plans.

This Ghana Distance Learning Program is just one component of a set of projects by Hershey to engage with cocoa communities and improve the lives of cocoa families worldwide. 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.  Eric Gyeke, Headmaster, FOSCO Demonstration School in Ghana says, “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.”

Importantly, the children learn about how cocoa connects their respective local economies. Together, they learn how their countries partner to take cocoa from pod to a finished product. The Ghanaian students share information about cocoa farming and learn how cocoa, the key ingredient to chocolate, is grown and where it originates. The American pupils and teachers share knowledge about how the cocoa grown in Ghana becomes delicious chocolate products. Plus, the children in Ghana get to taste the Hershey chocolate bars, with many trying chocolate for the first time!

Over the next five years, Hershey will expand its programs to improve cocoa communities by investing 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 education, health and economic opportunities.

Photo Credit: The Milton Hershey School Website

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