Mention chocolate to most children and you're guaranteed a frenzied delirium that only the end of term can equal. So, deciding where to take my Year 4 class to expand their studies on the Aztecs was easy: Cadbury World.
There is a permanent interactive exhibition telling the story of how the marauding Spanish "found" the coca plant when they came across the Aztecs, and subsequently "discovered" chocolate. I told them five months in advance that we were going to chocolate paradise. I soon realised my mistake when a reference to the trip was made every week before departure and I began to worry that Mr Cadbury might not live up to their stratospheric expectations. Besides, it wasn't just the free chocolate I was interested in. What else would they get out of it?
As we approach Bournville, a few children spot the signs for the attraction. I began to wonder whether the Cadbury name itself contained any e-numbers. Not many others names have a hyperactive effect like this.
Arriving at the gargantuan chocolate factory whipped the children into a frothy frenzy. Some tried to leave the coach with their seat belt still on.
Once inside, children catch a glimpse of the "World's Biggest Cadbury Shop". That would wait. We had some learning to do first. We started our journey travelling back to the time of the Mayan Indians and Aztecs, walking through a forest. This exhibition sets the scene well although there is a lot of reading for the children to do here. A talking guide would have been great.
We moved on to The Cadbury Story to find out how the Cadbury business came into being. In the cinema we discover the most important ingredients of milk chocolate and have great fun sitting on benches that suddenly come to life, vibrating from side to side as the story unfolds.
The factory tour is easily the best part of the trip because children enter sensory overload. The funk of chocolate is inescapable and everyone agrees this would be a great place to work. As we pass the packaging plant and see bars and boxes rolling past on conveyor belts we reach the new demonstration area. Here we are given some liquid chocolate and challenged not to lick our lips before being shown hand-tempering and chocolate-dipping. The children love this because they get to have a go at playing with chocolate.
Later we step into Cadabra and climb aboard a Beanmobile to enjoy a gentle ride through a chocolate wonderland, watch some television adverts from the 1950s and press buttons and spinning wheels in The Fantasy Factory, where children can let off a bit of steam.
After a break in the novelty playground, it's off to Cadbury Land to watch a short interactive show and then take a look around the Cadbury Collection, the museum of memorabilia. To supplement the visit, I arranged for a talk by the education manager which was well worth it.
At the end of the visit, the pull of yet more chocolate is too great and despite the free samples the pupils are given during their visit, they still buy more at the shop.
A trip to Cadbury World is great value for money and there is certainly a lot to experience. However, children are conscious consumers these days and my Year 4's were surprised not to see anything about Fair Trade. Some of the exhibitions look tired and need refurbishing, but then that's not surprising since seven million people have visited Cadbury World in the past 14 years.
Overall, it's a multi-sensory experience that successfully combines learning with fun. Pupils like it and some have been back. I'm sure I'll be returning with another class next year.
John Dabell teaches at Derby high junior school.Cadbury World, Linden Road, Bournville, Birmingham B30 2LD. Tel: 0121 451 4159; www.cadburyworld.co.uk.
A free preview visit is available for a teacher and one guest. Admission: pound;9 adults, pound;6.80 pupils. Visit www.cadburylearningzone.co.uk for a wide and expanding range of online curriculum-based resources covering key stages 1, 2 and 3.
for a wide and expanding range of online curriculum-based resources covering key stages 1, 2 and 3.