On February 23, 1896, a candymaker from Austria named Leo Hirschfield opened his shop in New York City. Maybe you never heard of him, but you’ve definitely heard of his work. As the story goes, in that shop Hirschfield came up with one of the twentieth century’s iconic candies: the humble Tootsie Roll.... < read more >
Why do you think the government included Tootsie Rolls in soldiers' rations during WWII?
Tootsie Rolls have been around since 1905. Why do you think they're still on the shelves when so many other types of candy have come and gone over the years?
According to the article, the Tootsie Roll succeeded because it tasted like chocolate, only cost a penny, and it was individually wrapped. Which of those features do you think was most important to its success? Why?
According to the article, jelly desserts were all the rage at the beginning of the 20th century. What type of candy do you think is most popular now? Why do you think that type of candy is so desirable to consumers?
Investigate the History of Candy
- As a class, review the article to learn about the history of the Tootsie Roll. Discuss how taste, price and packaging each contributed to the candy's success. Then examine how a government contract and an iconic commercial helped secure its longevity.
- Point out that the Tootsie Roll is not an isolated example. Every product has a story. And in every story there bumps in the road or lucky breaks along the way that determine the product's fate.
- Have students identify their favorite candy and investigate its history. How long has the candy been around? Is there an interesting story behind its creation? Remind students that Tootsie Rolls were WWII energy bars. Has their favorite candy ever been marketed or used in an odd way?
- Have students examine the candy's packaging. In what way, if any, has the product's packaging changed over time? Why do students think these changes were made? Instruct students to use what they learned to design a new package for their favorite candy.
Invite students to share their work with the class. Challenge them to identify key elements in their package redesigns. Then have them explain why they think the changes will make the candy more attractive to consumers.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Instruct each student to identify his or her favorite candy. Create small groups of students who prefer the same type of candy. Have groups conduct research to learn about the history of their favorite candy. Give each group a piece of paper and access to art supplies. Instruct each group to design a new package for their favorite candy. Challenge them to identify one valid reason the package redesign will make this candy more attractive to consumers.
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to select a type of candy all group members like. Then have groups conduct research to learn about the history of their favorite candy. Encourage them to discuss what they like and dislike most about how the candy is packaged. Give each group a piece of paper and access to art supplies. Instruct each group to design a new package for their favorite candy. Challenge them to identify two valid reasons the package redesign will make this candy more attractive to consumers.
Divide the class into pairs. Instruct partners to select a type of candy each partner likes. Then have them conduct research to learn about the history of that candy. Encourage students to identify what they like and dislike most about the candy's packaging. Challenge them to note specific ways it could be improved. Give each pair a piece of paper and access to art supplies. Instruct partners to design a new package for their favorite candy. Then have them create a print ad for their candy highlighting the packaging change. As partners present their work to the class, challenge them to identify two or more valid reasons the package redesign will make this candy more attractive to consumers.
Instruct each student to identify his or her favorite type of candy. On their own or with a classmate who identified the same product, have students conduct research to learn about the history of that candy. Once their research is complete, have students brainstorm ideas to improve the candy's packaging and create a mockup of their ideas. Then have them draft a television commercial highlighting the package redesign. As students present their work to the class, challenge them to explain how and why the redesign will make the candy more attractive to consumers.
Candy Land This lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has students pretend that they have been hired by a candy manufacturer to design a new product’s box. They explore how boxes of different shapes can have the same volume and create a candy box of specific volume that must meet specific criteria.
Making Palanqueta de Cacahuate Candy at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2010 Watch this Smithsonian video to see how Chef Alfredo Ortega makes the Mexican sweet palanqueta de cacahuate, which is similar to peanut brittle.
A Cultural History of Candy Read this Smithsonian article to hear what “The Candy Professor” has to say about America’s historic relationship with sweets.
You’ve Got Chocolate on My Peanut Bar Use this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to have students design, innovate, invent and work cooperatively in groups as they build bridges made of toothpicks and Dot candies.
The Sweet Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber In the years after World War II, Berlin became a divided city within a divide country. Read this Smithsonian article to learn about pilot Gail Halvorsen, also known as the Berlin Candy Bomber, whose Operation Little Vittles made children happy and created a prime PR opportunity for the U.S. military.
“Chocolate is a Fighting Food!”—Chocolate bars in the Second World War Most people don’t see chocolate as more than a delicious (and often addictive) candy that they love to eat. But chocolate has been an important part American history. Read this blog from the National Museum of American History to learn about chocolate’s role in American business, society and even on the battlefield.
Meet the Candy Striped Hermit Crab, A New Caribbean Species Not all candy is sweet! Read this Smithsonian Insider report to learn about a newly discovered species of hermit crab. It has red and white stripes like a candy cane.
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