Social Studies Activities — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Willy Wonka

JerzTheaterMusical Theatre Education PacketsCharlie and the Chocolate Factory / Willy Wonka

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Lesson plans for social studies — geographyhistoryeconomics. (See also sections on English literature and writingmathscience and healthartmusic, and faith connection.)

4) Social Studies/Geography:

4.1) Make sure your student can locate the home countries of each of the Golden Ticket finders, plus the fake ticket-finders (who make everyone think the last ticket has been found).

Color in these countries on a blank world map.

(Germany—Augustus; England—Charlie & Veruca; USA—Violet & Mike; Brasil—millionaire faker in the 70s film, & Paraguay– in the Charlie stage musical; Russia—faker Charlotte Russe in the book)

Choose one of these countries to research further; using a country outline map, add/label major cities, rivers, lakes, & mountain ranges.

4.2)  In the Charlie stage musical, Violet hails from Alabama, and Mike from New Jersey.  Choose one of these two states to research further:  Using a blank map of the state, fill in the state capital and major cities, rivers or other noteworthy physical features.  Find three sites or attractions you would enjoy visiting in the state and mark these on your map.

4.3) Using a map of India, find out if Pondicherry – presumably the locale of the prince who requested the chocolate palace—is closer to Bombay, Calcutta, or Madras. Then place all four on a blank outline map of India. (Hint: Current maps will give the Indian rather than British names for these cities; what are they called now?) Add Bangalore and Amritsar to the map, as well as the Ganges River.

Southwestern Pennsylvania Connection: According to a museum display at Ft. Ligonier, Ligonier, Pennsylvania, Pondicherry figures in the worldwide fighting (The Seven Years War) triggered by the French & Indian War, which started in our region of colonial Pennsylvania.

The British East India Company had located in Ft.George/Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta. Its French competition, Compagnie des Indes, had its largest factory in Pondicherry—uncomfortably close to one of the British sites, as it turns out. After a few battles in the vicinity, Pondicherry Gov. Lally de Tollendal surrendered in January 1761, ending French influence in India. British Lord (Robert) Clive became famous during this war.)

In Dahl’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” Imhrat Khan, the man who can see without using his eyes, describes his travels across India.  Add to your map: How well can you track his path?  He was born in Akhnur in Kashmir State, then went to  Lahore, Amritsar, Rikhikesh on the banks of the Ganges, Hardawar, Calcutta, Dacca, and finally dies in Bombay.

4.4) “When a loaf of bread looks like a feast…” In the 70s film, a loaf of bread seems a luxury to the Bucket family, who usually eat little besides cabbage. Research the history of bread, and the different types/shapes of bread produced by different cultures/countries. Then mark the countries you research on a blank world map.

Ex: Beth Harbison, Loaves of Fun: A History of Bread with Activities and Recipes from Around the World (at least 30 recipes; recommended for ages 6-12)

4.5) In chapter 15, Mr. Wonka shows off his magnificent Chocolate Waterfall, and the tour continues down the Chocolate River in chapter 18. Map the rivers near you, in your home state/province. Where is the waterfall nearest you? (ex. We have a small local waterfall in Linn Run State Park, and can reach Niagara Falls in a matter of hours.) Worldwide, what (and where) are the most famous waterfalls?

4.6)  Research the Korowai people of Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea (Indonesia), who live high in trees like the Oompa-Loompas.  If the gentle Oompa-Loompas climb to escape the hungry beasts below, why do the Korowai seek the safety of treehouses? How do they use poles, rattan, and Sago leaves?

Read about other famous tree-dwellers in literature: The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss, and the elves of Lothlorien in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (Book 1: The Fellowship of the Ring).

Learn more about contemporary treehouse designs and building techniques. Read one of Peter Nelson’s books: Treehouses: The Art and Craft of Living Out on a Limb (1994), Home Tree Home: Principles of Treehouse Construction and Other Tall Tales (1997), The Treehouse Book (with Judy Nelson and David Larkin, 2000), and Treehouses of the World (2004). Visit the websites of Out ‘n’ About Treesort in Cave Junction, OR, or Forever Young Treehouses (Handicap Accessible Treehouses) at .

For related activities, see Art/Architecture #8.10.

5) Social Studies/History

5.1) Research the history of chocolate. (Elementary students might enjoy Sandra Markle’s Smart About Chocolate: A Sweet History, or Robert Burleigh’s Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest, while older readers try Sophie D. Coe’s The True History of Chocolate or Mort Rosenblum’s Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light.  But there are MANY book choices listed on, from two children’s biographies of Milton Hershey,  to Joel Glenn Brenner’s The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars.)

  • Research the Hershey company specifically. Have you or your students visited Hershey, PA?
  • Research the Nestle company specifically; when did it acquire the “Wonka” label, and begin producing Wonka chocolate bars, gobstoppers, etc.?
  • Research another famous chocolate label, such as Godiva, Cadbury’s, Baker’s chocolate, (Canada’s) Laura Secord., or local fund-raising favorite, Sarris candies.
  • Create a timeline marking the appearance 10-12 different candies (ex. Necco wafers, jujubes, malt balls, bubble gum, chewing gum, Hershey’s kisses, or Pittsburgh classics—the Mallo Cup & Clark bar).
  • Collect ten facts from, the National Confectioners Association, or the Chocolate Manufacturers Association.

5.2) Recalling the Salt family, research the role of salt in history. (ex. Mark Kurlansky, The Story of Salt and—for older readers– Salt: A World History) See also the Science section for simple salt-related experiments.

5.3) Willy Wonka is Grandpa Joe and Charlie’s favorite inventor; research your favorite inventor or invention.

Or, since every historical era boasts its great inventors and inventions, pick one era of history, and research the inventors and inventions from that era.  There are many resources available to help:

  • from Robert Crowther’s Pop-Up House of Inventions, to the usual Usborne/Scholastic or DK /Eyewitness surveys
  • to easy-reads on fun popular items– cellophane, Twinkies, velcro, post-it notes– in Don L. Wulffson’s The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle and Charlotte Foltz Jones’ pair, Mistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions and How They Came to Be and Accidents May Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake.
  • Women Inventors and their Discoveries, Ethie Ann Vare and Greg Ptacek
  • It may be out of print, but Pat Wesolowski’s spiralbound Inventors, Inventions, and Entrepreneurs: A research-based unit study and companion Inventors and Inventions: Activity Book, full of reproducible worksheets, does much of the research & summary of eras for you; as a Christian homeschooler, she includes sections of “‘Bible/Character Study.”

Create a trivia question from your research to share with your class, family or friends, such as:

  • Which of the following is NOT a real invention– the pantograph, alidade, vernier caliper, astrolabe, zenithal collimator, nonius, electrical whirl, torchielle, gnomon, or Jolly balance?
  • Name TWO inventions common to civilian life which grew from/achieved success due to military experiences of WWI to WWII? (Answers will vary, but could include… no peeking… guidedogssillyputtyradarsunglasseskleenexsafetyglassMRIsballpointpensmicrowaveovenselectricblanketsremote-controlledtoysultrasoundslinky)

Conduct a survey of your classmates, or family & friends, and draw a bar graph of the result.

  • Survey#1: Which of the following inventions is your favorite– automobile, motion pictures, television, cell phone, computer, teddy bear, or chocolate bar?
  • Survey #2: If you could have only one invention from this list in your life, which item would be you keep– automobile, antibiotics, indoor plumbing, light bulb, computer, cell phone, or refrigerator?
  • Survey #3: Which of the following inventions do you think most changed the world– the printing press, light bulb, automobile, machine gun, television, atomic bomb, or computer/internet?

Look at each row below, and circle the item which does not belong:

Benjamin FranklinBill GatesGeorge Washington CarverAlexander FlemingThomas EdisonWhitcomb Judson
Igor SikorskyHubert Cecil BoothMontgoflier Bros.Ferdinand von ZeppelinFrank WhittleJames Martin
Henry FordPercy ShawRoy HarrounTheodore MaimanKarl BenzMichelin Bros.
Guglielmo MarconiAnton von LeeuwenhoekHans JannenRobert HookeMax KrollErnst Ruska
William TrittonMikhail KalashnikovRoland GarrosAnthony FokkerSpencer SilverHiram Maxim
Philip DrinkerWillem EinthovenRene LaennecLouis PasteurAuguste NelatonEdwin Land
George de MestralGeorge Washington CarverCharles W. PostJames DewarJoe GregorW.K.Kellogg
Elisha OtisCharles StriteChester CarlsonJesse RenoJohn Logie BairdSamuel Morse
Jean de HautefeuilleAndrew GordonClaude de JouffroyLawrence HenglerGerbert, aka Sylvester IIIChristopher Scheiner

Conduct an egg-drop experiment. (Re)Using packing/mailing products, food packages, arts & crafts materials, etc., devise/construct five different ways to protect an egg from breakage. Then spread a painting drop or old shower liner on the pavement or ground beneath a second-floor window, balcony, or deck. Predict which ‘inventions’ you think will work best, and drop the eggs-in-contraptions to see which actually fare best.

Sponsor a young Inventors contest for your class/school/homeschool group. Entries could be an improved version of a product that already exists, or a new invention designed to meet an unaddressed need/want.

6) Social Studies/Economics

6.1.) As an entrepreneur, Mr. Wonka builds his business to the point where he supplies chocolate to all the kings and presidents of the world. Try your own hand at being an entrepreneur in or all of these ways:

  • Play a computer game in which you build a successful business as practice for the real thing.  (In increasing order of difficulty, we’ve tried and enjoyed Zoo TycoonLemonade Tycoon, and Railroad Tycoon. Also found in Ollie’s, for under $5, an old game called Chocolatier, no less!)
  • Read about entrepreneurial values (in non-fiction– Karl Hess, Capitalism for Kids; Kathryn Daniels, Common Sense Business for Kids; or in fiction– Jacqueline Davies, The Lemonade War; Clifford B. Hicks, Alvin Fernald: Foreign Trader) and research ways young people have successfully earned money for themselves.
  • Create a business plan for a product or service you could provide. [sample business plan forthcoming]
  • Patronize a local family business– especially one including their kids/teens in the venture of using their talents & resources to grow income.  For example, Schrack Farms in Latrobe (724- 537-4869 ) produces honey for public sale year round, and Laughlin Natural Foods [add link] offers homemade, organic, gluten-free pancake, muffin, and bread mixes– at markets around Ligonier, or priority-mailed for freshness.

6.2) All of Charlie’s four grandparents are alive and over 90yrs of age. Research tips and suggestions for retirement planning, and prepare a hypothetical retirement savings plan for yourself.

Or, research and read about the phenomenon of the “sandwich” generation, who, like Mr. Bucket, find themselves responsible for caring for their children and their parents at the same time.

6.3) In Chapter 4 of Dahl’s book, Mr. Wonka rails against the spies who carry his candy secrets to competitors Slugworth, Prodnose, and Fickelgruber. He deals with the problem by shutting down the factory, then re-opening only when he has a completely new, completely loyal workforce– the Oompa-Loompas. Research the issue of industrial espionage, including famous incidents of corporate spying , and what measures can be taken to prevent or discourage it.

6.4) In terms of material goods, the Bucket family is poor, and the Salt family is rich. But it could be argued that the Buckets are richer in other ways—rich in nonmaterial things. How so?

Explore other examples of people supposed to be rich or poor. (If you read Alcott’s Little Women, suggested in the English/Literature section, discuss it again now. The March family were once considered rich, but their social status is now much lower. In what ways are they poor, or wealthy—or somewhere in between?) What defines poverty? wealth?

Research how the U.S. Government defines poverty. What is the poverty line? What are some programs offered to alleviate poverty? What suggestions have been made and/or debated as ways to combat poverty? What do you think would be an effective way to decrease poverty in our country?

Explore what constitutes wealth or poverty across cultures:

  • Research native tribes who practice subsistence living in the Artic or the Amazon basin. Compare them with the lifestyles of the Native American tribes who inhabited the mainland U.S.. (Elem. Students might use the If You Lived with the Iroquois/Cherokees/Hopi/Sioux Indians, etc., series of books, or try a visit to, or sleepover at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.) What passes for wealth? Food, beads, horses? How much is necessary or desirable?
  • Watch the documentary Babies, and consider the different circumstances of the American, Japanese, Mongolian, and African babes.
  • Find fictional works depicting poverty in different regions and/or countries:
    • the urban North (Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; or nonfiction—How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis)
    • rural South (William H. Armstrong, Sounder; Mildred Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry; song “Coal Miner’s Daughter;” picture books– Lauren Mills The Rag Coat or Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, Cynthia Rylant, When I was Young in the Mountains)
    • or West during the Great Depression (Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, or Karen Hesse Out of the Dust; Pam Munoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising; book or movie Kitt Kittredge: American Girl).
    • In famine-stricken Ireland (Marita Conlon-McKenna, Under the Hawthorne Tree)
    • in Paris, France (Natalie Savage Carlson, The Family Under the Bridge)
    • or in 19th Century England (nonfiction—Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, which is available in print from Dover publications, and online free from the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia;
    • in fiction– Dicken’s Oliver Twist in the poorhouse, Bronte’s Jane Eyre in Lowood School, Miss Matty Jenkins in Gaskell’s Cranford, Scrooge and the Cratchits in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and so many Jane Austen characters—the Bennetts in Pride & Prejudice, the Dashwoods in Sense & Sensibility, Fanny Price & family in Mansfield Park, Miss Harriet Smith, etc, in Emma, possibly even the debt-ridden Elliots in Persuasion.) Poverty also plays a powerful role in the lives of the residents of District 12, as we learn from the Everdeen family in The Hunger Games

Consider poverty as a Choice, or a Vow: What makes this poverty desirable or different? Examples might include Catholic monks, nuns (like Mother Teresa), and priests (like Francis of Assisi) from many different orders; or individuals who have chosen to live a Simple Life, uncluttered by a large number of material things; or even misers, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

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Author: Leigh Jerz
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17 Sep 2011 — social studies sections posted here

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