MEXICO: Making natural chewing gum is a fascinating, time-consuming, and dangerous job that dates back to the Mayas in the Yucatan. Chicleros climb high up to slash zig-zag patterns in the sapodilla trees with a machete, let the sap drain out, and then boil it until it turns into a thick paste, stirring all the while. They must be careful to avoid jaguars in the forest and falling machetes. Watch the videos below to learn more about this process.
One year, students painted red zig-zags on actual bark they found outside, and even tried their hand at melting Starbursts with a hairdryer–since they didn’t have access to sapodilla trees or machetes! This process led to third graders brainstorming about how to start their own business, with the idea of selling the “chicle” they were “producing” (read: re-selling melted Starbursts). While the business plan fizzled after a while, it was great to see them thinking like entrepreneurs.