North Central students dig into Frozen Assets

Dec 17, 2015

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! North Central College students investigated the history and business behind this cold dessert as part of a D-Term Verandah course, Frozen Assets.

This frozen treat dates back to 3000 B.C. in Asian cultures, when it was discovered crushed ice could be combined with flavorings for dessert. Since then, the treat evolved through the centuries into a popular sweet option for all ages.

Ice cream, gelato and frozen yogurt have been a hit worldwide and especially in the Naperville community. Within a five-block radius, Forever Yogurt, Häagen-Dazs, Cold Stone Creamery, Frost Gelato, Gelati, Cookie Dough Creations, Red Mango and more have set up shop in downtown Naperville. The city’s affinity with ice cream dates back to the 1930s with the historic Prince Castle/Cock Robin restaurant chain, famous for its “one-in-a-million” malted shakes and square ice cream scoops.

It’s within this historic Naperville landscape that Sheryl Finkle, professor of education, and Rev. Eric Doolittle, College chaplain, created the Frozen Assets course. They stumbled into a conversation about ice cream in Naperville and, in particular, the story of Prince Castle/Cock Robin. Seeing an opportunity, they developed a plan to turn the topic of ice cream in Naperville into a learning experience for North Central students through a Verandah course. Students enroll in Verandah courses to explore new topics outside their realm of study.

Finkle and Doolittle designed an itinerary around three frozen treat locations: Oberweis, Forever Yogurt and Frost Gelato. The Verandah experience went beyond taste-testing to include the history, health, mathematics, science, business and psychology of the dessert. It turned into a multidisciplinary exploration involving many areas of study. 

Students researched the history of the treat, the nutritional facts and made observations about sight and smell before they jumped into tasting.

“It’s been interesting to look at the different perspectives of ice cream and not just ‘Oh, this is vanilla,’” says Julia Pachla ’19. “There are other aspects like foamy, sweet, sour and fresh.”

During their visits, students also were introduced to the business aspects, which most consumers don’t think about when ordering their favorite flavors and toppings. “I’m a more informed consumer now, which is going to make me more critical of the business plan in addition to the quality and taste of the ice cream,” says Cheyenne Hushka ’17.

The Frozen Assets course gave students an experience beyond the classroom to look at ice cream, frozen yogurt and gelato in a new light, as well as the Naperville community. Students reflected on the discussions they had analyzing how personal, cultural, economic and social values, experiences and beliefs influenced their consumer behaviors, consciously or unconsciously.

“I learned how much Prince Castle/Cock Robin impacted the Naperville community with the jobs it provided and the opportunities,” says Chelsea Lorenz ’16.

By Stephanie Snyder ’15/M ’17