It's not just sweetness. It's a learning opportunity.
The playful halls of the Creative Discovery Museum were transformed into a winter wonderland over the weekend when the hands-on learning factory provided pre-made, undecorated gingerbread houses for families to finish Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
The construction -- and delicious destruction -- of the sugary suites has become a tradition for the museum, marking the start of the holiday season with the cookie-cut cottages.
And of course, there were candies and learning experiences galore for kids ages 2 to 11.
"Do you see how it works best if you ice from top to bottom?" one Chattanooga dad asked his 5-year-old daughter while using a frosting bag to draw a window on the side of their gingerbread house. Steve, who asked his last name not be used, was there with daughter Sammie.
"Daddy! Hold on before you do that!" she replied, while placing candies on the top of the roof, then sneaking a bit of the icing into her mouth.
The duo visited the museum to make a gingerbread house last year, so they had a little bit of experience under their belts. As Steve modeled a tiny pink cottage door -- complete with an M&M handle -- Sammie placed round, melon-colored gumdrops around the facade of the building.
"We decided to come back this year because it gives us the chance to build something special," Steve said. "And we don't have to worry about the mess."
The work area was a hodgepodge of sugary delights: Twizzler peels. Jujyfruits. Caramels. Green and white icing. Gumballs. Marshmallows. Sixlets. The whole spread, plus cups of hot chocolate and jazzy Christmas music.
"This program is extremely popular, something we've had every year since I can remember," said Gage Hatfield, a museum visitor associate for four years. "We fill up very quickly."
The workshops, priced at $25 for members and $45 for nonmembers for each house, will continue each weekend through the holiday season.
Micaela Oer, a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, oversaw Sunday's workshop as one of the museum's program educators -- and picked up the mess. The diversion from a typical slate of science activities was a welcome change for the psychology major.
"We usually do a lot of outreach activities for the community," Oer said. "But this is just a great way to get the holiday season rolling."
Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.