A Short and Sweet Week of Sugaring with Students

I learned an incredible amount from coordinating The Somerville Maple Syrup Project, but in the end, too many of the lessons were about testing my limits and endurance.  This year, however, I was thrilled to be in Vermont and be able to bring a short and sweet week of Maple Madness to my after school students.

What I learned?: Any group of kids with access to sugar maples can participate in fun sugaring activities without requiring any money or superhero feats from the adults coordinating the program.  If you work with a group of young students, I strongly encourage you to build in maple programming next March!  Here’s what to consider:

Materials: Taps, hooks, buckets, and covers (about 4 each); cordless drill with a 7/16″ bit, hammer, measuring tape, and several food grade 5 gallon buckets.  In Vermont, many sugar makers have upgraded to smaller taps or tubing, rather than the older buckets and taps.  Make friends with local sugar makers and your cafeteria director!  A chat with your local maple producers association or neighbors and friends who tap trees may reward you with valuable tips and information.  What random supplies do they have laying around?  Cafeteria directors usually get some foods in 5 gallon buckets.  They also have large stoves with hoods and broiler pans, which will come in handy in the boiling phase.

Tapping:

1. Learn to ID Sugar Maple trees in the winter.  Look for silvery vertically flaky bark and opposite twigs.

1. Learn to ID Sugar Maple trees in the winter. Look for silvery vertically flaky bark and opposite twigs.

2) Measure trunk circumference to determine how many taps can be drilled in the tree

2) Measure trunk circumference to determine how many taps can be drilled in the tree (for chart, click here)

3) Drill a hole 1.5" into the sapwood using 7/16" bit.  Tapping on a day above 32 degrees will reward you at this step!

3) Drill a hole 1.5″ into the sapwood using 7/16″ bit. Tapping on a day above 32 degrees will reward you at this step!

4) Have students gently hammer in the tap (also known as a spile) until it is snugly in place

4) Have students gently hammer in the tap (also known as a spile) until it is snugly in place

5) CRUCIAL step: Taste the maple sap!  Again, try to pick a day above freezing so this is possible

5) CRUCIAL step: Taste the maple sap! Again, try to pick a day above freezing so this is possible

6) Any age student can help hang the sap bucket and put on the lid

6) Any age student can help hang the sap bucket and put on the lid

Collection:

Collect sap each day temperatures rise above freezing.  Store in refrigerator or outdoors where it is below 40 degrees

Collect sap each day temperatures rise above freezing. Store in refrigerator or outdoors where it is below 40 degrees.

Boiling: With permission from your cafeteria staff, boil sap exposing the most surface area possible.  We boiled in pans on the stove top, with the hood fan on to pull steam up and away.  In 2.5 hours, we’d reduced 5 gallons to 5 cups!  Our final product was very sweet and mapley.  If we’d reduced it further to 2.5 cups, we’d have official maple syrup.

Five gallons of sap boiling on the stove in deep baking pans

Five gallons of sap boiling on the stove in deep baking pans

Maple-taste-testTasting! and Learning Extensions: We did a group taste test of sap (I brought some to a quick boil to sanitize it), carbonated sap (made with a Soda Stream Machine), and our final boiled almost-syrup product.  We then generated “description words” (or adjectives) that described the smell, taste, feel, and look of sap vs. syrup.  We’ll use these words to write poems for our next After School Newsletter!

Refer to my Maple Syruping with Kids blog entry to get ideas for games, activities, and curriculum connections.  In the end, we had way more sap than we could drink or boil, leaving plenty to play with.  Check out different experimental recipes from my Cooking with Maple Sap post.

sap-syrup-adjectives

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This entry was posted in Children and Nature, Personal Sustainability: How-To, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Short and Sweet Week of Sugaring with Students

  1. Pingback: Maple Sugaring from Scratch: Sumac Spiles | GrowingStories

  2. Pingback: DIY Maple Sugaring | GrowingStories

  3. Pingback: Tapping Time | GrowingStories

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