In 2010, Vermont produced 1,140,000 gallons of delicious maple syrup - more than any other state! Although maple syrup is available locally anytime, the sugaring season has just begun and fresh, sugary sap is now being made into the mouth-watering and rich syrup most of us delight in. But do you know how this great product is made? Maple syrup was discovered by the Eastern Woodland Indians when they realized that sap cooking over a hot fire turned into a sugary substance. Since then, people could not get enough of this wonderful syrup. European settlers who were offered to share in the Indians' new discovery, began to develop technologies to make the process faster and easier.
Nowadays, maple syrup is made from placing taps on trees and allowing sap to travel down into buckets. The sap is then collected through tubing, trucking, or other means to get to the sugar house. Sap is then boiled when it is fresh to make the highest quality syrup. Water then evaporates from the sap, leaving a thick sugary syrup behind. This point usually occurs at 219 degrees and has a density of over 60% sugar. Next, a valve is opened by the sugarmaker and the syrup is drawn off. The maple syrup is then checked for the proper density of sugar with a tool called a hydrometer. It is then filtered to remove sugar sand and other minerals found naturally within the tree. Finally, the syrup is taste tested and color-graded!
Interested in teaching your class about maple syrup? Kidgardening.org offers a simple activity to do with children.
1. Hold up a bottle of maple syrup and ask the students if they know how syrup is produced.
2. Tell the students that syrup comes from trees, but do not tell them how it is extracted.
3. Using existing knowledge and their own imagination, have the students predict the sequence of how they think syrup is made from trees. They should list their “steps of production” from beginning to end. Their assignment should include pictures to accompany the steps for greater clarification.
4. Ask the students to share their assignments with the class.
5. Have the students recall what they know about trees and list their responses on the board.
6. Read the story, Sugarbush Spring to the students. Share some photographs of sap collection with the students.
7. Were any of the students’ sequence predictions similar to how the sap was collected in the story? How does this new information relate to what they already know about trees?
8. Have the students discuss the importance of scientific prediction. What is a hypothesis? How can it assist in discovering new information and ideas?
- Have students map the Top 10 Maple Producing States. Examine their climate and geography, what do all of these states have in common? What can be learned about the needs of the maple tree by this determination?
*If you cannot use the specified book, play a short movie or documentary or simply read from another source to describe the maple sugaring process.
If possible, bring your kids to a local sugarhouse or tapped tree for a real, live experience! Sugarmakers are usually very welcoming to schools and will offer some yummy maple snacks before you leave. If the resources are available, this may also be a great time to incorporate cooking and tasting of a local product into the classroom, as well. Get creative!