by Katie Wolpert
On Monday, January 28th, the 3rd and 4th grades at Junior Elementary school in Barbour County, WV kicked off our 2019 Maple in the Classroom season when they tapped 3 red maples that they discovered in the woods behind their school.
With the sun shining and temps in the high 30s, sap immediately flooded from the holes that Randolph County producer Don Olson drilled in the trees. Kids fingers were attracted to the dripping sap as they were all excited to sample the water straight from the tree and we found that it was not very sweet, but you could detect a slight maple flavor.
“It was wonderful being with the students and staff at Junior Elementary School,” Don said. The students had lots of questions for Don. The third grade was fascinated with the idea of concentrating the sap into syrup and wondered if you could conversely dilute syrup back down into sap. They learned how all that sugar gets into the tree in the first place through photosynthesis and Don explained how the tree shuttles the sap down into its “root cellar” in the fall for safe keeping.
The fourth graders put their recent work on fractions and percentages to the test discussing how much sap it would take to make a gallon of syrup, and comparing the percentage of sugar present in sap to that in the finished syrup.
In a world that often requires a lot of patience, the kids were excited to find their buckets already full to overflowing the following morning. They gathered over four gallons of sap in the snow the next day and were able to immediately start cooking it down in their in-class evaporators, provided by the program.
Kids, schools, and parents are all excited about this inspiring program that brings together science, math, forestry, and our taste buds to get kids beyond the classroom in these winter months. The program resonates with many families in WV who may have a history of small or large scale maple production in the past.
Our 2019 Maple in the Classroom program is quickly filling up, but contact Kate Fotos (firstname.lastname@example.org) today if you are a producer or school who would like to be involved to get on our list.