Maple Sugaring Goals
We live in the maple sugaring capital of Vermont and therefore it is appropriate that we ensure our students have access to an experience of making maple syrup followed by the chance to taste that syrup right here on school property. For many of our students a hands-on syrup making experience at school could be the only one they will ever have. Staff members with extensive sugaring experience and members of the administration recognized this fact back in 2013 and gradually took a series of steps to make maple sugaring a reality at our school. Listed below is the progression of our maple sugaring journey from nothing to where we are at today.
Surveying our Land
In 2013 Principal Cavallo, farm to school coordinator Mrs. Smith, facilities manager Mr. Pelkey and wellness coordinator Mr. Craib walked the 30-acre school property and visualized learning opportunities that could be created on it. They took note of a grove of maple trees in one property corner and thought how wonderful it would be to develop a small maple sugaring operation based on the maple tree's presence. It took five years for that maple sugaring operation to become a reality. In the interval maple sugaring was done on a demonstration basis with the trees surrounding the school building.
Teaching students about maple sugaring is a yearly multifaceted project. Team Triumph does it through its connection with P.E. teacher and sugaring expert, Rusty Branon. His family is heavily involved in maple sugaring in the region. Each year Rusty hosts students at his property or brings his equipment to school to demonstrate the mechanics of sap collection.
In addition, each year roughly 100 kindergarteners get a chance to watch and help HOPE (hands on practical education) teachers, Mr Hoben and Mr. Deslauriers set up sap collection buckets on the front side of the school building. The students like being outside and beginning to understand how maple syrup is made.
Measurements and math
Both HOPE and Triumph teachers use maple sugaring to engage students in math lessons about volumes and fractions. Students are genuinely interested in these concepts when they are connected with an obvious purpose.
If you want to learn more about HOPE's maple sugaring initiatives, then CLICK ON THIS LINK
For many years now a range of students set out to tap maple trees on school property. Team Triumph has made making maple sugaring its' long-term stewardship project and their students are counted on to set up collection buckets on the north side of the school. The HOPE (hands on practical education) students take responsibility for setting up collection buckets on the south side of the building with kindergarten learning communities. Students learn about the collection equipment and how to select appropriate areas on the maple trees to tap. The older students get to drill holes into the trees and set the plastic taps and install the buckets. The pictures below are of Triumph students.
Collecting the Sap
In our first years of sap collection we had way more sap than we could process. Mr. Branon kindly took the excess sap and boiled it down in his family's evaporators.
Boiling Down the Sap
For the first five years a portion of the collected sap was boiled down in Turkey fryers. It worked although it was a slow and inefficient process. Boiling sap this way, however, did make the evaporation process concrete for students. Now that we have a sugar house we have the capacity to handle more of the sap we collect.
Sharing the Syrup
A key part of the whole maple sugaring process is to have children taste the final product. Most love it. The delivery system usually involves tiny paper cups.
Maple syrup and pancakes
Because we live in the Maple Capital of Vermont, we thought it unconscionable that we were serving imitation maple syrup to our students on pancake breakfasts. We found a way to budget for real maple syrup purchases in our cafeteria. In 2018 we actually made enough syrup to supply several pancake breakfasts, in addition to providing small-cup taste tests to hundreds of students. Our students love real Vermont maple syrup.