Maple Sugaring

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Today, February 18, 2018, Southern New Hampshire awakened to a three inch blanket of “sugar snow.”  This is a light, late winter snowfall that typically disappears fairly quickly. It helps keep the ground cool and moist – and the maple sap coursing up and down the trees’ xylem.

The following is an activity page that can be readily be shared with Kindergarten and First Graders – or younger or older children according to your judgement.

maple syrup making final

Materials needed:  1) copies of the pdf about maple sugaring for each student; 2) crayons and colored pencils; 3) glue sticks, glue, or paste; 4) scissors; 5) optional: horizontal strips of colored construction paper (approx. 6″ by 4.5″ in size).

Procedure:  Once you’ve printed out sufficient copies, you can use the entire page as an activity.

Alternately, you can complete the project as follows: Use a paper cutter to neatly separate the upper half from the lower section (with its instructions).  Distribute the upper half and invite the youngsters to color the images.  While they’re applying colors, describe some of the key features of the maple’s life and form.  Explain the process of maple sugaring.  As  you no doubt already know, this harvest was (and is) well known to the Native Americans of this region.  Interestingly, there is some speculation that they learned to tap maples and several other types of trees as a result of their close observation of various species’ who also benefit from the energy-bearing sap (i.e. red squirrels, sapsucker birds, and mourning cloak butterflies among others).  In any case, the discussion is, ideally, either a preview or a review of the actual experience of a field trip to a sugaring operation – or better yet, the tapping of a maple tree or trees in the students’ own schoolyard.

If there is sufficient time, the children can next try the sequencing activity on the lower half of the page.  Once these papers have been distributed, the students color and cut out the separate events.  Next, they arrange the steps in their actual order of occurrence.  (They can consult with a friend to see if their results agree.)  The correctly sequenced events can either be attached with glue to the back of the upper sheet or onto a colorful strip of precut construction paper.  If the latter route is taken, the result is a brightly framed record of backyard maple syrup making.  Another option is to form the construction paper strip into a circle and then to glue the ends to make a bracelet or a free standing loop.  Especially if the latter path is selected, there’s an opportunity to mention that maple sugaring represents a wonderful partnership between maples and people.  It’s a process that can be repeated year after year – for even a hundred years – as long as human beings are not too greedy and as long as we humans take good care of these amazing trees – and the environment that sustains them.   (I would not mention climate change to such young folks, but this is our task as adults: to do our part to devise new (or old!) ways of living that will enable the beautiful Northern Hardwood forests – with their sugar maples – to continue flourishing.)

Here’s the actual PDF:  Maple Sugaring EB

And if this is at all possible, try to include a maple syrup tasting as a conclusion to the entire project.  A drop or two of real maple syrup on a tasty, organic, whole grain cracker is a fine way to help a child establish a positive memory of these magnificent trees.