Winter is in its final throes during March. With temperatures creeping above freezing that means it’s maple syrup time at Somers Intermediate School.
Students in Jacob Ringer, Randi Pepe and Kelly Gronert’s fifth grade classes are taking on the multi-step process of making their own maple syrup. In early winter, they drilled holes and tapped three big maple trees on the campus and have spent several weeks watching the weather and waiting patiently to collect their prize - the almost 50 gallons of clear, fresh sap to boil and turn into golden maple syrup. Students will celebrate next week by drizzling their homemade syrup onto some pancakes.
Thursday was “sugaring off” day and students gathered outside their classrooms around large steel pots of boiling sap as the very faint scent of sweetness and steam wafted about. Students explored how sap turns into syrup through the processes of boiling and evaporation.
One student who tried a small sample of the sap said it wasn’t exactly syrupy or sweet just yet. “It tasted a lot like water with a little bit of sweetness,” said Nicholas Whipple.
Ringer and Pepe said that the whole procedure, while superficially just a fun late-winter activity, teaches the students many different concepts – economics, ratios, evaporation, boiling points, weather, research skills, using earth’s resources, teamwork and more. “We can take the whole process and extract bits out for concepts in science, math, ratios,” Ringer said. Their 50 gallons of sap could generate about one gallon of syrup. “This whole process lends itself to so many different areas of learning.”