Wednesday, March 7, 2012

maple sugaring, part 1

On Friday we kicked off our maple sugaring unit with a trip to Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, MA. They were having one of their terrific homeschool days, during which they offer hands-on studios on various colonial topics for the kids, in addition to the opportunity to tour and enjoy the museum/village on our own. We hooked up with a bunch of our homeschooling friends and had a really lovely time despite some pretty chilly winter temperatures. (At last! Figures -- it takes until March to actually have some winter around here....what a weird year!)

The main focus of our visit being maple sugaring, we visited with workers at the village's "maple camp". There are 50 gallons of sap between those two kettles, and they expect to get a whopping 1 gallon of syrup out of it. Wow. So non-impressive. (And people wonder why real maple syrup costs so much!)

J and some of the other kids in our group participated in a wood-working studio where they made spiles for tapping trees. Here's one of the kids' spile (actually in one of our trees, but I'm jumping ahead to part 2, so enough of that for now), just so you can see what it looks like. J (and others) also took a home studio where he made donuts and rolled them in maple sugar. He claims they were very delicious. I wouldn't know, because he didn't save any for me to try. (Pouting mama....)

Zoo Boy wasn't able to get into the woodworking studio for his age group (it filled up too quickly), and he wasn't interested in anything else offered for his age, so instead he wandered the museum/village with me, Rosebud (all cozy in her sling and wrap), and various friends. The kids all had a blast, exploring the mills and chucking ice out onto the mill pond.

It was a nice start to our sugaring unit. This year we're just focusing on the experience of actually creating maple sugar from our trees, and figuring out what does and doesn't work in terms of collecting sap and cooking syrup/sugar. Next year we'll do a more focused unit on the actual science of the process, this year is mostly about discovery and practical experimentation/problem solving. (And trust me, there will be plenty of problems to solve and opportunities for discovery, for both kids and adults!)

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