Maple Sugaring Club 2017

Written by club members: Jack, Alicia, and Chinara

In the Maple Sugaring Club the biggest part was collecting the sap from the trees. We had to know how to identify the Maple trees. In order to identify them we looked at how the leaves grew from the twigs. We had to look at the bark to see if it was furrowed and we also had to examine the edges of the bark. Plus, we had to examine the tips of the twigs.  

Our team made an agenda when it came down to collecting the sap. We had to first mark which trees were sugar maple trees, then we would wrap a pink string around the maple trees. We had to be cautious when it came time to drill the tree. We as a team had to make sure that we tilted the drill slightly before drilling a hole in the tree because if we didn’t it could damage the tree or not let the sap flow out as well. We would drill one and a half inches into the tree. We would then put the spile in the tree and set up the bucket on to the spile or next to the tree for the sap to flow into.

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As far as the boiling process goes we have to evaporate the maple sap until it gets down to a thick syrup.The first thing we had to do in the evaporation process is gather all the sap in one area and filter all of the sap again.  Then we poured half of the amount of sap we had into the pan on top of the wood burning evaporator. Then we continued to just pour more sap into the evaporator, repeating that process until we ran out of sap. We boil 100 gallons of sap in about 18 hours on our wood burning evaporator, ending with a watery syrup. We then need to boil it further until we get to the best thickness. Next we bottle our sap with sterilized bottles. 

At the end of the Maple Sugaring Club we always end up selling our maple syrup to customers. We sell the sugar at our middle school play so the parents and students can buy the syrup during intermission or before and after the play. 

In the maple sugaring club we had a lot of fun. The maple sugaring club defined leadership in a big way. We had our  alumni from last year take on the role as our leaders of the club. Most of us were new to maple sugaring and our leaders made it easier to understand how to do certain things. The maple sugaring club was a great experience for people who like the outdoors. It was also great for people who enjoyed trying new things. There were multiple jobs for people who weren’t interested in one. The maple sugaring club was an amazing experience to everyone in the club.

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Crazy Year For Maple Sugaring

It sure has been a crazy start to the maple sugaring year! The weather was up and down, but never up or down long enough to get the sap moving, so we put off tapping but the students were getting antsy. They finally convinced me to tap one tree to monitor the week before February break.

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Needless to say, we barely collected any sap that week, but the weather forecast for break was drastically different and we knew that we were in for a good week so we tapped a few more. Once the vacation week began, the weather got balmy, and the sap started flowing fast and furious. Chase and Ciarra, two eighth grade club leaders, came in one day to help tap more trees for a total of about thirty taps. Jack, another eighth grade club leader and veteran member for the past three years, was a big help as he came in twice, once with his cousins, to collect the sap that was flowing.

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Even with their help, I was kept busy collecting once or twice a day in order to stay on top of the flow as it appeared that the season was going to be short. By the end of the week we had about 80 gallons in storage and another 15 or so lost to accidental spills or ants.

When the students came back from break, their collecting started back up on a more regular basis. Jack and Thomas were able to help out during their Citizen Science project time as their project pertained to our maple sugaring project, and others stopped in to collect when they could. Tommy, a sixth grade advisee, organized the other advisees and collected during advocacy. During this time, the students had their first encounter with a sugar hungry chipmunk who was found patiently sitting in a bucket of sap waiting for the students to rescue him.

Mike, whose son is a leader in the maple sugaring club, coordinated with me and happily volunteered his time, resources, and knowledge to work with some of the club members to build a sugar shack. He oversaw the club members as they sawed, drilled, hammered, and constructed their very first sugar shack that they will reconstruct each year during the sugaring season. This is a huge upgrade from the pop up shelter with no walls that we used in past years, which provided minimal protection from the elements. Pictures and blog post on this coming soon.

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Maple Sugaring: Sapping Over Time

Another season has ended and the students have learned a lot. This year’s maple sugaring club consisted of a group of hardworking middle school students who took on the responsibility of running the club. While we waited for the perfect weather to tap the trees, we needed to get ourselves organized and ready for when the sap begins to flow. Students began by sorting through the supplies that we had, re-cleaning the equipment, creating a budget for the season, then ordering the necessary supplies to have a successful season.

Pat Sadler from WoodWise Land Company came in and helped the club members identify about thirty sugar maples on campus, which they tagged to make it easier to find once the tapping season arrived. Students learned and/or reviewed the characteristics of sugar maples versus other trees. As they became more comfortable and confident, they ventured off into the woods on their own and were able to tag over thirty trees. Some trees were tapped in previous years, and others were new to the “group.”Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 1.28.33 PM

The students were very eager to tap the trees and move forward, but it was a long and cold winter. During the next couple of month, students learned the true meaning of patience. However, the sun began to shine and the forecast glimmered of a week or so of warmer weather so I caved in and we went outside to tap the first ceremonial tree with the kindergarten students. The middle school students were so excited to teach the little ones about maple sugaring. I couldn’t have been more proud of my students as they took over the role of teacher.Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 1.28.00 PM

Once the first tree was tapped, students went out to tap the rest of their sugar maples and hang the buckets and rig the tubing necessary to collect the sap. It was quite a hectic time as they worked quickly during their limited free time during breaks, before school, and after school to gather the sap, filter it, and store it in the school’s refrigerator for the future evaporating day. After less than two weeks, we had collected about one-hundred gallons of sap but the weather turned cold and the sap slowed to a halt. Luckily it was winter break and we were on vacation, making it easier to relax.

Mother Nature decided to be very nice to the club and warm up upon our return, so we were back in business. Students tapped a few more tress and the collecting resumed. After an additional two weeks we had around another hundred gallons to add to our collection and the storage containers were full. The weather had warmed up and the sap slowed to a halt. So out came the evaporator and in came the pile of wood. With that, the long night of evaporating was in sight. The club once again took on the role of teacher as students of all ages visited us as the club members spent the day stoking the fire, adding sap, and skimming the liquid gold. The fire was started at about 7:30 am and remained lit until about 10:30 am the following morning. Club members stayed late into the night and one returned in the morning to help close things down.Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 1.27.15 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-15 at 1.26.26 PM

Next up was to finish the boiling process on the school stove after school one afternoon. Two club members helped boil the bottles and complete the boiling process of the maple syrup to get it to the correct thickness. What started around 200 gallons of sap ended with about five gallons of syrup bottled in fancy maple leaf shaped glass bottles ready to be sold at the middle school play and Evening of the Arts.

During the few months of this journey, one student made a video explaining the process of maple sugaring. He thought that it would be a great idea to bring the video to Madagascar with me since he is one of my Madagascar Club members, so he sub-captioned it in Malagasy so the students in the schools of Madagascar could better understand what we did. This will be added to our reforestation program with a school near our research station. I can’t wait to see the expressions of the students in Madagascar as they learn about the process used to make maple syrup and of the importance of our trees. Hopefully this will reinforce the importance of their own rainforest trees in their backyard.

In the end, students had made enough money to buy new equipment for the following year and buy t-shirts. So the final step was to create t-shirts. Students created a really awesome baseball style shirt and a polo shirt to wear to school. They submitted their votes via Google Forms and waited for me t surprise them with a shirt after spring break. Little did they know that they made enough money to not only replace equipment and order one shirt, but they were also able to buy the other shirt as well. This was a very nice surprise, and the students have been wearing their shirts with pride around campus. After all, the deserved them.

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MS Teaching LS Maple Sugaring

The seventh grade students at Allendale Columbia School shared their knowledge and expertise about maple sugaring with the third grade students. Each seventh grade student was partnered with a third grade student to talk about the process, then escorted them to the school woods so they could tap their own maple trees. This partnership has been named “Adopt a Tree,” and science teacher Beth Guzzetta is thrilled to have her kids learn more about the topic by teaching Peggy Hellebush’s students. The middle school students look forward to helping the lower school students as they embark on this once in a lifetime collaborative journey.

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Finally Tapping Trees

Due to it being such a cold and snowy winter, we were not able to tap the maple trees until now. So, with drills, buckets, and taps in hand, the eighty Allendale Columbia Middle School students plus teachers and Pat Sadler from WoodWise Land Management ventured out into the twenty degree weather on Saint Patrick’s Day to tap over thirty trees on campus. Excitement filled the air despite the lack of green outdoors.

The weather forecast is looking very good for a run of sap in the coming weeks. Upper thirties to forties during the day and twenties at night. Perfect weather! Stay tuned for updates on our adventures.

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Tents, Fires without Matches, Hiking Food, and so much more!

The constant rain did not deter the Endurance group from having a great time today. We started in the gym pitching tents, both 2-3 man and 3-4 man tents. Of course we did not use stakes, but their freestanding feature made this fact irrelevant. We then had a discussion on packing equipment and planning meals for hiking trips. Campers made a menu and equipment list for a four day hiking trip. They found out that hotdogs will not be very edible after a 4 day hike with no ice so they are Lucky that they are be able to buy dehydrated food if necessary. Next the campers learned about hiking stoves then boiled water on the hiking stove and made three dehydrated meals: chicken and rice, chili mac and beef, and raspberry cobbler. They were delicious! Finally, the campers learned how to use a sparker and flint with steel wool and bark to make fires. Due to the rain, we had to cook our last s’mores on camp stoves.

What an excellent week! Everyone learned a lot, developed nice teamwork skills, and will be better suited to survive in the wilderness.

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Great Day of Kayaking!

What a wonderful day to be on the bay kayaking with my Endurance group.  The weather was slightly cloudy with temperatures in the upper sixties: perfect!  We started at Bay Creek in Irondequoit and paddled through the marsh area to get everyone comfortable paddling.  The “campers” did an awesome job and picked up on correct paddling techniques rather quickly.  Two more teachers joined us when we were heading out to Irondequoit Bay, bringing our final count to six tandem kayaks and my three single kayaks.  Some kayak groups tried to make it from the Empire Boulevard bridge to the Bay Bridge in Webster, about 2.5 miles, after having paddled quite a ways in the marsh.  Needless to say, it will take more than the amount of time we had left to make it that far.  The distance is deceiving, but they gave it their best effort and almost made it.  We saw many wild animals, with the nesting white swan being the highlight for me.

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