By Susan Wilderman, Faculty
For eight weeks between the long dark days of winter and the coming hope of new life in spring, is a special season unique to the Northeast ~ Maple Sugaring. Everything involved in making delightful Pure Maple Syrup requires patience, diligence, and attention to detail. The work required of such a feat is authentic, and involves multiple levels of risk which can lead to deeper learning that goes beyond making Maple Syrup.
This year, we entered the season with twelve students from novice through four-year veteran. Each had the opportunity to develop and deepen their understanding. Students are involved in the whole process learning to adroitly identify healthy Sugar Maples in the winter, to manning the evaporator to transform the sap into Maple Syrup.
In a culture that values instantaneous access to almost anything, Maple Sugaring is different ~ it takes time! The students tapped about 150 trees representing 300 taps, from these taps, they collected 2-3 times per week, with an average collection taking the group 2 hours to complete. After the collecting, the sap was processed through the evaporator. It takes approximately 40-50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon a Pure Maple Syrup. When the evaporator is running optimally, we can process about 65 gallons of sap an hour. This season the team was able to produce 60 gallons of Syrup (With some quick math that’s 2400-3000 gallons of sap!) All this to say, Sugaring is not a fast process. Attention to detail is essential every step of the way as they learn how to safely enjoy the process.
Learning to enjoy hard work alongside others is a key outcome of this project. Because of the varied experience levels, the class also offers peer mentoring to take place as shared by this third-year student, “This year I strived to help others grow in their sugaring skills and did my best to help others along.” For others, this year offered a second chance to be part of the project with a willing spirit which resulted in personal growth and seeing the value in team collaboration. At the end of the season, several students shared a similar reflection as this four-year student, “Through my time in the program, I have grown an appreciation for the students who came before me, as well as the entire sugar shack history”.
Maple Sugaring is more than making Syrup. It is a refining process that develops students into mature men and women able to manage risk and work with their whole hearts towards a common goal!
Well done students!