Progressive Ed Moments | The Sweet Tradition of Making Syrup at The Orchard School

It’s that time of the year again at The Orchard School.
The smell of a bonfire floods the hallways. The sugar shack acts as a temporary math and science classroom. And students are immersed in a nearly century-old tradition of tapping maple trees at Orchard.
Students have completed phase one, which includes temperature checks, identifying maple trees, measuring the circumference of trees, using a brace and bit, collecting, and boiling.
Phase two includes collecting, debriefing, and most importantly, the Alumni Heritage Association Pancake Breakfast. This year’s community event will be held on Sunday, March 1st. Tickets are available now!
Keep scrolling to see photos and learn more about the process behind making maple syrup.
    • Science | Correct Temperatures: Syrup season is a finite time of the year. Night temperatures must drop below 32 degrees and daytime temperatures must rise above 32 degrees. Temperatures must be in this window for 3-5 consecutive days before the tree is ready. Students fill out thermometer graphs to highlight this special time of the year.

    • Science | Identifying the Proper Tree: Orchard has its own small sugar bush (a plantation of sugar maples) that is nestled right behind the sugar shack. The sugar bush is where students learn that maple tree have gray bumpy bark, and opposite branching. An easy way to spot this is to look for branches that make a v or y shape. Here at Orchard, our trees have "tap scars" that look like belly buttons from past years of syruping.

    • Math | Measuring the Trees: In order to collect the sap and not stress the tree, the maple tree must have a circumference of 80 cm. This measurement should ideally be taken at shoulder height if you’re a first grader (4ft). Sometimes this task involves teamwork in order to get the measuring tape all the way around the century-old trees.

    • Outdoor Education, Fine-Motor-Skills: How to Tap a Tree: Students learn to use a brace and bit in order to drill a hole that’s about an inch deep. Next, they put spiles into the holes and tap them in. After that, all of the buckets need to be hung throughout the sugar bush. Finally, students wait for what science teacher Mrs. P says is one of her all time favorite sounds on the planet—the sound of sap hitting the bottom of a bucket. “It’s officially maple syrup season!”

    • *one of the earliest tapping pictures in Orchard's archives...1920s*

    • Outdoor Education, Math | Collecting the Sap: Teams of two collect sap a couple of times a day depending on how fast its flowing. Students will count drops together and jot down their discoveries. They quickly learn that flow rates are highest on warm days following cool nights.

    • Community Engagement | Teaching Others: University High School students in environmental science and environmental literature class came to learn from the best about the world of syruping. The first graders are very thankful for your help. :)

    • Science, Math | Boiling: One thing every Orchard first grader should be able to tell you is that it takes 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup. Students also learn that boiling evaporates the water from the sap, leaving the sugar behind. The heat of the boiling carmelizes the sugar and turns it brown. It takes about 10 hours of boiling sap over a fire for this process to happen. Once sap has fully turned into syrup, it’s removed from fire, run through a fabric filter, and put into jars. See you at the Pancake Breakfast!

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