It’s Maple Syrup Time in Buchanan!
by Dr. Michael Dunn, Moccasin Elementary School Principal
It’s maple syrup time in Buchanan! The maple syrup project has been a long-standing activity for fourth grade students in Buchanan Schools. Each year, students get to have a hands-on experience with making maple syrup. This year, students began tapping trees mid-February and collecting sap through mid-March.
As a part of their science lessons, fourth graders are immersed in deep learning with this project. It is not just about making maple syrup! Students first learn about maple trees, how to identify them versus other types of trees.
From there, they practice with and use the tools used for tapping trees to when tapping should occur. When students are able to go out and tap, for many, this is the first time they will have used tools like a brace and bit or a hammer and anvil. We are very fortunate to have a long-standing community partnership with Life Action Camp. As a part of the experience, students get to go out to the camp and tap the maple trees.
Eventually, students learn about the process of collecting sap and turning it into syrup and put that learning into practice. Most students are stunned to realize that sap is over 90% water and how much sap needs to be collected to just make one gallon of syrup from the evaporation process. For those who may not know, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup!
Once the sap is collected, it is brought back to the sugar shack located on the Buchanan Schools Farm. Buchanan is one of two school districts in the state of Michigan to have its own school farm! Students cut kindling and chop wood as well as take time in the sugar shack seeing the evaporator in action boiling down the sap to make the syrup.
Sometime at the end of May to early June, students will then get to taste the sweet syrup of their labor with a pancake breakfast at school. In the past, there is enough syrup made to provide each student with their own bottle as well as enough for the pancake breakfast for Plow Day.
During this project, students are reading thermometers, converting temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius, as well as many other science concepts. The maple syrup project is a true (and original) STEM-focused project, utilizing science, technology, engineering, and math concepts and skills.
For 20 plus years, Buchanan was blessed with Mark Nixon, former principal and outdoor education coordinator, who oversaw this project and many other school farm activities for students in grades K-4. Buchanan is very fortunate to be able to continue the outdoor education through the school farm with our new coordinator Jane Mitchell!
In the above photos is Jane teaching fourth grade students about tapping trees, overviewing and demonstrating the experience they will have once they arrive at Life Action Camp.