Making Learning Sweeter!
When I used to do nature programs in elementary schools, the most common question I received from the eager upturned faces was: “Is it real?”
(What? You thought I brought fake nature?)
Despite how I may have liked to respond, the kids’ interest — and their question — was real, which reveals two important things:
1. There’s an innate need to connect to our beautiful, resourceful, sustaining world.
2. That connection is increasingly strained, ignored, and broken.
Perhaps it’s to be expected from a generation that has always known a “virtual reality.” But that such a question needs asking may well be the gasping canary of our educational coalmine.
No “virtual” substitute is truly viable for first-person knowledge and experience in our real world. Our food doesn’t come from a supermarket. Our water originates from sources other than the faucet. Our wildlife depends on clean resources and habitats, just like we do.
The more I thought about those elementary school visits, the clearer it became: one of the most direct and enjoyable interactions with nature — making pure maple syrup by tapping a tree and boiling its sap — could be the catalyst to extending its short season, turning it into productive, year-round educational adventures.
Although Canada and the New England states are well known as maple syrup producers, maple trees thrive over most of North America, and nearly anyone with access to a maple can tap the tree to make maple syrup. And the syrup itself is not only rich with flavor but history, culture, technology, science, and economics.
I’d already written Maple Sugar to entice year-round engagement with nature, but I wanted to help teachers and parents connect the many real lessons from the maple to young learners’ own realities. With that resource in hand, I collected more raw material and developed a Do-it-Yourself Maple Sugaring Multidisciplinary Curriculum.
Students from 9 years old to those at the high school level can follow the footsteps of both bygone and present maple syrup producers, learning how to tap the trees, secure the sap, separate the sugar, and taste the treat themselves —and developing virtuous habits and many practical employment and life skills along the way.
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A full academic year featuring more than 100 educational activities on biology, earth science, language and the arts, science and technology, history, geography and social science, health and wellness and more! 141 pages: $10.