Do-it-Yourself Maple Sugaring Multidisciplinary Curriculum
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: $19.95.
Sample Download: Seeds to Go! a six-part experiment on seed design in which students age 9-17 collect a variety of seeds and examine them for their adaptations for dispersal: $2.
The lessons are based on the seven chapters of the book:
1. Drawn from Wood native origins
2. Ye Olde Confectionary Craft colonial methods
3. Family Tree Gallery maple identification
4. The Secret Life of Trees sugar production
5. For Fun & Profit & Hard Work modern sugar farming
6. Do-it-Yourself step-by-step instructions
7. Maple Delights confectionary perfection
Because students learn in many different ways (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic and social), Do-it-Yourself Maple Sugaring is designed to provide many avenues to maximize the learning potential. Each lesson offers contextual information and activities in the following applications:
A particular chapter in the book is assigned for reading and absorbing. This may be done orally or silently in class or assigned as homework. A Word Work vocabulary list, derived from the chapter, presents words the students must master. A Quick Quiz allows for a review or test of new knowledge gleaned from the chapter upon conclusion of the unit. Alternatively, it may be used as an Active Reading Guide upon beginning the unit to spur engagement and retention.
2. Think & Discuss
A specific issue or topic in the chapter is presented with additional background and thought-provoking questions to stimulate the students’ critical thinking and engage in conversational dialog with their peers and teacher, promoting more in-depth understanding, productive relationships, and articulate communication.
This hands-on activity centers on a more in-depth exploration of a related topic suggested in the chapter. Such direct engagement in the lesson promotes better retention and application to other life-learning situations as they become immersed in the fun of the learning process.
Independent research and study is a crucial skill required in nearly all professions, and is offered here as a developmental opportunity to seek out a multitude of outside informational resources and synthesize a qualified report on a particular subject, process, or results.
This special hands-on project allows students to learn by doing while crafting a practical product whose use and value is enhanced by their own personal investment in the learning process.
Both science and our minds expand through thoughtful and observant experimentation. In an experiment designed to extend comprehension of underlying causes and effects, techniques and processes, and other scientific principles, students grow in cognitive development and reasoning.
This optional endeavor suggests an extended, in-depth development project that requires extensive planning, preparations and collaborations, thereby developing student leadership and extending the learning process from the classroom into a practical, real-life application. It is intentionally outwardly focused to contribute to a larger purpose in the community.
This element suggests an enriching family- or group-based activity that may further engage the community of learners in related affairs, organizations, opportunities and events.
9. Additional Resources
The amount and type of additional resources vary by lesson, but do include: Supplemental Information & Materials for use in lesson activities; Extension Activities & Projects for continued application; and Bibliography & Online Resources for further study and learning