By April Woodhull
The Kindergarten class, affectionately known as the "Sugar Maple" class, added a new project to their year-long tree study. After reading about Sugar Maples trees, and their ability to make sap, the class reached out to Lower School STEM Teacher Mrs. Elena Nickerson, and Middle School Science Teacher Ms. Allison Kohler to help them in their first attempt at tapping a Sugar Maple tree. The class researched the specifics necessary for this process and learned numerous facts about trees. One important fact was that it must be a healthy mature tree, at least 12 inches in diameter. Another fact was that tapping a tree does not harm it. However, once a tree has been tapped, that same hole can't be used again. Trees have a natural healing process called "walling-off" that prevents a hole from being used a second time. The tree can be tapped again but in a new spot. Once the class had located the perfect tree on Stuart's campus, they gathered the supplies necessary. We all watched as Ms. Kohler put on her safety goggles and used the drill to make an opening in the tree for the spile (tap). The spile was placed into the hole with a mallet, and tubing was then attached to the spile so it could run down into the container (a milk jug). That was the first phase of the maple tapping process - which can take many days or weeks. All that was left to do was wait and watch for the sap. We checked the tree daily, and little-by-little, sap was collected. The girls learned to read a thermometer and discovered that temperature was extremely important for sap flow. February and March are the best time for collecting sap when the nights are cool (below freezing) and the days are warmer. The final check of the container before spring break was not enough to yield any syrup. During math class, we used empty gallon jugs to help us understand the ratio needed. We were surprised that we needed 10 gallons of sap for 1 quart of syrup. While the girls weren't able to produce any Stuart Syrup, the class agreed it was a fantastic experience. We thanked our "tree" for the food it did give us — a common practice of respect for the Earth that the girls learned in their studies of Native Americans — and carefully removed the spile. The class then enjoyed a well-deserved snack of store-bought maple syrup and french toast. Click here for photos. Watch the video below of the actual tapping.