New Sweden students learn sweet lesson

12 years ago
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Contributed photo by Lukas Lagasse
Kylie Haines, Kendra Furber and Johnna Grant were just a few of the New Sweden seventh- and eighth-graders who collected sap and recorded the climatological data during the school’s recent syrup endeavors.

By Natalie Bazinet
Staff Writer

NEW SWEDEN — Kindergarten through eighth-grade students of the New Sweden School enjoyed the fruits of their labor (or syrup of their labor, in this case) sprinkled atop a heap of ployes on April 5, the culmination of a month-long sugaring project at the school that highlighted science, math, local history and even recreational reading.

Interestingly enough, the project was conceptualized after budget cuts eliminated field trips, including an annual local journey to observe the syrup-yielding process.

Instead, New Sweden teachers and Principal Laurie Spooner decided that they’d tap their own trees this year and the results far surpassed their expectations.

All the necessary tapping equipment — from the taps themselves to the propane used to boil sap — was all furnished by the school’s faculty and staff, and Clyde and Leena Jepson gave the school permission to tap trees on their property close to the school.

Each class trekked out into the woods with Spooner to tap two trees — but first they had to identify and determine which trees would be good to tap.

Students of Ernie Easter’s seventh- and eighth-grade class took over the brunt of the work once the taps were in, collecting the sap and tracking basic weather conditions and tap yields on a chart they’d created.

Educators said it takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, and the school’s efforts hadn’t produced enough for a gallon. Fortunately, Ed Christie donated some extra sap to make up the difference.

Easter’s class began overseeing the boiling process last week.

As the process is literally as exciting as watching water boil, Easter encouraged his students to bring a book.

While students did enjoy passing the time by reading, they also took the opportunity to share stories around the boiling sap.

“In each grade, we had at least a student who was familiar with the process because they do it with their families at home,” Spooner explained.

Because so many youths had syrup-experiences of their own, students told stories about the different ways that syrup can be made.

Though Easter’s class oversaw the majority of the boiling process, each grade level did have an opportunity to visit the school’s impromptu “sugar house” and watch the sap processing.

On Thursday, the student-created syrup was shared and enjoyed over ployes; Bouchard Family Farms of Fort Kent donated the buckwheat flour for the staff to cook up nearly 100 ployes and sent down samples of buckwheat seed, millings and hulls so students could get a hands-on lesson of the region’s culturally significant grain.

Enjoying their buckwheat pancakes and school-made syrup, students left the cafeteria with comments like “that was awesome!” and “can we have them for breakfast again tomorrow?”

Some students of Linda Ross’ third- and fourth- grade class had different things to say about the syrup, including the comment, “some of my tree is in this syrup.”

Ross explained that earlier in the year, each student of her class went out and selected a specific tree. As the year progressed, the students tracked changes in their tree.

Four students had picked maple trees which were, coincidentally, tapped for sap.

That’s one sweet science lesson those students won’t soon forget.

Educators agreed that tapping their own trees this year served was an incredibly positive learning experience for students, one that they hope to repeat next year.