GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science ( WMAES) recently invited Maranda out to experience maple tapping with students and staff. This annual tradition has been enjoyed by students at WMAES for 18 years. Environmental Specialist, Holly Orian shared with us some fascinating information about their maple trees and what makes this such an enjoyable experience for everyone involved:

Each tree is capable of producing about a gallon of syrup. Sap is 97% water and 3% sugar and is boiled down until it is about 66% sugar and 34% water. We cook the sap over a fire in a large evaporating pan and finish it off inside where it is easier to filter and bottle. We use our syrup to treat all the students to a pancake treat in Environmental Science so they can taste the fruits of their labor. 

At WMAES we are tapping Sugar Maple trees with our students in preschool-12th grade as a way to continue showing students their connections to the natural world. The students are involved in every step of the process from tapping trees, checking buckets for sap, hauling sap buckets to our storage containers and finally eating the finished product! 

Making maple syrup is a high labor activity and students LOVE to help. We focus our education on how our actions can affect the trees ability to give us sap to make into syrup. Each grade is studying a different aspect of this annual tradition.  Younger students are learning the process of tapping trees and that syrup comes from trees, what is sap, how it’s stored in trees and how it is used to make leaves. 3rd and 5th  graders are studying the Indigenous history of the area and how the sap was used to make mostly sugar, not syrup, and also how local trees can be used to make spiles that are what is tapped into the trees. 4th grade learns what size trees to tap and practice hands on measuring by using measuring tapes and marking the proper size trees for us to tap. Middle school students have been learning about simple machines. While in the forest they explore how the drill bit and a wood chopping tool are simple machines. The possibilities for education using maple trees is endless and each year we find new ways to connect the scientific process to their classroom standards.