I love learning something new and thanks to Debra Frankel I now know that a) tapping maple trees isn’t as hard as one might imagine, and 2) that maple tree tapping can be a terrific Jewish educational experience at any age! The Larchmont Temple Nursery School project connected the environment, cooking, home and holidays and Debra shared with me that, “It was one of the neatest experiences I’ve seen at the nursery level.” (SC)
One of our 3s classes celebrated Tu B’Shevat in a different and meaningful way! Their teacher, Mary Jo, drilled holes in 2 of the maple trees on the Temple grounds, and the children and teachers tapped the spile (this is the spout that helps the sap run from the tree) into the tree and attached a catch bucket to the tree (this is the bucket that collects the sap). Over the course of a few days, the children collected about 20 gallons of sap, enough to make 2 quarts of maple syrup! They jarred the syrup and shared it with their friends at school. Each class received its own special jar of “Larchmont Temple Maple Syrup.” The syrup makers enjoyed their maple syrup with challah French toast. As we are now preparing for Passover one class dipped matzah into their syrup! Next will be matzah brie with maple syrup. Yum!
What we learned:
1. Maple sap is a clear liquid and looks like water.
2. Trees produce sap because sap helps transport food throughout the tree, a lot like how blood in animals helps oxygen move throughout the body.
3. When the temperature is above freezing consistently or buds start to form, it is time to stop collecting sap and wait for next year.
This was the first time that we’ve done this at school and it was fantastic! The children were able to have a hands on experience, watch the sap as it dripped from the trees and help their teacher with the buckets. The children were deeply engaged, and it evolved over the course of several days in a really appropriate, developmental way. It was very exciting when we were all able to say “Happy Birthday” to the trees and also thank them for providing us with the sap that made the delicious maple syrup!
Debra Frankel is the Director of the Early Childhood Program at Larchmont Temple, Larchmont, NY. For another interesting article about maple trees and Jewish education, visit the Hazon and Forward partnership post, The Year The Maple Trees Celebrates Purim.