Many maple trees can be found on Preschool of the Arts property, and Kristin, our Environment and Facilities Manager, has tapped some of our maple trees for sap. The easiest one to see is next to the PSA sign as you enter the PSA parking lot.
In the Gold Room, one student entered the classroom one morning with the question, “Why is there a milk jug by the tree?” In order to answer his question, we asked Kristin and she offered to take members of the Gold Room out in small groups so they could see exactly what she was doing with that milk jug near the tree. The children then returned to the class and shared their observations with their teachers.
The children were all very interested in the sap collecting. First, they went to the office and saw the equipment involved: tap, hose and milk jug. Then they visited a tree and saw the steady drip of sap.
Back in the classroom, the students who saw the tree reported their observations.
Teacher: When you left the classroom with Kristin, can you tell me what you did?
Student: We went outside in the front to the tree. A maple tree and I saw a light tube in the milk jug.
Student: The jugs were big.
Student: I was wondering why the milk jug were there
Student: The milk jugs have a hole in it and the hose run into it and then water goes in the jug.
Student: Were they filled with sap?
Student: Filled with maple tree sap.
Student: The sap tasted like sugar.
Student: I think it tasted like honey.
Student: I think it tasted like cotton candy.
Student: I think it tasted yucky.
Student: Kristin has to make fire on the sap.
Student: Kristin says she burns sap into syrup for pancakes.
Teacher: Anything else I should know?
Student: I saw a little black piece stuck to the tree hole.
The most frequently asked question from the children is, ‘does it hurt the tree to take the sap?’. The answer is no. One tap per tree does not hurt the tree at all. If the tree were really young, we wouldn’t tap it. Collecting sap makes us aware of how alive and active trees are, even when they appear to be brown and dormant.
In Reggio Emilia philosophy, project work is very important. Projects come out of cherishing children’s interest. As teachers we are always listening, observing, and taking note of children’s wonder. The project work with the maple tree came out of just that, one child’s wondering! In turn that lit a spark in us, as teachers and fellow peers.
Project work can be a very short study or months long. Project work provides a holistic approach to children’s wonder and interest. It is also multi-modal: learning is developed by investing in one or many of the hundred languages. Project work usually happens through group work, large or small. Working in groups allows children a chance to work on their social-emotional competencies. How does one express their ideas in a respectful manner? Group work can also develop the ability to be heard and patiently listening to others. Project work is the impetus for collaboration, raising questions, theory testing and time for reflecting about ones’ own learning.
To explore this subject in a different language, the students did observational drawings, en plein air, despite the cold!
“The sap came from the tree. There was a little black thing that connected a hole in the tree to a tube. Then the sap went into a milk jug. Then we poured it into cups from the kitchen. It tastes like honey! ”
Pajamas and pancakes go together so well, why not make syrup in our PJs to try out the PSA maple syrup? We mixed our own batter, we poured our own batter on the griddle and then we tested out 3 different syrups.
We held a short morning meeting where we discussed why we made pancakes, and our thoughts about the syrup tasting. The children retold their experiences with the sap gathering and their knowledge how the sap turned into syrup.
Student: Kristin drilled the tree and put a black piece in then she connected the hose to the black piece and to the bottle.
Student: She had to put it over a fire and that is how she got syrup.
We presented the children with three syrup choices ; Mrs. Butterworth’s, Sugar Bush Maple syrup, PSA syrup
Student: I liked them all.
Student: I liked them all, the light one (PSA) tasted like honey.
Student: I liked the PSA one, it tasted like bingo-jelly. My dad gets that for me!
Student: I liked the one in the glass bottle (Sugar Bush maple syrup). The PSA one tasted like strawberry.
Student: I liked the PSA one it was tasty!