Vermont School Garden

A visit to a Vermont public school garden through the seasons.

More on Maples….

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With cold nights and warm days, our sugaring season has been bountiful this year. The third grade students were correct in their prediction that the sap would run faster on the sunnier side of the tree. They collected quite a bit of sap and boiled it down, once disastrously and another time successfully. The trick to boiling is to stay attentive, especially in the last few minutes. That’s why, at sugar houses across Vermont there are always lots of friends hanging out and keeping the sugar makers company….no leaving this project for very long. They may not see each other through the clouds of steam, but the conversation is lively and engaging. In the last few minutes of our sugaring off, the beautiful syrup was neglected momentarily. It boiled away to something that looked like black glass in the pot. We were undaunted but we owe our Kindergarten teacher, Paula, a new cooking pot! In a few days we collected enough sap to try boiling down again. This time we got a beautiful batch of maple butter…almost four cups! Multiply that by 40 to find out how many cups of sap we had to boil down. Many thanks go to third grade teacher, Atasi Das, and parent, Stacie Illingworth, for seeing this project through to the final sweet end.

Fourth grader, Tyler Stanley, was inspired to set a few buckets of his own. He and his dad collected the sap  from the trees at school and brought it  to their own backyard boiling set-up.

Tyler wanted to demonstrate some of the finer points of tapping trees.spiggot and hook closeup This is a type of spigot with a hole for a hook to hold the bucket once the spigot is in the tree.

After a 7/16″ hole is drilled into the tree the spigot is gently set.

hammering in spiggot

attaching bucketThe bucket is hung from the hook and a little roof is slipped onto the bucket to keep out the rain and snow.


Sliding roof on bucket




Ice from sap bucketThere was a lot of curiosity expressed in students’ written observations. They wondered how much time the sap would take to boil down, how many degrees the syrup would be when it was finished, whether the ice at the top of the sap buckets was as sweet as the sap below it. Many already had a working knowledge of evaporation even if they hadn’t all yet attached  a name to the process. One student said that the steam from the boiling sap was “just like the clouds in the sky.” The outdoor classroom was buzzing with good thinking on this warm March morning!


Author: vermontschoolgarden

I have been an elementary teacher at the Westminster Center School for 30 years. For most of those years, I maintained a garden as part of my teaching curriculum resource. Now I am the Garden Coordinator for all of the Westminster Center School classrooms.

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