By ARDEN BASTIA The school day has gotten a whole lot sweeter for one sixth grade class at Warwick Veterans Middle School. In Patricia Bastia's project based learning (PBL) class, students are collecting sap to turn into maple syrup from trees in the
The school day has gotten a whole lot sweeter for one sixth grade class at Warwick Veterans Middle School. In Patricia Bastia’s project based learning (PBL) class, students are collecting sap to turn into maple syrup from trees in the courtyard.
“The class was established when the sixth grade moved up to middle school,” said Bastia in an interview last Thursday. “It’s an opportunity for kids to explore what kids are interested in. So the teacher really just acts as a facilitator.”
On the previous Tuesday, Bastia’s students spent the class drilling into the trees to set up the spigots and buckets.
This is the second year Bastia has led students through the maple sugar process. “There was an article in the paper and the kids saw it and wanted to do that. We started talking about it, and come to find out, the trees in our courtyard are maple trees and we were able to get some of those little spigots to tap into the trees, and some buckets.”
The project will continue over the next two weeks, wrapping up when the weather changes. Once the daytime temperatures steadily hit over 40 degrees and the nights are no longer freezing, the sap won’t run as much, explained Bastia. So far, students have collected over 10 gallons, and last year the class collected 37 gallons. “Every child in the class got to take home a gallon and with their parents’ help, boil it down to make their own maple syrup. We even had enough left over to share,” she said. “Fingers crossed, here’s hoping we have a good harvest this year too.”
“I’m lucky I got to do the maple trees,” said Angela Houle, one of the sixth grade students, who was jealous of her twin brother who had the chance to collect donations for the Warwick Animal Shelter in his PBL class last quarter.
Bastia explained that the process of collecting maple syrup is simple enough. The materials are easily accessible at hardware stores or Amazon, although Bastia bought buckets and spigots at Tractor Trailer Supply in Coventry. “It’s got to be a maple tree, but sugar maple trees are best. You just drill in a hole that’s just big enough to fit the spiel. Hang the hook, hang the bucket, and they do make fancier buckets that are covered so debris doesn’t get in there. You do have to use food grade buckets though,” she explained.
Once the sap has been collected, it must be strained through a fine sieve or coffee filter into a big pot, which will then be brought to a boil. It takes about 90 minutes for the spa to boil down into syrup, and Bastia recommends turning the stove vent on during boiling, since the steam can get sticky.
To include those students who were distance learning, Bastia brings her laptop out to the courtyard so students at home could be involved.
“I think it’s so important to teach the skills of sustainability. I think it’s so important to teach ecology and environmental awareness to the kids, and I’ll tell you, they love being outside. They love being in the fresh air and the sunshine,” Bastia said. “And so many of them were so surprised to see this is where their maple syrup comes from.”
The students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the project, and unanimously agreed that homemade syrup is paired best with pancakes.