Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tapping into the world

Transplanted a couple of basil plants yesterday, a breath of optimism against the bitter cold we've had here the past week. The back bays are freezing up, the clams will have to wait.

Today a gull with a broken wing struggles along the salty iced edge of the bay. It will not see dawn.

The sap will start rising up through the trees in a few weeks--I may tap a local maple to show the kids that it's true.

In our urge to push the abstract on our digital native, 21st century learning constructivist wired generation, we forgot along the way that they are no more, or less, human than those of us who preceded them.

If you do not know of the sap, you cannot truly know the syrup. If nothing else, we will take a trip outside our building and peer into a bucket stuck onto a tree. And while I hardly expect most to be excited about the specifics, most will be excited by the general.

The natural world is real, it's open, and it's theirs.

I have never tapped a maple tree, nor have any of my students. I may try it next month.

We will, together, find a tree.
We will, together, collect the sap.
We will, together, simmer the sap under the fume hood.
We will, together, taste the syrup that results.

We do not need a Maker Faire, we do not need a creative "streak," we do not need an algorithm nor a rubric, we do not need to differentiate, we do not need to rewrite the curriculum.

Most of all we do not need an excuse. We're just going to do it.

And no, it will not be on the test.


Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

I suspect the maple syrup project is harder than it looks. You need a sugar maple--not common even in southern NE. And you need a LOT of sap--cooking it sloowwly down to 1/40 its initial volume. (My family did the maple syrup tour at the local Audubon years ago. The sap tasted like water: no detectable sugar.) Good luck!

doyle said...

Dear Jeffrey,

Oh, I suspect our odds are not great, but this much I do know:

1) The kids will see sap come out of a tree, and
2) we'll boil it down enough to get something syrupy, even if only a tablespoon or two.

Process matters....

Lee said...

My neighbors tap some of my trees, in addition to their own. They built a sap house where they boil it down. For my "efforts" (providing the use of the trees) they give me between 4-6 pints of different grades of syrup depending on good of a season it was. It's a lot of work so I'm thankful they are doing it instead of me! The only "excuse" you need are pancakes or waffled!
P.S. The icicles that hang from sugar maples are sweet! if you see such a "sapsicle" taste it!

doyle said...

Dear Lee,

I will need your help--how can I tell a sugar maple by its bark alone? I did not plan this well (or at all), but now I plan to do it.

(Come to think of it, that's been my lifelong MO. I've had a few disasters along the way, but a few unexpected successes, too!)

Lee said...

Hmmmm...I'm pretty much SOL if there are no leaves on the trees, but I did find this website which explains the whole process in simple steps: I will take some pictures of the sugar maple trees that I'm sure of (that have been tapped in the past) and send them to you so you can see a close up of the bark, and the overall size & shape. I know the article said all maples produce sugar but don't believe it. My neighbors accidentally tapped a red maple one year with disastrous results. Definitely not worth it! Also, not mentioned in the article is a big of "wisdom" my neighbors have shared with me, which is that you look for the leaf buds to be about the size of mouse ears before you tap :). And of course, as was mentioned, you get the best results when the days are warm and the nights are freezing. Around these parts that can be anywhere from mid-January through March but it varies from year to year. Usually they start around Valentine's Day so we'll see. I'll keep you posted as to when my neighbors start what I call "the bucket brigade" (because they go up and down the road on their tractor, tapping the trees and then collecting the sap everyday, sometimes multiples times a day). Good luck! I'll send those pics shortly!