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Field Trip Offers Students More Than Just the Sweet Taste of Syrup

Photo for: Field Trip Offers Students More Than Just the Sweet Taste of Syrup

Photo by Chad Merda

A special field trip opportunity is being offered in March for educators who want their students to learn the age-old art of maple syrup making.

Because sap only flows during late winter and early spring, this field trip is available for a limited time only, which is unlike most other field trips which are generally offered during the school year April-June and September-October. The “Maple Syrup Magic” field trip is being offered at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township for grades K-12. The field trip is designed to focus on cultural history, math and science skills.

While most field trip programs can be taught year-round, Forest Preserve staff thought it would be fun to offer this sweet program during peak sap-flowing season, said Bob Bryerton, an interpretive naturalist at Plum Creek. 

“We have been offering this as a public program for a while now and it always gets a lot of interest and high attendance,” explained Bryerton. “So we thought why wouldn’t we want to offer this to schools as a field trip. It’s a fun program for us to do, with a fair amount of hands-on activities. You can really see the process from beginning to end and the information is applicable to history, math and science curriculums.”

Making maple syrup is very simple and very complicated all at once. “If you can boil water, you can make syrup,” Bryerton said. “You just have to have patience and be willing to do the work, which involves tapping the tree, collecting the sap, cooking the sap and then enjoying the syrup.”

But understanding the chemical processes that happen in the tree to allow the sap to be made into syrup is much more complex, he said, including the freezing and thawing that stops and starts the sap movement, and the chemical change that allows the sap to be processed and then stops as the season ends and the tree begins to bud.

During the two-hour field trip, students will discover where maple syrup comes from and how the process was passed on from Native People. Students will have the opportunity to explore the step-by-step technique involved in making this sticky substance, from identifying maple trees and learning when and how to tap them to seeing the equipment used and how the sap gets processed into maple syrup. 

“We also allow students to test their taste buds in search of the real deal among imposter syrups,” Bryerton said. “Students will get to feel firsthand how much time and effort it takes to go from sap to syrup, which is just one of the reasons why it’s so magical.”

For more information or to register your class for this field trip, contact Plum Creek Nature Center at 708.946.2216. This field trip is only offered until Tuesday, March 31 and the deadline to register is Tuesday, March 24. Forest Preserve field trip programs are free for Will County schools. A fee of $2 per student applies to schools outside of the county. 

Please note: Unlike other field trips offered, online registration requests are not accepted for this one. Teachers must call Plum Creek Nature Center to register.


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