The dormant, hibernating teacher in me is creeping to the surface once again. I may not be clawing to get back into the classroom, but I do love to turn our living room, kitchen, and the nearby woods into places where we can learn and explore together.
So this past Saturday I planned a “Family Challenge” for us: a outing or activity with a purpose. We surprised the kids and went to a local maple syrup farm to learn how trees are tapped and syrup is made!
I quickly typed up a handout to help direct our time, made copies, paper clipped them to hardcover books, and then passed them out to the kids [who needs clipboards?!]. The first section had them make a hypothesis and record some road names and location information. The rest of the questions dealt with the process of making syrup, what natural resources are involved, what benefits there are to buying local products, etc.
The folks at the “Sugar Shack” were warm and gracious. Without an appointment they swung wide their doors and invited us into the history of the farm. With unhurried care they explained how sappy goodness is boiled down into something wonderful for your morning waffles, and they explained how Native Americans and Settlers each had their own ways of making syrup [clever people!]
After we asked questions and wandered around a bit, our children got a spoonful of the real thing, ladled out of a stainless steel drum before our very eyes! [I quickly channeled Buddy the Elf and thought of him pouring syrup on his spaghetti and naming it as one of the four food groups].
After making a few purchases we plodded down the adjacent dirt road which led to the farm’s harvesting area. Zig-zagged with blue tubes scurrying from 1,000 tree taps, the nearby forest was a maze delivering sap to a 250 gallon drum, which when full is only enough for about FIVE gallons of syrup!! [if you are cynical about the cost of pure maple syrup, that’s why!]
Days like this one open so many doors for learning, great conversation, and praise to a God who would provide something so sweet from a tree! If you live in West Michigan or the Northeastern United States, check your local directory for a syrup farm near you; you’ll never look at your pancakes the same way again. I promise!
What about you? What fun winter activities have you discovered recently?