We began our exploration by observing the tree, hearing, touching, and smelling the tree. We read a book to learn more about the maple tree and start our tapping exploration.
We were all excited about this inspiring learning activity that brings together science, math, forestry, and taste buds.
Tapping is done in late winter, early spring when days are above freezing and nights are below freezing. We started by inserting the spile into the tree, finding a spot that receives sunshine, and making sure to remove the bark to get a smooth area to tap.
Tapping helped us learn of the source of real maple syrup. We realized that the tree has sap “water,” which contains sugar. Trees store this sugar for their food, and trees have a way of transporting the sap.
Through tapping the maple, children are supported in observing and inquiring about their natural environment.
We went outside daily to measure how much maple water we had and if the jugs were full to put out new ones– playing around the Maple Tree was a highlight, and some children would stick their fingers under the tap to taste the sap as it oozed from the tree – learning, that sap isn’t the same as syrup.
Best practice in early childhood education is based on supporting children to understand themselves through the natural world.
In a world that often requires a lot of patience, the kids were excited to finally find their jugs full to overflowing the following morning.
Once we collected 20 gallons, we boiled the sap!
Finally, after about four days, we had syrup and rewarded our patience with pancakes and syrup.
One of many skills that young children develop is delayed gratification. Tapping and exploring the maple tree sap allows children to see the steps in developing syrup and build their patience skills.
This space is used for a gathering area for the kids (or a fort/playhouse).
I went to Menards to look for ways to create a natural play house (since I gave away my two plastic little tykes houses). I originally planned to do an arch hut that I saw on Pinterest using a garden arch but when I saw the prices, I just kept walking. I then came up with the idea of using garden trellis, stakes and bamboo fencing. The garden trellis was an accordion type (pictured below), so it can expand to whatever size you want. I already had the rubber pavers, so decided to make it around those and that’s how I determined my size.
Step 1: Hammer the stakes into the ground. (I purchased 4 foot stakes with the rubber coating so they wouldn’t rust). If your sides are long, you would need a stake for each corner and then a stake for each wall for support.
Step 2: Zip tie the accordion fence to the stakes
Step 3: Zip tie bamboo fence on three sides of the structure.
Step 4: Trim off excess bamboo to the height you want the structure to be.
Step 5: Place garden stakes on top to support the bamboo roof. Make sure to measure the width of your structure to know what size stakes to get. I rested them on top of the accordion fence and zip tied them in place.
Step 6: Lay the bamboo fence on top and zip tie it down.
Tip: Measure your space first so you have an idea of how many materials you will need.
Tip: You will need a lot of zip ties to make it sturdy. I purchased natural colored zip tie.
Tip: I did purchase an outdoor rug to place on top of the rubber pavers. This gave them a little bit cozier area and makes it easier to sweep rocks off of.