This past Saturday, March 10, nearly one hundred members of our community, and friends of our school, gathered in the main hall to enjoy a morning of learning and dining together in support of the third grade farm trip later this spring.
Early in the morning, the school was a-buzz with third grade parents and friends flipping hundreds of pancakes, crisping many pieces of bacon, and brewing coffee. Smells of the delicious breakfast food wafted through the halls, and around 9:30 am sweet, golden syrup was poured onto pancakes as we sat together to enjoy the fruits of the maple harvest.
Miss Ryan, Science and Nature Coordinator, opened up the program with an introduction to the Science in Nature program and its current focus on the science and math of maple sugaring. She told a legend about the origins of maple syrup, and we were reminded that it is only in this part of the world that maple syrup is harvested. I shared the tradition of “sugaring off” parties of yesteryear, and how Miss Ryan and I envisioned a renewal of this special community tradition tied into our Science in Nature program, focusing on the unique gifts of our own Moraine Farm area. Most importantly, students talked about their class contributions to this maple season. Beyond the collection of the sap (done by early childhood and grades classes), students have also been measuring and charting the sap totals and high and low temperatures daily. We will look at this data for trends and patterns that will inform this and future year’s understandings of the maple sugaring process.
For this special event, we collaborated with Valley View Farm, a small, family-owned farm in Topsfield. Farmhands from Valley View came to help us tap the trees, and each day Miss Ryan and students collected the sap. They analyzed the weather and sap production using math and charts. Each day Ms. Ryan or I delivered the sap to Valley View Farm, where it was evaporated, or cooked down, into syrup through a very efficient process. At Valley View Farm, the farmers use their creative thinking in physics, chemistry and math to find unique solutions and improvements to the process of transforming sap into syrup. This was a wonderful community process of collaborating to create the optimal conditions for the finest maple syrup possible. This time of year is well-loved by my family and local friends as the “sugar shack” heralds the spring and brings us back together after a long, New England winter.
Valley View Farm truly understands optimal conditions for best sap production leading to the highest quality syrup. Radiational cooling during the spring (the evening cooling of the earth’s surface through weather and surface conditions) is an important factor in sap production: cool nights and warm days help the sap flow more easily, and this yields more syrup. In addition, sugar content of the sap is affected by many factors, including sun exposure. Although the weather in the last few weeks has not been optimal for harvesting the sap, we should be experiencing much better conditions this week and students might even be able to take a field trip to the “sugar shack” to see the process in action!
We are so grateful to be part of the Moraine Farm community and to partner with Valley View Farm to learn more about our environment through the Science in Nature program. Our maple sugar breakfast on Saturday was a celebration of these opportunities, and a wonderful way to come together to break the monotony of winter weather and look forward to the spring. Thank you to supporters of our Science in Nature program, through which all of this could happen; to Valley View Farm for helping us in creating the spectacular syrup that we delightedly ladled onto our fluffy pancakes; to Farmers to You and the Wrinn family who donated bacon and apple cider; to third grade parents who cooked tirelessly; to Marshunda Smith for her delectable pancake recipe; and to all of you who came out to enjoy and celebrate the bounty of nature and warmth of our community.
If you would like to purchase a pint of the maple goodness that students have been part of creating, please see Stacia Chamberlain in the school store. Valley View Farm has given us roughly a dozen bottles to sell – or rather pass onto you, at cost, for $12 per bottle. Payment can be made in cash or a check can be written out directly to Valley View Farm.
By Dianne McGaunn, Faculty Administrator
Marshunda Smith’s Fluffy Pancake Recipe!
Prep 10 min ∙ Cook 10 min ∙ Makes 8 pancakes
· 3/4 cup milk
· 2 tablespoons white vinegar
· 1 cup all-purpose flour
· 2 tablespoons white sugar
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1 egg
· 2 tablespoons butter, melted
· cooking spray
1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.
Calories 230 kcal 12%
Carbohydrates 32.7 g 11%
Cholesterol 72 mg 24%
Fat 8.2 g 13%
Fiber 0.8 g 3%
Protein 6.4 g 13%
Sodium 650 mg 26%