Keywords: maple syrup; Grade Level: kindergarten (ES); Total Time For Lesson: 20 minutes; Setting: outdoors, classroom, nature center

Teaching Model: Focus-Explore-Reflect-Apply Learning Cycle

Subjects: science, math, art

Concepts to Be Covered

  • Sugar maples are special trees that have a unique shape and leaf identification.
  • Maple syrup is processed from the sap sugar maples.
  • Many maple syrup/sugar foods are produced from sugar maples.

Goals for the Lesson

  • Children will visit a sugar maple.
  • Children will identify a sugar maple.
  • Children will discover how maple syrup is processed.
  • Children will taste maple syrup/sugar products and graph the results.

Introduction to the Lesson

"Today we are going to learn how sweet a tree can be! We will find out how sweet treats come from a special tree called a sugar maple. First, we will visit a sugar maple tree."

Activity #l: Focus Phase, 10 minutes

Preparation: Locate a sugar maple tree on school grounds or nearby forested area that can be visited by the class for observation. Prepare (photocopy and/or cut) "Sugar Maple Card" for each child to take with them into the field [see Appendix 1].

Doing the Activity

Let children know that we are going to "look" at a sugar maple. Give each child a "Sugar Maple Card" to help them with identification. Bring children to the tree site. Ask if the tree resembles or "looks like" the tree on the card. Ask the same about the leaf. Observe and discuss. Return to the classroom.

Once back in the classroom let the children color the card according to their observations. For example: If the tree visit occurs in the fall, color the tree and leaf orange. Use "It's a Sugar Maple!" handout [see Appendix 2].

Activity #2: Explore Phase, 5 minutes

Text taken directly from From the Woods: Maple Syrup, A Taste of Nature (Penn State Cooperative Extension, prepared by Anni Davenport, Sanford Smith, and Roy Adams).

Doing the Activity

Use the following information to explain "Maple Sugaring" to the children using the visual aids listed above.

There are many different kinds of trees in Pennsylvania's forests, but the sweetest tree in Pennsylvania is the sugar maple. The sap from this tree is used to make pure maple syrup. Sugar maple trees can only be found in North America. Naturally, they grow in the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada. (Show on classroom map.) This makes maple syrup a very special treat we get from Pennsylvania.

People who make maple syrup (sugar makers) drill a small hole into the trunk of the tree. This is called tapping. They put a small spout (or tube) to catch the sap that begins to collect in the hole. The spout may connect to plastic pipes stretching through the woods, or to a bucket to collect the dripping sap.

Maple syrup is made from the sugar maple tree, and these trees need to be taken care of. The small hole drilled into the tree usually heals within one or two years. If maple trees are taken care of properly, the same tree can be tapped year after year.

Sap from the sugar maple tree is about 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar, other nutrients, and minerals. To make pure maple syrup, the sap needs to be boiled to evaporate a lot of the water away (much of the water disappears). Maple syrup is 33 percent water and 67 percent sugar.

The sap starts to "run" or flow out of the holes when the weather is just right. Sugar makers like cold nights (with temperatures below freezing) and warm days (with temperatures above freezing) so the sap will flow. Once the sap starts collecting in the buckets or flowing through the tubing, it needs to be processed right away.

Sugar makers use evaporators to make maple syrup. An evaporator is made up of two or more large, specially made pans that are filled with sap. These pans sit over a fire of burning wood or some other fuel, which heats the sap and causes it to boil. As it boils, some of the water in the sap turns into steam, which rises out of the sugarhouse. The sap becomes thicker and sweeter. This process takes a lot of time and energy because it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of pure maple syrup!

The boiling sap is tested with exact instruments to find out if it is maple syrup. If it is thick enough to be maple syrup, it is filtered to take out "sugar sand," which builds up as the sap boils. "Sugar sand" is just minerals and nutrients that collect as the extra water is boiled away. If it is not filtered out, the maple syrup will look cloudy.

After the maple syrup is filtered it is put into a container for sale, or made into other tasty maple treats. Many Sugar makers use their maple syrup to make maple sugar, maple candy, maple cream, and even maple jelly. Pure maple syrup is all natural, and some people even call it a "taste of nature."

Pure maple syrup is great on pancakes, waffles, and French toast. You can also enjoy it on vanilla ice cream, steamed rice and vegetables, or other foods. Maple syrup is pure, all natural, and it comes to us from Pennsylvania's woods.

Maple Tasting Graph [see Appendix 3]

Give children the chance to sample maple products and to report their results on the graph. Children will draw or rubber stamp a happy face on the "yes" side of the graph if they like the taste of maple syrup. They will draw or rubber stamp a sad face on the "no" side of the graph if they do not like the taste of maple syrup. Next, the children will interpret the graph by comparing the number of positive and negative responses on either side of the graph.

Activity #3: Reflect and Apply Phase, 5 minutes [see Appendix 4]

After a brief wrap-up discussion the teacher explains Appendix 4 and allows the children to work independently as he/she observes. [This will be the assessment for the lesson.]

Conclusion to the Lesson

"Today you learned some important things about a very special tree. Think about the shape of the tree and leaf of the sugar maple." (Show examples.) "Remember how maple syrup is made (tapping a tree, collecting the sap, boiling the sap, and filtering the syrup) to give us lots of naturally sweet treats."


Davenport, Anni, Sanford Smith, and Roy Adams (2000). From the Woods: Maple Syrup, A Taste of Nature. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University.


Marguerite Wills, Williamsport Area School District