This past Saturday was SEED’s first class of 2013! We had a total of 12 participants, 5 volunteers, and many parents and guardians packed into the farm’s biggest yurt.Before the class began, I walked outside and saw a few flurries of snow drift down from the sky. The volunteers and I were a little concerned about the forecast and hoped that the yurt had enough heat. But before we could worry more, the yurt was filled with warm bodies and warm hearts. The kids filtered through the front door and were handed a piece of paper and a marker to draw their own version of a maple tree. When the students finished their artwork, everyone explained to their neighbor what made their maple tree unique and where in the world these trees might be found. We learned that the sugar maple trees are most popular in Canada and various parts of New England. But maple trees are not limited to these regions, they are also found in areas like Pennsylvania. Many of the students were familiar with maple trees and could attest that the sap that comes out of the trees is awfully sweet! Some even admitted to having maple syrup on their pancakes and waffles for breakfast!
The SEED volunteers and I were so proud of the students because they helped to teach us about the process of tapping maple trees. We had our own maple tree inside the yurt and labeled the tree with the steps of the tapping process. First, we drilled a hole in the tree. Next, we placed a spigot in the hole of the tree to guide sap to drip out into a buck. We hung the bucket below the spigot to collect the sap, and then put a lid on top of the bucket to keep out any animals that wanted a sip of the sweet sap. Finally, we brought the bucket to a big fire and boiled the sap to make maple syrup! We learned that it takes FOURTY gallons of sap from a sugar maple tree to make ONE gallon of the yummy syrup.
Our maple tree was labeled with the sugaring steps, but it looked like something was missing so we asked the kids to decorate their own maple leaf and tape it to the tree. They used maple leaf stencils to design and personalize their own maple leaves. They then hung their red leaves on the big maple tree. The yurt was more beautiful than ever but the outdoors was calling our names.
We lined up by the door and one of our young farmers, Owen, explained a game similar to “Sharks and Minnows” but renamed it with “Sap and Trees.” We started with five “trees” in the middle while the “sap” lined up ready to hear the command to cross the forest. All those designated as “sap” had to avoid being tagged by a “tree”, but if they got caught they turned into a “tree” and became a part of the forest of maple trees. The “trees” yelled, “1,2,3 Sap Sap run through me!” Then the “sap” players ran through the “trees” and hoped not to get caught. When all the “sap” players were tagged, a new round began. We played three rounds and then we journeyed back to the yurt to practice a mindful eating exercise.
Everyone had to close their eyes and put out their hands. I passed out a sugary treat and waited until everyone had one. When I said “okay” they were allowed to sniff the treat, taste it, and guess- in their mind- what in the world they were eating. After about a minute of silence the group was excited to reveal what it was. Hands shot up, waving in the air. All of them thinking and mumbling, “I know! I know!” I told them to open their eyes and to one by one tell me what it was they tasted. They described the secret treat to be sweet, soft, easy to dissolve, and of course – yummy. All of the children guessed that the special treat was a maple sugar candy. They guessed right, but if they had seen it before trying it they would have seen the candy was in the shape of a maple leaf- giving away its identity!
After this activity we moved onto the topic of the second hour which was just as sweet: honey! We began with a game of true or false. Every time I said a statement about honeybees the group had to “buzzzzzz” if it was false or flap their arms like wings if it was true.
“Bees do NOT sleep.” The buzzes started. “False? Are you sure?” I inquired with a smile. The buzzes stopped and the wings started to flap. It’s hard to believe, but bees do not sleep. In the true and false game we learned some amazing things about bees. We learned that they fly up to 15 mph and flap their wings over 11,000 times per second, which causes the buzzing noise to occur. After learning the basics of the honeybee we went one step deeper. We learned about the queen bee, the female worker bees, and the male drones bees that live in the hive.
We then broke-up into two different groups and acted out the roles of each of the bees within the hive. Then we learned how to do a bee dance! Unlike humans, bees do not communicate with words, they use dance. When a honeybee finds a patch of flowers that has lots of sweet nectar they want to share this information with the other bees in the hive. Worker bees describe directions to the flower patch to fellow worker bees by waggling their abdomen. We had the kids practice the waggle dance. A group of students would hide the flowers and the other group had to guess where the flowers were by interpreting the waggle dance. I saw some really good waggles!
The last activity of the day was candle making with beeswax. Each student was given a sheet of colored bees wax and a wick to make their very own candle. While the kids were busy as bees working on their candles the volunteers passed around samples of “Spring Wildflower Honey” from Dawg Gone Bees. The sweet honey gave them all the energy they needed to complete the last task of the day.
The volunteers and I were so happy to have such a fabulous group of kids participate in Sweet Trees and Bees. It was our biggest class yet! We are looking forward to our next class on April 6th, The Incredible (Organic) Egg. All previous SEED students are welcome to signup as are all new participants!
Registration opens today, March 6th so make sure you signup quick!
Register online: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/farm/youth