By Josie Gates
Rockland After-School Alliance (RASA) participants ventured to Aldermere Farm in Rockport to learn about the maple-sugaring season and process in Maine. Aldermere Farm holds community sap gathering and boiling events throughout the sugaring season, and this year was able to offer Sap to Syrup, a seven-week long after-school program to students through RASA.
Each week the students visited the farm and with the instruction of Sarah Post, Aldermere’s Program Manager, and Youthlinks AmeriCorps Program Manager, Josie Gates, learned how to identify sugar maple trees that were okay to be tapped. Students then participated in the tapping and gathering process. Kids learned that sugar sap is not the sticky brown sap that gets stuck to their hands and clothes, but is in fact a clear liquid that tastes like sugar water. They quickly realized the important role that weather patterns play in determining how much sap flows during the sugaring season, and how many gallons of sap it takes to make just one gallon of syrup. Students got a chance to see a sugar shack in action as Aldermere’s General Manager, Ron Howard, demonstrated the boiling and evaporation process that turns the sugary sap water into thick and dark maple syrup.
The Sap to Syrup program was a great way for RASA students to see the sugaring season from start to finish—from cleaning out the cobwebs in the sap buckets in early February, to hauling gallons of sap from the sugar bush back to the sugar shack, to eating vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup on their last visit.
RASA is a program of Youthlinks offered in collaboration with RSU 13 and supported by a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant from the Maine Department of Education. Youthlinks is a program of Broadreach Family & Community Services, a non-profit organization that has been serving the children and families of Waldo and Knox Counties since 1983. For more information concerning the Rockland After-School Alliance, please contact Youthlinks: 594-2221 or visit www.youthlinksonline.org/RASA.