Outdoor science is sweet at Lighthouse Christian

Date Published: 
March 14, 2014

What could be more exciting than producing your own food from nature? Recently, on a rare warm February day, Lighthouse Christian School students learned how to make maple syrup the old-fashioned way.

“I just think it’s kind of exciting,” said Principal Terri Menoche, who leads the demonstrations herself, having learned the technique years ago at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center in Milford. “And I just thought that was the coolest thing. I was excited to see maples when we got the nature trail,” she said of the school facility.

With the unpredictable Delaware winters, maple sugaring is not exactly profitable, but it is possible when the cold nights make way for a few warm days to get the sap moving.

Menoche shallowly drilled a spile into three trees, allowing the watery sap to flow into buckets underneath, like an IV in reverse.

She got a little more than 4 gallons in one week, giving her time to bring every student outdoors.

“They really seem excited by it. They are very inquisitive, as far as thinking, ‘Nuh-uh. You’re not gonna make maple syrup out of it. There’s just no way.’ They think of syrup because of pancakes and waffles: ‘That comes from the grocery store, not that tree.’”

It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, so Lighthouse students got just a taste of the finished maple syrup out of the electric pan.

“They could really see the color difference between the [finished syrup] and the sap,” said Menoche, who then read the ingredients from a bottle of brand-name pancake syrup. “There used to be 1 percent maple syrup,” she said of the commercial product. “I can hardly pronounce the names,” she said of some of the other ingredients.

“That’s why it’s more expensive — because it takes a lot more effort,” she explained to them. “But they could do a little bit in their own back yard.”

And the al fresco lesson offers something more for the learning experience, too.

“You’re outside. You’re not just in the typical classroom, but you’re learning something different,” Menoche said. Plus, “Everyone loves pancakes and waffles.”