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Tapping the maples

Experiencing an indigenous tradition outside Gordon's front door

Recent visitors to campus may have noticed the blue buckets on the trees by the front circle.


Those trees are maple trees, and the buckets went up a little more than two weeks ago as Young Kindergarten tapped them for maple sap.


Young Kindergarten parents Leah Hopkins and Jonathan Perry came to campus to lead the process.


The two of them (Leah and Jonathan) are Narragansett and Wampanoag educators (respectively) working to raise popular understanding of local Indigenous culture, and they talked students through the role of maple tree in local Wampanoag culture.


They also showed students how to ask the tree for the gift of sap, and to give a gift of thanks for providing food.


When the tapping was done, the emerging young naturalists stopped to reflect and document the experience.


Their teacher had begun with a long list of curricular goals:

- Connection between Indigenous culture and the natural world
- Knowing where food (syrup) comes from
- Graphing sap collection (math)
- Observing tapping process (science)
- Understanding weather patterns and sap flow (science)
- Reading books about tree tapping (language arts)

Note that learning about the safe use of hammers and power tools wasn't even on the list.

Since then, these five year olds have been following the weather closely, knowing that the best sap flow happens when it is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.

After two weeks of anticipation, the class harvested their first jar of sap yesterday...


...and, as they discussed how to use it, the lesson connected tidily with Young Kindergarten's ongoing weekly cooking project.



Young Kindergarten tried the syrup on waffles, and the learning didn't stop there: they documented the steps they had taken, wrote them up and sequenced them in books so they can share their knowledge.



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