Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The joys (and spills) of Maple Syrup

Another great post from our guest blogger - Earlham Bonner Student Shannon Hilbert!

Adventure in Sustainability: The “What is going on here?”
As the resident blogger here at Cope Environmental Center, I hold the responsibility of attending the occasional event at the Center and detailing my experience. My supervisor suggested that I go to the syrup-making event, in which families bring their kids to learn about the history and science behind the making of maple syrup. I agreed to shadow this program, not because of any innate desire to learn the ins-and-outs of syrup making (although it is very interesting), but in order close a chapter in my life regarding my (not at all) tragic experience with maple syrup.

I should start out by saying that my entire family holds the belief that I hate maple syrup. They’re wrong, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m the one who led them to this conclusion. I was first introduced to maple syrup at a young age when my father bought a Snoopy-shaped waffle maker in an attempt to inspire an enthusiasm for breakfast food. This worked marvelously, and soon my mornings were filled with drowning my favorite cartoon character in syrupy goodness. However, there was one problem that forever changed the role of maple syrup in my life:

As a child, I spilled everything I got my hands on.

That’s right. As long as it was a liquid, it was going to find a way out of its container and onto my clothes. Because of this unfortunate tendency, and my new-found affinity for breakfast food, I spent many mornings ruining my clothes with an overflow of generic Mrs. Butterworth. Eventually, this routine became tiresome, and I decided to do something about it. My little kid logic immediately cast aside the idea of trying to eat without making a mess. Instead, I decided to inexplicably declare my hatred for syrup and shun Snoopy and all he had to offer.

This brings us back into the present, where I was following a group of young kids and their parents through the Center to learn about syrup. The program, being family-centered, began by educating the multitude of kids on the basics of trees. Seeing as I already know the basics of trees, I spent much of my time trying not you yell out, “It’s chlorophyll! Chlorophyll! No, it’s the inner bark!”

After the information session, our group took a walk through the Center in order to look at the maple trees that produced the sap used to make syrup. Along the way we were met by two Cope workers dressed up like a Native American and an early settler. They both described their experiences with syrup to the group, and I had to admit that their stories were probably more interesting than my own syrup adventure. During the walk, the kids were asked a lot of questions, and I could see their enthusiasm for showing off what they learned during the information session at the beginning of the program. The program concluded with a demonstration of how Cope creates syrup today, and then the entire group was invited for a big pancake breakfast.

It was clear to me that the kids really enjoyed the program, and at Cope there are many programs such as this that offer parents the opportunity to have their kids be active in a productive way. The maple syrup program was a great combination of informative and interactive with the added bonus of a nice walk throughout the Center, and I would recommend it to anyone interested.

Lastly, if anyone cares to know, this program did inspire me to bring maple syrup back into my life. After finishing this program I got a stack of pancakes and loaded them up with syrup. I felt proud of reclaiming my place as a syrup-eater until I looked down to see…

…a syrup trail making its way down my shirt. Oh well, old habits.

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