Making Maple Syrup

Classroom Discussion: Before beginning the project, students learned about the steps involved in making 

maple syrup and how they would be able to bring this process to their classroom.

Celebrating Sap, Syrup, and State Pride
Onekama Second Graders Learn How to Make Syrup


It’s sugaring time in Michigan! Michiganders have a wonderful opportunity each spring to take advantage of a natural process that can yield a tasty and profitable treat: Michigan maple syrup.


Onekama second grade teacher Ben Mauntler turned this northern Michigan tradition into a learning experience for his students.


“I personally started doing this process about five years ago for my family,” explained Mauntler. “I learned the process alongside my good friend Todd Burgess. We purchased the equipment together and have been making syrup each year since.”


“After a couple of years, I started planning how I could present this process to and include second graders,” explained Mauntler. “This was first year of actually bringing the whole process into the classroom, and I am incredibly pleased with the results.”


To launch the lessons, parents Greg and Stefanie Fessenden joined the class on March 1 to talk to both classrooms of second graders about how maple syrup is collected and made. Then, additional parent volunteers and teachers helped the students place taps in the trees along Zosel Street, right outside the school’s playground fence.


Next, Mauntler set up a boiling station in his classroom, so that students could witness the process up close from start to finish. This was done with an electric two-place burner with a five-gallon stainless pan. For safety purposes, a mini fence was set up to separate the area.


Above the pan, a condensation collector served as a focus point to illustrate and enhance the science unit, Properties of Materials and Mixtures, currently in progress in the second grade curriculum. The condensation collector was built for Mauntler by Arcadia resident/business owner -- and former Onekama Schools parent -- Paul Cederholm.


Additional classroom activities supported students learning, as well as the creation of student journals that recorded the steps of the syrup making process.


When the boiling and bottling was complete, students celebrated on St. Patrick’s Day with a pancake feast at lunchtime. Parents joined to make batter, cook pancakes on the griddle, and taste the wonderful rewards of their children’s learning.


Additional syrup and bottles were donated by Todd Burgess, so that all students could take some syrup home to share with their families.


“Todd was a great help with this project,” said Mauntler, “donating time to make the syrup for the second graders and also donating the jars.”


“He was very enthusiastic to see me take this project to the classroom to pass on this tradition. In doing so, we are honoring his daughter, Abby, a former student of mine, who passed away two years ago. Making syrup was one of her favorite things to do with him/us.”


Beyond the making syrup and learning the steps of this popular Northern Michigan hobby, Onekama students were able to use this experience to learn about nature, science, writing, recording, teamwork, and the sweet rewards of celebrating a job well done.

 Onekama second graders tapped and collected sap from the trees alongside their school playground.

Boiling station: Teacher Ben Mauntler set up a boiling station in his classroom so that students could see the process from start to finish.