The maple syrup lesson


For elementary school kids who can’t go to elementary school. My first lesson plan for my son. 🙂


  • internet
  • stove and pot
  • snow
  • wooden or plastic open-top box
  • maple syrup

Where did maple syrup come from? How is it used socially? The lesson uses story, video, talk, heating and chilling to explore change over time, cultural meaning of a product, and change in natural substances – a little history, a little chemistry, a little fun and something to eat.

(1) Where does maple syrup come from?

Talk about trees and leaves. Can you recognize a maple tree? How?

Have you seen pictures of maple leaves? A symbol of Canada, right? Maple must be pretty important if we use it to represent the whole country.

Those trees grow right here in Quebec. Did you know Quebec produces about 75% of the maple syrup in the country? What’s that as a fraction? (3/4)

Do you know people who make maple syrup? There’s a lot around, here in the Eastern Townships. Some of them might be your family or friends. This is a product that touches our lives pretty closely eh?

(2) The origin of maple syrup: an Abenaki story

The first people to live around here were the Abenaki. They still do. If you follow the Masswippi River down to the Saint-Francois River past the Little Forks (what we call Lennoxville now), and keep following the Saint-Francois River almost all the way to the big Saint Lawrence, you get to the biggest Abenaki community, called Odanak. Once we can all go out again, we can visit the museum there, if you like.

Here’s a quick map I made of the watershed:


The Abenaki also were the ones to learn that the sap in maple trees can be made into something that is ab-so-lute-ly DELICIOUS.

Let’s read the story.  Glooscap changes maple syrup

Any questions about the story? Anything you noticed or thought was interesting?

(I noticed that the story explains we should be grateful for good things we get from the land here, the change of the seasons from winter to spring, and the value of working to get something. And that settlers got syrup from the people who came before – and who are still here.)

(3) How did people in the old days in Quebec make maple syrup? And how did we start having sugar shacks and sugaring off?

Watch: archival footage of maple syrup production as a community activity, Quebec, 1920s

Watch: school trip to a sugar shack

(4) A private sugaring-off

Let’s go outside and gather up some snow!

Take a box of some sort, wood or plastic works best, with you. The closer you can get to an open wooden trough, the better. We used a toy storage box.

Gather snow (make sure it’s as fresh and clean as possible!)

Pack it down firmly in the box. The box stays outside until you are ready to use it.

Inside, heat maple syrup in a pot on your stovetop to a slow boil – about 255F, if you have a candy thermometer. (Want to make maple sugar while you’re at it? Here’s a recipe.)

Pour the hot syrup carefully from a ladle in a strip on top of the packed snow. KIds can use a popsicle stick or a spoon to roll the syrup off the snow. Voila, makeshift tir d’erable! If it doesn’t work, make a joke of some sort, cool the syrup a little, and pour it into ice cube tray, you can freeze it later and let them have one cube of maple goo for dessert.


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