WASHINGTONVILLE — From tapping into a tree to extract maple sugar, to boiling the product down and enjoying the taste, students from four counties received a lesson on the process of making maple syrup during an educational day held Tuesday for middle school students.
Students from 10 schools, and one home-schooled group, participated in the 21st annual Susquehanna Valley Middle School Envirothon, held at the Montour Preserve. Maple sugaring was one of several stations students visited as part of their day of environmental education.
Judy Becker, Northumberland County Conservation District manager, said middle students from Northumberland, Union, Snyder and Columbia counties participated in the annual event.
Students visited stations which focused on aquatics, soils, wildlife and forestry.
At each station, Becker said a presenter spoke for a few minutes on the subject area. The students then took a test on what they learned.
Becker noted that the middle school Envirothon isn’t as competitive as the one held in April for high school students. However, she said a variety of prizes would be awarded to the middle schoolers based on their test results.
“We want (students) to really gain a better appreciation for their outside environment,” Becker said. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to unplug and get outside. The Montour preserve is such a beautiful location.”
She said the maple sugar station was not included in the testing areas. Instead, the station presented a learning opportunity for the students.
With a light rain falling on Tuesday morning, a group of students from the Warrior Run, Lewisburg and Millville school districts watched with interest as Greg Bonsall, of the Union County Conservation District, described the process involved in making maple syrup.
“You are taking a product that’s 100% organic ... and you can use it on your pancakes or sausage,” Bonsall told the students, of the syrup.
Participants even had the opportunity to taste the syrup.
Between sessions, Bonsall said he hoped students would learn to appreciate the process of making maple syrup.
“I hope they can find an outdoor hobby that’s rewarding to them,” he said.
Kris Ribble, of the USDA-NRCS, was heading up a station focused on soil.
“Our objective is to teach the kids how important soils are and their functions to us,” Ribble said. “There’s only a limited amount of land and soil. It’s good to learn this early.”
Presenters manning the stations at the event included the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, USDA-NRCS, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and conservation district employees from Northumberland, Union, Snyder, Columbia and Montour counties.