The Official U.S. Maple Syrup Almanac -- 2017 Alamanc_2017 - Page 17

chemistry of running an evaporator. As a forest dependent activity, it is natural to find forestry students interested in sugar- ing. However, if you look a little further, you can find that there is a lot more edu- cation to be had out of maple. At Alfred University, Alfred NY, Pro- fessor Laurie McFadden offers an hon- ors course titled: Maple Syrup The Real Thing. With 30 to 60 trees tapped each year, students do get experience with a drill. However, syrup making is not the sole class goal. Students in Laurie’s class explore topics such as U.S. and local his- tory, environmental science, business and economics, storytelling, and biology. She explains that in addition to the class- room learning, students get a chance to explore the outdoors, learn more about their local community by visiting sugar- ing operations, understand the cultural and economic importance of maple syrup to peoples lives and, of course, eat many delicious foods. Laurie is proud of the distinction her course gained by being listed in Buzzfeed’s 2013 list of “23 Awe- somely Weird College Classes to Enroll in Immediately.” She recruits students with a course description that starts out: “Wanted: Someone with a background in meteorology, chemistry, botany, forestry, art, and cookery who is also a nature lover with lots of patience. Must enjoy long hours of hard work in the snow, cold, and mud.” That sounds like an awesomely weird maple course to me. Stop by the campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park New York on a warm late winter morn- ing and you will hear sap dripping there as well. Dr. Deirdre Murphy has stu- dents in her Ecology of Food course drilling holes and hanging buckets, and Chef Peter Greweling takes the sap into his Chocolate and Confectionery Tech- U.S. Maple Syrup Almanac 2017 CIA/Phil Mansfield CHEF PETER GREWELING of the Culinary Institute of America, giving tapping instructions to a student. nology and Techniques course where the students make maple syrup, and then keep on going. From tree to table, CIA students are using maple to study ecol- ogy, culture, food chemistry, and learn the practical skills of turning maple syrup into maple delicacies. Dr. Tara L. Bal at Michigan Tech in Houghton Michigan offers an online course titled: Maple Syrup Management and Culture. Now lest you think we are talking about making virtual maple syrup, this online course comes with required time emptying buckets and stoking the evaporator. Tara says it is “the first course in the School to fill-up” at registration. Students run a com- munity-sugaring project in the nearby village of Alberta. With Alberta pret- ty much tapped out, they are working toward expanding into the University’s Ford Research Forest. Building culture into the course, Dr. Bal has students work with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Com- munity at their Winter Youth Culture Camp, where they demonstrate tradi- tional and modern ways of evaporating sap to syrup and sugar. Acknowledging the Ojibwe as the original sugar makers in the region incorporates different cul- tural perspectives to the class, and creates an inclusive environment that leads to a greater understanding and appreciation for this ancient tradition. Engaging students in maple research The Proctor Maple Research Lab at the University of Vermont and the research and extension work done by Cornell are invaluable to our understanding of tree biology and syrup production. However, there are other universities as well work- ing to expand our knowledge of sap and syrup. At WVU Dr. Jamie Schuler’s under- graduate students and graduate research assistants, are studying the chemical com- position of sap from maple trees grown on abandoned mining sites, and working 17