Photo Gallery: Tapping Sugar Maples


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Tuesday's afternoon warmth under sunny skies made for ideal conditions to tap sugar maple trees for sap.

Third-grade, kindergarten and early childhood classes at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School each made a short trek through the mud and snow to a lightly wooded portion of campus to learn firsthand the process of making maple syrup, a time-honored New England tradition.

Facilities manager Hartmuth Sommer showed students how to look for healthy trees and find a sturdy spot on the sugar maple to bore a single hole into with a hand drill, and install a tap with light pressure from a hammer.

Cold nights and warm days are the best conditions for sap flow and collection.

Farming and gardening teacher Hadley Milliken then showed the children two collection methods, either from hanging galvanized buckets beneath the taps or by attaching hoses for the sap to travel down and deposit into covered plastic buckets standing on the ground.

Once enough sap is collected, teachers will show students how it can be boiled down to produce maple syrup; 40 cups of sap yields about a cup of syrup.

Third-grader Tex Espinoza-Bergins caps a bucket being used to collect sugar maple tree sap for maple sugaring at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner
Third-grader Tex Espinoza-Bergins caps a bucket being used to collect sugar maple tree sap for maple sugaring at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School. (Jenn Smith / Berkshire Eagle Staff / photos.berkshireeagle.com)

Sommer said the maple syrup production program started about 10 years ago at the school, when a third-grade class constructed a sugar shack on campus. The shack has been dormant for a few years, but the school hopes to revive the operation.