Sebeka sugar shack teaches WDC students about turning sap into syrup
Wadena-Deer Creek third-graders enjoyed a “sweet” experience touring Les Schwartz’s sugar shack near Sebeka on Wednesday, April 23.
The 78 third-graders boarded two school buses and traveled to Schwartz’s beautiful wooded acreage southeast of Sebeka where he is tapping 300 maple trees this spring. It was quite a sight to see the white 5-gallon buckets hanging from the tall trees.
Schwartz demonstrated how he uses a hand-held drill to bore a hole about 1 ½ inches into the tree and then inserts a metal tap. The sap is clear in color and tastes like sugar water. Schwartz said there’s only about 2 percent sugar content in the sap.
Students were able to watch the fresh sap bubble and boil in a large stainless-steel tank as the boiling process caused the water to evaporate and a steady cloud of steam rose from the hot liquid. The sweet aroma of maple syrup filled everyone’s nostrils inside the sugar shack -- and it was wonderful!
Students also learned it requires a lot of work to make maple syrup. Schwartz said it takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup! Over the Easter weekend, Schwartz and his family harvested 1,400 gallons of sap. Students also learned that sap runs before the leaves bud when the days are warm and the nights are cold.
“We enjoy having kids come out and see this. Kids don’t get a chance to experience this,” said Schwartz, who is in his fourth year of making maple syrup on his Sebeka property. Schwarz is also a regular participant in WDC’s Farm-to-School program where he brings in his maple syrup at lunch for elementary students to sample.
Students tasted fresh maple syrup from Schwartz’s sugar shack over vanilla ice cream in their classrooms Wednesday afternoon. The students loved the sweet treat, many asking for seconds. They discovered that they preferred the flavor of the home-made syrup much better than the store-bought kind.
Special thanks to Les Schwartz for sharing his time and expertise with WDC third-graders. The field trip was sponsored by Wadena-Deer Creek Community Education.