Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tapping the Trees - It's Maple Sugaring Time!

Permission to share this original painting
is through the generosity of artist
Oneida Hammond.
Please visit her website at

"A sap run is the sweet good-bye of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and the frosts."
~ John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886

Spring is just around the corner and the warmer temperatures bring sugar mapling time! Can you imagine a stack of fluffy, fresh pancakes, cinnamon French toast or Belgian Waffles without a generous swirl of hot maple syrup? I know I can’t! We have the Native American’s to thank for this delicious discovery. Maple syrup was first recorded as being produced in 1540 by Native Americans using the sugar maple’s sap.

They set up "sugar camps" in the early spring when sap flows from tree roots into trunks. The Chippewa, Menominee, and Winnebago tribes of the Great Lakes region all waited for this time of year because it meant the harvest of an important and tasty resource. They would move their tribe's people to the sugar camp to harvest the sap.

You don't need to know all of the facts below to enjoy this delicious treat but it just might help you appreciate it a little bit more.

  • The Chippewa used the sap as a tasty sweet drink, syrup, and candy.
  • The Menominee made maple sugar and used the syrup as a seasoning much like we use salt.
  • Winnebago’s sweetened their food with syrup and used the sap as sugar. Maple sugar and syrup were used for barter by Indians living along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.
  • The sugar maple tree is the state tree of Vermont.
  • Sugar maple trees are unique to North America and grow naturally only in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada.
  • Sugar maples have the greatest amount of sugar in the sap to make syrup out of, but you can also tap red and silver maples, box elders, and birch trees.
  • An average maple will produce about 20 gallons of sap in the spring, which only amounts to 2 quarts of syrup.

Gluskabe Changes Maple Syrup - Abenaki

How Maple Syrup May Have Been Discovered – An Iroquois Legend
The Legend of Maple Syrup

Sugaring Off at the Camp, Fryeburg, Maine
Eastman Johnson 1881-85


Oh Maple Syrup – Sung to the tune of Oh Christmas Tree
Love and Maple Syrup - Lyrics by Gordon Lightfoot

Maple Sugar Time

Maple Syrup Song 


School of Forest Resources – Lesson Plan for Kindergarten classes.

Maple Sugar Days – Teacher Guide Unit for grades 4 – 6.  

Maple Syrup Classroom Activities – Word search, coloring pages, crossword puzzle, vocabulary and more.

Maple Syrup Lesson Plan – Grade 3

Teach Children About Maple Sugaring
Fun Projects - Easy to do; make your own maple syrup candy.

How Stuff Works – Tree crafts for children.


I couldn't locate any specific story stretches or fingerplays about maple sugaring but you can take one about trees and give it a little twist. The song below was originally called Underneath the Monkey Tree and didn’t include the movements. I added them to turn it into a story stretch.

Underneath the Maple Tree
(Tune: The Muffin Man) © Karen Chace

Come and play awhile with me (wave hello)
Underneath the maple tree (point and look up)
Monkey see (hand over eyes as if in a salute)
And monkey do (tap one fist into other palm as if  tapping the maple tree for the sap)
Just like monkeys in the zoo! (hands on hips, bend slightly from side to side)

Swing your tail one two three (sway body back and forth)
Underneath the maple tree (point and look up)
Monkey see (hand over eyes as if in a salute)
And monkey do (tap one fist into other palm as if tapping the maple tree for sap)
Just like monkeys in the zoo! (hands on hips, bend slightly from side to side)

Jump around and smile like me (hop up and down while smiling)
Underneath the maple tree (point and look up)
Monkey see do (hand over eyes as if in a salute)
And monkey do (tap one fist into other palm as if tapping the maple tree for sap)
Just like monkeys in the zoo! (hands on hips, bend slightly from side to side)


Burns, Diane. Sugaring Season: Making Maple Syrup. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1990.

Carney, Margaret and Janet Wilson. At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush. Buffalo, NY: Kids Can Press, 1998.

Chall, Marsha Wilson. Sugarbush Spring. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 2000.

Crook, Connie and Scott Cameron. Maple Moon. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Limited, 1999.

Ehlert, Lois. Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanich Publishers, 1991.

Gibbons, Gail. The Missing Maple Syrup Sap Mystery: Or, How Maple Syrup Is Made. Penguin Young Readers Group, 1979.

Haas, Jessie. Sugaring. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1996.

Lasky, Kathryn. Sugaring Time. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1983.

Linton, Marilyn. The Maple Syrup Book. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1983.

London, Jonathan. The Sugaring- Off Party. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1995.

Reynolds, Cynthia Furlong. M is For Maple Syrup: A Vermont Alphabet. Chealsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2002.

Ring, Susan. From Tree to Table. Coughlan Publishing, 2002.

Rossiter, Nan Parson. Sugar on Snow. Penguin Young Readers Group, 2003.

Waterman Wittstock, Laura. Ininatig’s Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1993.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Sugar Snow. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1999.
List found at


Wendjidu Zinzibahkwud - Real Sugar (Maple) - Step back into time and read a firsthand account about sugaring in the old days. Nodinens (Little Wind), a Mille Lacs Band Ojibwe from central Minnesota, was 74 in 1910 or so when she told Frances Densmore about sugaring in the old days.

From the Woods - Maple Syrup, A Taste of Nature – From Penn State a guide to the maple syrup process with pictures and information.

Maple Museum - Indians and the Early Maple Sugaring Press

Adopt a Maple Tree


Maple Syrup Recipes

Karen Chace  2011 ©
This blog post was painstakingly researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my newsletter via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.