Living Sweet at Moharimet’s Sugar Shack

By Liv Van Ledtje

Do you love pancakes covered in sweet, syrupy yumminess? If you’re like me, you do! But, have you ever wondered how syrup is made or where it comes from?

Liv Van Ledtje
Photograph courtesy Liv Van Ledtje

Maple sugaring is a serious learning focus at Moharimet Elementary School in Madbury, New Hampshire. If you travel up the long, twisting entryway to the school, you are hugged by sugar maples on both sides of the street. You also pass our school’s maple sugaring shack!

Tucked in the woods, the maple sugaring shack stands tall and proud, sharing the sugaring process with Moharimet students.

Sugar Shack
Photograph courtesy Liv Van Ledtje

I am lucky that I am one of those students! For the last four years, I have learned about this New England tradition first-hand. I’ve tapped my class trees; measured and predicted how much the sap will run; collected buckets and buckets of sap; carried the buckets to the shack for boiling; and done lots of projects with my classmates to show my learning.

Moharimet’s sugar shack has been in business since 2001, when a group of teachers, students, and community members came together to build it.

Moharimet students were a part of every step of the building process, just like they are the heart of collecting, boiling, and celebrating syrup at my school. In fact, you can often see kids wearing our “sugar shirts” that sport the logo “Live Sweet.”

Liv Van Ledtje and Moharimet Elementary Principal Dennis Harrington share New Hampshire’s deep connection to the sugaring process.
Photograph courtesy Liv Van Ledtje

Why is this an important part of our learning in the Granite State? It’s a tradition that’s unique to our climate. Sugar maples are special trees requiring a little extra attention from Mother Nature. It has to be warm during the day and brisk at night in order for the sap to run. Usually, this is exactly the late winter climate in New Hampshire.

Moharimet’s sugar shack produces pure syrup—and that’s very different than the processed syrup you buy in the local grocery store. Store-bought syrup has lots of added sugars to make it even sweeter than pure syrup. One of the most amazing fun facts I’ve learned is the 40:1 ratio. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! Believe me, that’s A LOT of work for students!

If you visit the shack right now, you will see it puffing huge steam clouds out its roof. Inside, you will find Mr. Davis, a Madbury resident and sugar-shack boiling expert. He works with kids and teachers to get the sap boiled into syrup, and he’s been doing it since the very beginning of our sugaring process.

Maple sugaring is the heart of social studies, science, and inquiry at our school. Our principal, Mr. Harrington, supports kids learning in hands-on, minds-on ways.

Maple sugaring teaches Moharimet kids 1) care and respect for their environment; 2) community spirit; 3) how to keep a N.H. tradition going strong; and (4) makes our learning real and SWEET!

Maple Tree and Bucket
The sugaring process is the focus of many outdoor and project-based learning adventures at Moharimet Elementary.
Photograph courtesy Liv Van Ledtje

Olivia Van Ledtje is a 9-year-old writer, explorer, and future scientist. Look forward to Liv’s next post about her school’s sugar shack later this month!

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