Penn State students become teachers at Shaver’s Creek Maple Harvest Festival

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Christina Spohn can walk around any wooded area on campus and identify every maple tree she sees. She also knows enough about the process of maple sugaring that she can teach adults and children about the method of making syrup -- from tree to table. Spohn is studying Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management and is among the many Penn State students who have taken a two-credit course about the process of making syrup and the skills required to teach this process to the public. These skills will culminate in the annual Maple Harvest Festival at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center later this month. 

The festival has been a popular event for Shaver’s Creek since 1984. Thousands of people over the past 30 years have learned how to identify and tap sugar maple trees. They’ve visited the ‘Sugar Shack’ to see sap transformed into syrup, and then enjoyed a feast of hot pancakes and sausages with pure maple syrup. Every March, festival guests learn from a group of students who specifically chose to leave the classrooms at the University Park campus to engage with the outdoors at Shaver’s Creek.

Shaver's Creek Maple Harvest Festival 2014

The Maple Harvest Festival will take place at the Penn State Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center on March 22 and 23, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • Pancakes and sausage at the Shaver's Creek Maple Harvest Festival

    Shaver's Creek Maple Harvest Festival - pancakes

    Guests enjoy all-you-can eat pancakes, smothered in pure maple syrup, with a side of savory sausages at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center's Maple Harvest Festival.

    Image: Shaver's Creek Environmental Center
  • Maple Tree Sap drips into a bucket

    Shaver's Creek Maple Harvest Festival - Sap

    Shaver's Creek Environmental Center's annual Maple Harvest Festival has been educating adults and children since 1984 about the process of making maple syrup -- from tree to table.

    Image: Shaver's Creek Environmental Center
  • Learning about maple syrup at Shaver's Creek

    Shaver's Creek Maple Harvest Festival - Syrup

    In the Sugar Shack, guests learn about the different color grades of pure maple syrup while steam wafts from the evaporator pan making fresh syrup throughout the Maple Harvest Festival.   

    Image: Shaver's Creek Environmental Center
  • Syrup Tasting Challenge

    Shaver's Creek Maple Harvest Festival - Tasting

    Could you determine which is the pure maple syrup in this taste test? Take a stick and sample a few mystery syrups to see if you could identify the real deal among the artificial imitations.     

    Image: Penn State

The experiential course is called RPTM 297G- Interpreting Maple Sugaring to Families. Students learn how to interpret the natural history process of maple sugaring to the general public. This allows students to experience hands-on learning while they prepare to host a real-world community event.

“I loved the fact that we were in class and not just watching a power point presentation,” said Spohn. “We received academic credit for being outside, having fun and talking to people.”

Students said they learned a variety of new skills during the interpretation course – from how to interact and connect with the public to the best way to prepare for unpredictable weather conditions. They said the class forced them to move out of their comfort zones, think critically and work with a team.

“We used the skills we learned in class not only to interpret the maple sugaring process to the families, but also to grow their interest in nature and living as critical consumers,” said Spohn.

“Throughout this class, students are engaged in a process that allows them to learn a specific skill, as well as how to teach that skill in a creative, non-traditional way,” said Laurie McLaughlin, festival director and course instructor.  “This process and experiential method of teaching not only involves them as a student, but allows them to learn life skills that they can apply to future careers.” 

The Maple Harvest Festival will take place at the Penn State Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center on March 22 and 23, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

News Source : Penn State students become teachers at Shaver’s Creek Maple Harvest Festival

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