PORTSMOUTH — Following a unit on maple syrup production, students at the Robert J. Lister Academy got to taste the fruits of their labor during a pancake luncheon.
On Friday, April 20, students, staff and community members gathered in the school cafeteria for the lunch, which featured pancakes (plain, strawberry, chocolate chip, and blueberry), bacon, sausage, fruit and of course, homemade maple syrup produced in Robert J. Lister Academy’s new sugar shack.
The event served as a culmination of students hard work over the last two months tapping trees, collecting sap and making the syrup.
Students tapped four trees on school property and 10 on neighboring residents’ properties, which they monitored for approximately six weeks. During the process, they measured production and recorded data related to humidity and temperature, which they’ll analyze to see if and how different weather affected the amount of sap produced.
At the end of the six weeks, students walked away with 150 gallons of sap. Then came time to convert it into syrup. Over the last year, Robert J. Lister Academy secured $4,600 in donations to purchase a 10-foot by 20-foot shed to serve as its sugar shack.
Math teacher Christine Stilwell held all her classes in the sugar shack so students could be fully immersed in the cooking process. Each gallon of syrup took 12 hours to make, and after several days, students were left with three gallons of the sweet breakfast condiment.
“What’s great about something like this maple syrup project is that students’ excitement levels are so high and they really look forward to learning,” Stilwell said. “Now that we have the sugar shack we’re able to repeat this project annually and provide continuous learning opportunities. Plus, it gives students the opportunity to take pride and ownership of something at school.”
Several jars of syrup will be distributed to residents who allowed the school to tap their trees, a pint will be submitted to the Tucker Mountain Challenge — where students could take home up to $2,000 for earning the title of best maple syrup — and the rest was designated for the pancake lunch.
The Robert J. Lister Academy would like to thank Portsmouth Cheverlot, Kennebunk Savings, the Portsmouth Middle School student council, Clipper Farm to School,
Syrup By The Sea, Falcon Sheds, Lowe’s, Lister Leaf Busters, RT Stearns, Backwoods Graphics, Red Line Property Management, Portsmouth Chevrolet, A Merrie Sweepe Chimney Service and community members who donated to fund the purchase of the sugar shack or who donated supplies.
About the Robert J. Lister Academy:
The Robert J. Lister Academy (RJLA) was developed in 1992 as part of the Portsmouth School District’s commitment to excellence in education. The innovative public high school program provides students with educational experiences that are tailored to their individual academic, social, behavioral and therapeutic needs. RJLA also prepares students for their vocational and post-secondary school goals through unique programs and partnerships.