PORTSMOUTH — After their second go at the sugaring process, Robert J. Lister Academy earned accolades for their work, placing third in a statewide maple syrup challenge.
Last month, the academy submitted a sample of their homemade syrup to the Tucker Mountain Challenge — a contest organized by New Hampshire Agriculture in the Classroom that tasks students with creating the best maple syrup.
Participants had to submit a quart of the breakfast condiment, which went through a blind taste test. The top three scoring samples were judged again at the New Hampshire Future Farmers of America meeting earlier this month and a winner was selected.
To place in the competition, samples had to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for density and color. Density needed to be between 66-68.9 percent, and color could range from Grade A Golden (delicate taste) to Grade A Very Dark (strong taste). The closer schools could get to golden, the higher they scored.
Robert J. Lister Academy received a 66 percent density rating and 54 percent for color (rich taste).
“To have only done this twice and to then place in this competition is an exciting accomplishment,” said math teacher Christine Stilwell, who worked with students on collecting sap and making the syrup. “Students worked really hard on this project and we’re excited to refine the process next year to improve our syrup.”
Earlier this year, students tapped four trees on school property and 10 on neighboring residents’ properties. During a six-week period, they collected 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, where students were able to cook the sap into syrup.
Students were left with three gallons of the sweet syrup, which they used for a pancake lunch, to submit to the Tucker Mountain Challenge and to give to neighbors who allowed them to tap their maple trees.
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.