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New York Agriculture in the Classroom


Schoolyard Sugaring

Maple Innovation Contest


Sweet, delicious maple syrup is made from boiling sap collected from maple trees. Unlike farmers who purposely use an open space to plant crops, orchards, or raise and feed animals, maple syrup producers use the forest to harvest sap. A maple producer does not have maple trees planted in straight rows like an apple farmer might with their apple trees, and they do not have a fence around their area of forest they tap to deter predators like you might with animals. There are many challenges to making maple syrup, but one big problem a maple producer has to combat are wild animals or rodents making holes in their maple tubing they use to collect sap. Every year, maple producers have to check their tubing lines for animal damage and spend time and money to fix the damaged sections.

Student Challenge

Design and propose a solution to protect and/or deter animal impacts on a maple sugarbush. Students should explore various materials, systems, and/or resources that a maple producer could purchase or implement to stop or significantly reduce the replacement of tubing.

Questions for Consideration
  • Why would an animal claw or bite holes in maple tubing?
  • What animals would cause these problems?
  • How does maple tubing work?
  • What is maple tubing made of?
  • What tools are needed to fix maple tubing?
Context Setting Resources

To help your students better understand the challenge of animal impacts on collecting maple sap, this video featuring two young Vermont maple producers is an excellent resource to show your students. The video is 20 minutes, but the producers will help your students see the struggle of finding and replacing tubing, along with seeing the tools they use to fix the lines, and time it takes each year.

In 2 minutes, learn from maple expert Dr. Mike Farrell about how maple sap collection works using a tubing system.

A vacuum system to help more efficiently collect sap is common with many larger operations. Learning more about tubing and the vacuum technology used in maple production in this short video.

Some sugar makers are turning to technology to more quickly see where problems are in their tubing lines by getting notifications on their cell phones. Learn about the remote monitoring systems being adopted in the industry.

Submission Information

Innovations can be submitted as a full class, from a small group, or individual students.

The innovation submissions should include at minimum the following and will be evaluated on:

  • Describe the innovation and how it meets the goal of deterring animal impact in a sugarbush.
  • Include the tools or materials you used to create your innovative solution.
  • Share the estimated cost for your solution.
  • Instructions for installation.
  • An estimated length of life for this solution.
  • Photos of prototypes.

Students may submit their innovation in one of two ways:

  1. Students may submit up to four total pages describing their innovation per the questions above. Additional information is appreciated and encouraged.
  2. Students may choose to submit their submission via a video that is no longer than 5 minutes in length.
Submissions are due Friday, April 16, 2021.