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Maple Syrup: A Home School Field Trip to Brown's Syrup Shack

De Frahn Family Productions

19 Clark Road
Waverly, New York 14892

A field trip almost always adds depth to a topic of study, but the factors of time, money, and location can be a huge consideration for homeschooling families. We live in south Georgia, so obviously we'll never be able to witness the production of maple syrup without trekking up to the northernmost parts of our great country! Reading about tapping maple trees, collecting sap, and making maple syrup is interesting, . . . but as the saying goes, "A picture (or, in this case, a video) is worth a thousand words!"

Thanks to the De Frahn family of Waverly, New York, the concept of field trips on DVD is a reality. In this DVD, the De Frahns take us to the farm of Bill and Janet Brown in Windam, Pennsylvania for the annual tapping of the sugar maples. The video includes footage of the sap being collected, stored, and transported to the "Syrup Shack," where it is then processed into rich, sweet maple syrup by way of a huge evaporator! We couldn't believe how many gallons of sap were needed to make just one gallon of syrup! But we were also surprised to learn that the steps used in making maple syrup are very similar to the ones used to make its southern counterpart, cane syrup. Our family has been involved with the production of cane syrup before, so my children instantly made the connection.

Following the footage of the actual field trip, the De Frahns added quite a few extras to the DVD. There are many excellent unit study ideas and two original Scripture-based songs that pertain to the theme. I personally appreciated all the wonderful suggestions and resources for further exploration. My 9-year-old son was very interested in pursuing many of the ideas, especially the ones listed on the Science frame.

This video lasts approximately 40 minutes, and there are other field trip DVDs available as well, including visits to an apiary (honeybee farm), a cider press, and the Spangler Candy Company. The cost is $20.00 for the first video and $18.00 for additional videos. Now, I will say that the two videos I've watched have what I'll call a "homespun" flavor, so don't expect professional videography. If you're wanting perfectly polished, Hollywood-style quality, look elsewhere. But if you are interested in a neighborly visit with friendly folks who are more than happy to share their vast knowledge about making maple syrup, then this is the field trip resource for you!

I think this video would be an interesting and useful addition to any homeschool collection. And just think, you can enjoy a field trip to a snow-covered sugar bush in Pennsylvania (Brrrr!) without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Sounds like a winning idea to me! Be sure to check out the De Frahns' website for information about upcoming videos.

Product review by Amy O'Quinn, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, October 2006

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