Most students look forward to getting up and away from their school desks and outside for schoolyard games, chat sessions with pals and dose of fresh air. At St. Therese Catholic School, students have another sweet reason for looking forward to heading outside.
Sitting on 30 acres, St. Therese encourages outside learning for its nearly 350 students in grades preschool to eighth grade. “It’s a very wooded area,” says Tracy Gilbert, the school’s marketing representative. “We try to take advantage of the land as much as possible.”
With between 60–100 maple trees on the property, one activity all of the students get to participate in is making maple syrup. In March or April of each year (depending on the weather), Dave and Jean Lepper, volunteers from the parish, assist in the program, and students are able to go through the entire process of collecting sap, boiling it down and, best of all, tasting the resulting syrup. “They get to see how long the process actually takes,” Gilbert says.
While the students do sample the syrup, most of it gets stored and used in the school’s cafeteria. “It’s like a farm-to-table situation but in a school setting,” Gilbert says.
The school uses the tree-tapping process as a part of its science curriculum, so students not only get to learn how to make the syrup, but discover why and how the process happens the way it does. Throughout the process of making the syrup, the kids also learn teamwork skills as they help with tasks, such as emptying jugs. “We really can take that learning piece in a lot of different directions,” Gilbert says.
Though the trees were tapped last year, staff looks forward to returning to the normal rhythm of completing the syrup making process after it was curtailed due to the recent pandemic. “The school has grown the last few years due to hands-on learning,” Gilbert says. “Kids that are outside are just happier, healthier and learn better.”
St. Therese Catholic School
18325 Minnetonka Blvd., Deephaven; 952.473.4355; st-therese.school
St. Therese Catholic School of Deephaven Minnesota (@StThereseSchoolDeephaven)