National Numeracy Network > Teaching Resources > Quantitative Writing > Examples > The Science of Sugaring

The Science of Sugaring

Nicholas A. Baer, Colby-Sawyer College
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


The sugar content and sap volume within and among trees speces can vary considerably. The introductory material describes the process of maple sugaring. The associated field exercise is intended to enhance students field experimental design, data collection, and analysis through examining the variability of trees sap volume and sugar content for sugar maple trees.

Learning Goals

  1. Student will learn about the process of maple sugaring.
  2. Student will learn how to convert sap volume to syrup production due to concentrating liquid volume via evaporation.
  3. Students will develop a quantifiable field experiment.
  4. Student will enhance and reinforce their descriptive statistics and graphical illustation skills.

Context for Use

This field exercise is intended to be a reinforcement exercise in basic field experimentation after students have been introduced to the scientific method, basic methods in field experimentation, descriptive statistics, and graphical illustration and interpretation of data. This field experiment will entail setting up the taps on trees at least one class or day prior to the data collection. Data collection can be performed within one 3 hour lab with time in the class to analyze the data. The final written assignment is due one week after the experiment is performed. This activity can be easily adapted to use different tree species depending on ones location. The exercise has been used in an introductory ecology course, but can be adapted to other science courses.

Description and Teaching Materials

Activity Description (Microsoft Word 35kB May16 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

In order to perform this exercise it is necessary to have 5/16 inch tree saver spouts and a sap hydrometer. These can be purchased at a variety of maple sugaring equipment suppliers. Additionally you will need collection buckets. These can be the traditional sugaring buckets or simple modified gallon milk jugs to reduce costs.


students are expected to submit their graphs and written hypothesis and interpretation one week after the experiment is conducted. The student is evaluated based on how well they understood, illustrated, and explained their results.

References and Resources