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Maple Sugar Festival sweet for families

March 07, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

CLEAR SPRING -- The outdoors is still great.

That is the message staff members at the Claud Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview try to instill in fifth-graders who visit the school.

Over the course of several days, students in the fifth-grade overnight program go fishing, hiking and canoeing, investigate animals, explore hiking trails and even dabble in orienteering. It is all part of the school's vision to promote appreciation and understanding of the environment.

The school extended that vision beyond fifth-graders and out to the public Saturday at the Maple Sugar Festival.

"We want to provide an opportunity for the general public to get outside and enjoy it," said Tim Abe, head teacher at the school.

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The festival offered free activities, including a scavenger hunt, outdoorsy crafts, and tree-tapping and sap boiling demonstrations. Maryland-produced maple syrup was available for purchase.

Michele Briggs, 40, of Clear Spring, took her 4-year-old daughter, Sarah, to the festival. Briggs said the tree tapping demonstrations were fascinating.

"I didn't know how (tapping) was done," she said. "We actually have maple trees in our yard. I'm thinking of giving it a try."

Briggs said she planned to stop by the sap boiling demonstration next to ask how much sap is needed to get a measurable amount of syrup.

It was just such interest that teachers at the school had hoped to generate, said Wayne Eckley, a teacher at the school and chairman of the festival.

"We want to give people an appreciation of how maple sugaring is really done, instead of just running off to the store to buy some," Eckley said.

While festival attendee Scott Rice has not attempted maple sugaring himself, he has made a tradition of taking his family to the annual event. Rice, 46, of Funkstown, attended this year with his wife, Nina, his daughter, Abbie, 7, and his grandchildren, Anthony and Kaya Pappas, 10 and 5.

"It's always fun to learn about how to make maple syrup. It gets us out of the house, it's inexpensive and it's educational," Rice said. "And I get my maple syrup here every year."

Abbie Rice and Anthony Pappas spent time at the tin punch table, painstakingly hammering a nail over a paper pattern onto a metal lid. When they had finished, the children strung their pendants on strings and wore them as necklaces -- Abbie's a heart and Anthony's a leaf.

Eckley said he expected about 300 people to attend the festival over the course of the day.

"It's a good time for the family to come together, to get outside and enjoy the weather," he said.

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