Jackman Avenue Public School hits the sweet spot

Pancake Day was extra sweet this year at Jackman Avenue Public School, thanks to the homemade maple syrup from the school’s own sugar maple trees.

Grade 2 and 3 students at the East York school collected sap in late March from six of the eight trees that had been planted by the school’s parent council members 15 years ago. It was then made into syrup by parent Angus McGrath, whose daughter Maeve is in Grade 3.

On Pancake Day, held April 8, every student at the school had an opportunity to enjoy pancakes made by their teachers and adorned with the special syrup.

Paul Cressman is a Grade 3 teacher at the school and a representative of EcoSchools, a school greening program for elementary and secondary schools. He encouraged the school to start the sap-collecting program after he realized the trees were sugar maples, just like the one in his backyard.

“I thought it would be a great idea for my own kids to tap the tree and give them that experience,” he said. “Then I thought wouldn’t be good for the Jackman kids to collect sap from the sugar maple trees too?”

Cressman started talking about it to his students’ parents after discovering the similarity between his trees and the school’s.

“I was conferencing with them and we found out that they were indeed sugar maple trees that were planted here a good 15 years ago, maybe in hopes that some day something like this could happen,” he said. “So it’s interesting that I had the idea but in somebody’s mind, 15, 20 years ago people were thinking we could do something like this.”

Retrieving the sap morphed into a friendly competition between the Grade 2 and 3 classes. Each class spent about 15 minutes a day collecting and checking on the sap, with Cressman’s students gathering the most.

“Our class collected about three buckets of sap,” said Jasper Hughes-Choi, 9.

In total, 100 litres of sap was collected.

Last week, the Grade 3 students started making the sap into maple syrup. That’s when Maeve’s father, Angus McGrath, took some sap home to test out his syrup-making skills. That ended up becoming the syrup served on Pancake Day.

“If you go too far with the sap, you end up with maple sugar,” he said. “If you do not stir it enough, it could become maple butter.”