The Boulder Jewish Community Center (Boulder JCC) Preschool will tap the maple trees on their school property on February 4 in honor of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the birthday of the trees. Every year the preschool marks the holiday with families, celebrating the trees and the environment, by planting herbs inside, singing songs, and eating tree fruits. This is the first year they are going to tap the trees’ sap giving potential. Since hiring their new Farm and Sustainability Director last year, many new programs are becoming possible at the Boulder JCC, distinguishing it from other JCCs around the country. The Boulder JCC will be the first JCC to manage a Jewish community farm next to its new site on Cherryvale and Arapahoe. In the meantime innovative programming, like tapping trees for Tu B’shvat are already beginning. The preschool students will collect the sap daily that flows from their three maple trees in February and March. They hope to gather enough sap to evaporate it into syrup and celebrate with a pancake breakfast at the end of sugar season. This project provides preschool students with the opportunity to learn about the many gifts trees give us, explore the basic botany of trees, and think about their own blessings for the trees.
Tu B’Shevat, or the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, generally falls between the end of January and mid-February, which in Israel corresponds to when many fruit trees first flower, but here in the northern United States it can be hard to celebrate trees and nature when the ground is still frozen and many times covered in snow. This year the holiday falls on February 4. Despite not being able to see much activity in the plant life around us, the trees are starting to wake up in the late winter and their sap flows up and down through the trunk depending on the daytime high and low temperature. Tapping maple trees is a great way to physically connect with the trees, providing an avenue to connect with the holiday.
Though the sugaring season begins around this time on the east coast and northern Midwest, where sugar maples and other maples are prevalent, it is not common to tap maple trees in Colorado. However, in Boulder we have many landscaped maple trees such as the silver maple, as well as the common Box Elder tree, or ash-leafed maple, which are large enough to tap and whose sap can be turned into syrup. A good rule of thumb is that trees need to be 50 years old or have a trunk 12” in diameter in order to tap them and not hurt the tree. There are not many examples of tapping maple trees in our region, so the students and teachers feel like they are really pioneering this activity, aware that not much sap may flow at all, or that the time of year will be different than the East Coast sugaring season. However, they are hopeful for a sweet return and ready to take the risk because at the Boulder JCC preschool it’s about the process, not the end product.
For more information, to get involved, please contact Boulder JCC Farm and Sustainability Director, Becca Weaver at (303) 998-1900 or Becca@boulderjcc.org.
ABOUT THE BOULDER JCC PRESCHOOL
Our preschool and kindergarten is inspired by the schools of Reggio Emilia, we believe that education is a process, brought on by the child’s interaction with their immediate world. It is through playing in this world that each child is encouraged and stimulated to explore, to experiment and to discover, using their own unique learning style and interests. We see children as capable and competent and able to be instrumental in their own learning.
ABOUT THE BOULDER JCC
Widely recognized as a leader in innovation and engagement, the Boulder JCC’s mission is to provide programs and services based in Jewish values and traditions in a place where people of all ages and backgrounds gather to connect, exchange ideas, learn and grow together.