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March 2018

Sixth-Graders Learn the Science Behind Making Maple Syrup

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 2, 2018

Sixth-Graders Learn the Science Behind Making Maple Syrup

Sugaring, syruping or, as most say in the Catskills, sapping are terms used to describe the process of making authentic maple syrup. I say authentic as most grocery stores are flooded with “maple syrup” brands filled with high fructose corn syrup and flavoring.

The Manhattan Country School sixth-grade class arrived at the MCS Farm at the perfect time to start the sapping process. The students started by hiking to the sap bush, an area deep in the Farm’s forest. They learned to look for maple trees mature enough to be tapped and where on the tree to drill holes. Some trees may be able to sustain one bucket, while others two or three. Using a “bit and brace” hand drill, the kids took turns drilling holes one-and-a-half-inches deep. Once drilled, a “spile” or spout is tapped into the tree with a hammer. A bucket to catch the sap is hung and a lid to keep rain or snow out is attached.

Sapping at the MCS Farm

Sixth-Graders Learn the Science Behind Making Maple Syrup

On the day we started tapping it was a warm and sunny 45 degrees, which followed an overnight low in the 20s. These were perfect conditions for a sap “run.” Immediately after drilling and tapping, the crystal-clear sap began to drip. The kids instantly stuck their fingers, or in some cases their tongues, under the spile to taste this natural sugar water. Several kids exclaimed that the sap looked just like water, not the thick amber syrup we pour over pancakes. The raw sap is in fact approximately 97-percent water and 3-percent sugar and assorted minerals.

Sixth-Graders Learn the Science Behind Making Maple Syrup

This conversation was the perfect transition to the next phase after tapping. Due to the sap’s rate of flow, in this case a fast drip, we were ready to collect the buckets the next day. Connecting the large gathering tank, or what we call the submarine, to the Farm’s vintage Ford tractor we headed back to the sap bush. We found many two-and-a-half-gallon buckets filled to the brim. The sixth-grade class members carefully took the heavy buckets from each tree, poured the sap into the gathering tank and hung the bucket back on the hook. This process continued until the tank was filled with 250 gallons of sap destined for the sap house.

Sixth-Graders Learn the Science Behind Making Maple Syrup

After transferring the sap from the gathering to the holding tanks located outside the sap house we were ready to begin to boil. Using wood harvested at the MCS Farm and some scraps from a local sawmill, the sap is boiled in the evaporator pans. This two-pan system measures three feet by eight feet. As we feed the hungry fire with more and more wood, the sap continues to release steam and reduce in volume. As the liquid evaporates and the level drops, more sap is gravity-fed from the outside storage tanks into the pans. It takes, on average, 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. As the maple sap increases in viscosity the color starts to change.

The boiling point of maple syrup was seven degrees above the boiling point of water on that day, in that place. Both barometric pressure and elevation play a role in determining the boiling point. The evaporating pan has a thermometer that the kids constantly check. However, there are some observations to be performed in this science project. The color has now obviously changed from clear to golden to light amber. The students notice the boiling bubbles changing from tiny, tight groups to large, slowly popping blobs.

Next we perform a “sheeting” test. Submerging a spoon in the liquid, we then remove it and look to see if the near-syrup comes off in droplets or sheets. The class now has several factors to consider. They determine the temperature to be 219 degrees, which is seven degrees above boiling water. The liquid is sheeting off of the spoon. The bubbles are now blobs. Before we can determine pure maple syrup we must perform one last test. We ladle the liquid into a hydrometer. The hydrometer measures the percentage of sucrose in a pure water solution. On the Brix scale we are looking for a level of 59.0. After accomplishing these tasks and getting the instrument readings needed, it is now time to “syrup off.” We open a valve on the side of the pan and let the boiling hot syrup flow through a filter and into a large container.

As we sit around the sap house sipping “maple tea” and waiting for the next batch, we have time to contemplate. How does the tree make the sugar? We turn to our lessons of photosynthesis and how the leaves on a plant turn the energy of the sun into a source of food. The chemical process of photosynthesis is the catalyst in creating sucrose or sugar. The plant, in this case a sugar maple, stores its sugary food in its roots throughout the winter only to be released in spring to grow new leaves.

The deeper question is, who invented maple syrup and what inspired them? Several historic names are considered until the class settles on Native Americans. In fact, native people would travel to the Catskills from the Hudson and Schoharie valleys to set up their “sugar camps.” Having no way of storing liquid syrup, these communities would boil the sap down to the raw sugar. “How did they know it could be done?” asked one student. That question is better left to legend and lore.

*You’ll notice several words or phrases in bold. This is to highlight the science, technology, engineering and math vocabulary students are learning and using during this seasonal process.

Class of 2026 5-6s Celebrate 100th Day of School

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 2, 2018

100th Day of School

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Manhattan Country School’s two 5-6s classes celebrated the 100th Day of School. This annual observance showcases the students’ creativity and developing math skills.

5-6s Norte

100th Day of School

In preparation for the big day, students in 5-6s Norte worked on family projects that involved creating something using 100 items. Some examples included a poster with 100 images of black women, a flag made out of 100 condiment packets, a hanging display of 100 paperclips, a collection of 100 drawings of superheros and a photo album with 100 baby pictures.

100th Day of School

Families were invited to visit the classroom Tuesday morning to join the students in the 100th Day of School celebration. The room was decorated with chains made of 100 paper links. Guests were treated to a special trail mix made with 100 pieces of each ingredient. Students and guests engaged in math activities, including skip counting to 100. Visitors were challenged to guess which jar contained 100 items. Later in the day, 5-6s Norte hosted fellow schoolmates and many MCS faculty and staff members.

5-6s Sur

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur also welcomed guests to their classroom to witness the many ways they celebrated 100. They counted to 100 by ones, twos and fives, and hosted a Hundreds Museum. Exhibits included structures made with 100 Legos and artwork made with 100 pegs. The students also built objects using smaller groups of materials (e.g. 25 Mobilos, snap cubes or magnetic pattern blocks). These creations were displayed together to make collective groups of 100.

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur participated in 100 minutes of reading, with 10 guests from the MCS community reading to the class for 10 minutes each. The children were so excited to meet new grownups and to recognize familiar faces. Maiya, MCS' Upper School director, read her favorite book from her childhood (which is also Laleña’s!), Who’s A Pest? by Crosby Newall Bonsall. Next, Shani, the fifth-grade teacher, read The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood, complete with sound effects and help from the 5-6s. Then Mary, the Lower School director, read two chapters from the classic, Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel.

100th Day of School

After snack, Bonnie, who is a learning specialist for older children in the Lower School, read Max’s Words by Kate Banks, a charming story of siblings and the power of story. Then Flannery, MCS' seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher read Yo Soy el Durazno by Luis de Noriega en español.  Before lunch, Amanda, MCS' food program coordinator read Potluck by Anne Shelby. Angela, MCS' communications director, who has a six-year-old at home, shared a book that she bought for her child when he was five. Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker was a huge hit with our five- and six-year olds. MCS Director Michéle read Fiesta by Ginger Foglesong Guy, a book that counts in both English and Spanish, After rest, Donovan, the Upper School choral director, sang as he read his book, The Spiffiest Giant in Town, by Julia Donaldson. Nancy Hsu, the MCS Fund and special events manager, finished with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by the ever-popular Mo Willems.

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5-6s Mark the 100th Day of School

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 2, 2018

100th Day of School

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Manhattan Country School’s two 5-6s classes celebrated the 100th Day of School. This annual observance showcases the students’ creativity and developing math skills.

5-6s Norte

100th Day of School

In preparation for the big day, students in 5-6s Norte worked on family projects that involved creating something using 100 items. Some examples included a poster with 100 images of black women, a flag made out of 100 condiment packets, a hanging display of 100 paperclips, a collection of 100 drawings of superheros and a photo album with 100 baby pictures.

100th Day of School

Families were invited to visit the classroom Tuesday morning to join the students in the 100th Day of School celebration. The room was decorated with chains made of 100 paper links. Guests were treated to a special trail mix made with 100 pieces of each ingredient. Students and guests engaged in math activities, including skip counting to 100. Visitors were challenged to guess which jar contained 100 items. Later in the day, 5-6s Norte hosted fellow schoolmates and many MCS faculty and staff members.

5-6s Sur

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur also welcomed guests to their classroom to witness the many ways they celebrated 100. They counted to 100 by ones, twos and fives, and hosted a Hundreds Museum. Exhibits included structures made with 100 Legos and artwork made with 100 pegs. The students also built objects using smaller groups of materials (e.g. 25 Mobilos, snap cubes or magnetic pattern blocks). These creations were displayed together to make collective groups of 100.

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur participated in 100 minutes of reading, with 10 guests from the MCS community reading to the class for 10 minutes each. The children were so excited to meet new grownups and to recognize familiar faces. Maiya, MCS' Upper School director, read her favorite book from her childhood (which is also Laleña’s!), Who’s A Pest? by Crosby Newall Bonsall. Next, Shani, the fifth-grade teacher, read The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood, complete with sound effects and help from the 5-6s. Then Mary, the Lower School director, read two chapters from the classic, Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel.

100th Day of School

After snack, Bonnie, who is a learning specialist for older children in the Lower School, read Max’s Words by Kate Banks, a charming story of siblings and the power of story. Then Flannery, MCS' seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher read Yo Soy el Durazno by Luis de Noriega en español.  Before lunch, Amanda, MCS' food program coordinator, read Potluck by Anne Shelby. Angela, MCS' communications director, who has a six-year-old at home, shared a book that she bought for her child when he was five. Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker was a huge hit with our five- and six-year olds. MCS Director Michéle read Fiesta by Ginger Foglesong Guy, a book that counts in both English and Spanish, After rest, Donovan, the Upper School choral director, sang as he read his book, The Spiffiest Giant in Town, by Julia Donaldson. Nancy Hsu, the MCS Fund and special events manager, finished with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by the ever-popular Mo Willems.

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Two Seventh-Graders Learn the Craft of Making an NYC Breakfast Staple

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 9, 2018

Making Bagels at the MCS Farm

Bagels! Many of us have a favorite—plain, salted, poppy, sesame, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, everything. Our toppings—a schmear of cream cheese, some butter, lox, a slice of onion, just to name a few—are an expression of our personal taste. This dietary staple we may eat on the go or leisurely on a Sunday morning is part of our daily fabric, but how many people have attempted to make their own? During this week’s farm trip, two Manhattan Country School seventh-graders challenged themselves to bake enough bagels to feed their entire class. This baking project served as part of their graduation requirements.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm.

Ayo and Sabrina searched for the recipe, doubled the ingredients and set to work. They combined yeast and sugar and added the mixture to warm water. For years, MCS students have learned the “Goldilocks” method of determining the correct water temperature from Donna, the Farm’s cooking teacher. Just like Goldilocks with the three bears’ porridge, the kids felt the water to be sure it was not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Adding yeast to water with an approximate temperature of 104 degrees activates it. The sugar serves as the food the yeast feeds on. Once the mixture is active, it can be slowly added to the dry ingredients of flour and salt. The two students kneaded and rolled the dough, slowly adding more flour to reach the proper consistency. Once the dough was set, it was placed aside to rise. Like the saying “A watched pot never boils,” watched dough doesn’t rise so the kids turned their attention to other needs of the busy kitchen during this process.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm. Making bagels at the MCS Farm.

About 90 minutes later, the students returned to their bowl of dough, which had more than doubled in volume. They “punched down” the dough—a way of manipulating the dough to remove air pockets that form during the rising process and to bring the yeast, sugars and moisture back together. Then they rolled the dough into balls. Poking a hole in the center and pulling the dough open, they created the ever-familiar bagel shape. After letting the dough rest for 10 minutes, the students placed the circular pieces in boiling water, which is the secret to making bagels chewy. Once removed from the water, the bagels were brushed with eggs whites. Half of the batch was sprinkled with poppy seeds before the entire batch was placed in the oven. Forty minutes later the bagels were done—shiny and golden brown and ready to be enjoyed.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm. Making bagels at the MCS Farm.

 

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2018 Activism Project Update: Shatter the Silence. Stop Domestic Violence

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 16, 2018

We are writing to update you on our activism work and to ask for your help and support in our campaign to end domestic violence.

WE CHOSE THIS TOPIC BECAUSE

2018 Activism Project People are being hurt and killed, one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. There are even some families in our community that this may affect and we don’t want this to affect us or anyone else. Our government is not doing enough to end this problem. When we look more deeply at this issue, we realize that it connects to other uprising movements such as #metoo and the movement to end gun violence.

SO FAR WE HAVE LEARNED

So far we have learned about how women turned the tide on domestic violence, the relationship between mass shootings and domestic violence and the loopholes in our laws that allow abusers to have guns such as the boyfriend loophole. In our healthy relationships workshop we learned about teen dating and communication. We also learned about the impact of domestic violence on children. By creating our own problem trees we learned about the role of gender norms, sexism or male supremacy, and entitlement as root causes of domestic violence. In other words we learn to behave like this and we can learn to behave differently. We also learned why this is a men’s issue and the important role men and boys have in solving it.

BASED ON WHAT WE’VE LEARNED SO FAR, OUR DEMANDS ARE

  • More funding and awareness for domestic violence shelters and services
  • Keep guns out of the hands of abusers
  • Teach young people about healthy relationships

WHAT ELSE HAVE WE BEEN UP TO?

We have been lucky to have some exciting guest speakers.

  • Ana Raquel and her colleague from Sanctuary for Families came to present on Domestic Violence 101 and on healthy relationships. They had us watch a documentary that everyone loved called The Mask You Live In (available on Netflix).
  • The boundary-breaking photographer Donna Ferrato, who took some of the first major photos about domestic violence and has been working on the issue for decades, visited us. Her book Living With the Enemy covers this topic and she launched the “I am Unbeatable” campaign that features and supports people who have left their abusers.  
  • Christina Swarns, former litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, spoke to us about how she argued in front of the Supreme Court about a domestic violence case in which the man, who was guilty, was given the death penalty because the prosecutor argued that he was more likely to re-offend because he was black.

SOME FACTS AND IDEAS THAT STAND OUT TO US ARE:

  • Someone is five times more likely to be murdered by their abusive spouse if there is a gun in the house
  • One in 10 teenagers in New York City schools reports experiencing physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship within the past year.
  • One in three teens report experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.
  • Every three months there are as many people killed in domestic violence as died in 9/11
  • It’s not about blaming men but understanding and changing toxic gender roles
  • As of 2014, males were four times more likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts, representing 79 percent of all U.S. suicides. Firearms are the most common suicide method amongst men, while females commonly use poisoning. (Outdated gender roles harm men as well as women.)
  • Hurt people hurt people—people who have been abused are more likely to
  • One-tenth of men admitted to raping a woman or girl in one UNDP study
  • One-third of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime

As young people take the lead in changing our gun laws to end school shootings, let’s also remember that most of the people who committed mass shootings have also committed domestic violence. Keeping guns out of the hands of abusers will keep everyone safer and preventing domestic abuse will help prevent other forms of violence. That’s why we are so excited to change our gun laws in New York State. However, most of these forms of violence are committed by men, and so much violence happens in relationships. We have to think about how boys are raised, what ideas we pass on about masculinity and help young people develop healthy relationships. That’s why we’re excited to teach our peers and make sure other schools do so too.

Thank you in advance for your help as we work to change our laws, our culture, and our society. Let’s Shatter the Silence and Stop Domestic Violence.

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Mentoring Day Gives Eighth-Graders a Taste of Professional Life

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 16, 2018

8th Grade Mentoring Day

Each year, Manhattan Country School eighth-graders have the opportunity to learn about a career of interest as part of Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day. On March 9, the year’s eighth-graders visited members of the MCS community to observe them at work.

The following mentors, representing MCS alumni, current parents, board members and friends of the community, participated in this year’s event:

  • Marika Hughes ’85, professional cellist
  • Marcin Sawicki (current parent and MCS trustee), programmer and developer at Jane Street Capital
  • Vanessa Potkin (current parent), senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project
  • Maida Galvez (current parent), pediatrician and associate professor of environmental medicine and public health and pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Cappy Collins (MCS friend), doctor, Mount Sinai Center for Advanced Medicine
  • Brian Abell (current parent and former MCS trustee), architect at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
  • David Hein (current parent), playwright, songwriter and actor
  • Gabe Miller ’71, copy chief at Sports Illustrated (Students will visit Gabe on April 4.)

When the eighth-graders returned from their Mentoring Day outings, they were asked to share their thoughts about their experience. Here’s a sampling of what they had offer:

William A., Morgan C., Jonas B. and Violet K. spent the morning at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with David Hein, co-writer of the Broadway musical “Come From Away.” “I learned about acting, behind the scenes, how hard it is and how much precision it takes,” shared Violet.

Sydney J., Roxy S., Brianna H., Ruby S. and Ariana W. spent time with doctors Maida Galvez and Cappy Collins, who specialize in environmental health. “I learned that everyone can ‘be a doctor’,” said Ruby. “Everyone contributes to society’s health, whether it’s a doctor or an MTA bus driver.”

Stella A. met with architect Brian Abell. Stella hoped to learn about the field of architecture, particularly the design aspect of it. While with Brian, she learned about the steps of modelling and making buildings. Her advice to future Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day participants?: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

We are grateful to everyone who played a part in making this year’s Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day a success. Those in the MCS community who are interested in hosting students for the 2019 Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day should contact Akemi Kochiyama at akochiyama@manhattancountryschool.org.