Photo submitted – The Mobile Maple Experience trailer from the New York State Maple Producers’ Association parked outside the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in East Herkimer on March 26 and 27 for a visit with various BOCES programs.

Students in various Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES programs recently had the opportunity to learn about maple syrup production and utilization when the Mobile Maple Experience visited Herkimer BOCES.

Herkimer BOCES Real Experience and Designed Instruction in Technical Education Careers (READiTEC) students learned about maple syrup production and related jobs. Career and Technical Education students in the Conservation program who already work on maple syrup production in class were able to learn more about forest management, techniques for conserving and managing biodiversity and ways to increase their sugarbush production. Pathways Academy students in the Service class joined CTE students in the Culinary and Hospitality program to learn about the versatility of maple syrup in food and its use in recipes as a substitute for sugar. The Special Education Career Preparation classes had their own sessions to visit and learn. Students from other CTE programs and Special Education classes also visited the Mobile Maple Experience and had a chance to sample maple syrup while learning about the production process.

“They really changed it based on the program,” Herkimer BOCES Conservation instructor William Carpenter said. “So that was cool too, to be able to make it beneficial for everyone.”

Kristina Ferrare, Mobile Maple Experience coordinator for the New York State Maple Producers’ Association, and Travis Robbins, from the Mobile Maple Experience education program, visited the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in East Herkimer on March 26 and 27 with their mobile trailer.

Ferrare said Mobile Maple Experience visits K-12 schools all around the state, and it was great to have an opportunity to visit Herkimer BOCES because of direct connections to the industry through the Conservation program tapping trees for maple syrup and the Culinary and Hospitality program cooking with maple syrup.

“I was really excited to come to BOCES,” Ferrare said. “It’s a great opportunity to connect with potential future producers and consumers of maple syrup and help teach that maple syrup can be a great source of food and even of a career.”

Robbins, who grew up involved with maple syrup production and now does part-time work for the Mobile Maple Experience, said he enjoys the chance to interact with students.

“It’s fun to teach people,” Robbins said. “I started at a young age. I like giving back a little bit.”

The Mobile Maple Experience visit was organized by Herkimer BOCES instructional coach Kelly Cave, Carpenter and READiTEC teacher Edward Moises.

“It was really nice to see something open to everyone at the WEB Complex,” Cave said. “It was really the K-12 experience they’re trying to get.”

Moises, who became the READiTEC teacher this school year, has Cave and his instructional coach and Carpenter as his mentor through the Herkimer BOCES Mentoring Program for employees. Moises had attended a Herkimer BOCES professional development session about project-based learning, and then he and Cave started looking into options to get students outside doing hands-on learning for a field trip or other experience.

Research into that led them and Carpenter to find the Mobile Maple Experience. They found out there was up to a two-year wait to get on the schedule, but Mobile Maple Experience has a goal of reaching more BOCES programs, so when there was a cancelation, the organizers reached out to Herkimer BOCES and got the visit on the schedule. Now, the Mobile Maple Experience plans to return to Herkimer BOCES once every two years, Cave said.

Carpenter said organizing the Mobile Maple Experience together seemed like a good mentorship opportunity to work with Moises on because he was able to explain the steps you have to take for getting something like this approved and show how to collaborate with others.

Cave also thought it was a great chance for collaboration among BOCES employees and various BOCES programs.

“Collaboration has always been something that I think is really beneficial for students – and for teachers and staff,” she said.

READiTEC students being able to learn professionalism and skills from older students in Conservation was one example of how students benefited from the collaboration, Cave said. READiTEC students also escorted other classes during their visits and directed traffic to maintain safety throughout the experience.

“It’s not just what skills you have but how you really apply them and work with others,” Cave said.

Carpenter said that for Conservation students, the Mobile Maple Experience visit was about bolstering their existing forest management lab and maple syrup production. Ferrare is a forester, so she was able to talk to students about forest management and how to improve their sugar bush production. The program also will receive ongoing tools and resources, he said.

Meanwhile, READiTEC students are in the process of learning about the Conservation program.

“For the other students, it’s a chance to show what we do,” Carpenter said.

READiTEC is a pre-vocational exploratory program for ninth and 10th grade students. READiTEC gives students access to all 14 Herkimer BOCES CTE programs, the ability to learn trades jobs and the opportunity to then join one of the CTE programs for 11th and 12th grade if they choose to.

Moises and Carpenter agreed the Mobile Maple Experience would be a way to help READiTEC students learn about the Conservation program as well.

“For READiTEC, we wanted to incorporate Conservation in some way, so we thought maple syrup production would be a good option,” Moises said.

READiTEC students have had the opportunity to learn from Conservation students and tap a tree on the BOCES property, and that learning continued with the Mobile Maple Experience, Moises said.

“I think it helps them understand and see things right in front of them,” Moises said. “This gives them that hands-on look at what it really entails.”

READiTEC student Colton Bass, a ninth grader from Herkimer Central School District, said it has been interesting learning about maple syrup production from both the Conservation program and the Mobile Maple Experience.

“We learn a lot better in person,” Colton said. “I feel like you can’t get the full experience from a video in class.”

Herkimer BOCES READiTEC students help escort classes and direct traffic to maintain safety during the Mobile Maple Experience visiting Herkimer BOCES on March 26 and 27 outside the William E. Busacker Complex in East Herkimer.

Herkimer BOCES READiTEC students help escort classes and direct traffic to maintain safety during the Mobile Maple Experience visiting Herkimer BOCES on March 26 and 27 outside the William E. Busacker Complex in East Herkimer.