What Can I Do Outside in Winter?

When people learn that I work at a Nature Center, they always ask, "What exactly do you do there?" When I explain that I teach nature-based education programs for preschool and elementary children, people immediately assume that these programs cease to exist when winter arrives. However, if you are a frequent visitor of the Rye Nature Center, you know this isn't the case. We spend time outside every day, even in winter.

So, if you are looking for a way to get the whole family outside, our Old Fashioned Winter's Afternoon is coming up on Saturday, February 3, from 12:00 - 3:00 p.m. This event hosts many fun outdoor activities including face painting, arts and crafts, pony rides, archery, and log sawing. We will also kick off the maple sugaring season when we tap maple trees and visit the Nature Center's evaporator to learn about the sugaring process.

A Maple Sugar Tap

A Maple Sugar Tap

Old Fashioned Winter's Afternoon is the perfect day to open the season because we can only make maple syrup from February to early March. You might wonder why the window for maple sugaring is so brief. Maple syrup is made from the sap that runs through sugar maple trees. This sap consists mostly of water and water will of course freeze during the winter months. If it is freezing, the tree sends all the sap into the roots where the temperature is warmer.

How does this play into the sugaring process? During February and March, the temperature is usually below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. This means that sugar maple trees will send the sap into the roots at night, but as the temperature rises during the day, the sap will come up the tree. As the sap travels up and down the trunk we are able to tap the tree and extract sap. When the temperature is consistently above or below freezing, the sap won't run.

If you are hoping to check out this process and get outside with the whole family this winter, I urge you to come to our annual Old-Fashioned Winter's Afternoon on February 3. We will also host two additional family sugaring programs on February 10 and 24 at 1:00 p.m. Hope to see you all there!

--Jeni Vogel, Associate Director of Preschool and Camp