Beginning in the middle of February and stretching into mid March, the Sugar Maple trees begin to prepare for spring by sending sap up to their branches to fuel the spring growth. This is one of the first signs of spring in the forest and marks maple syrup season. On days where the nights are freezing and the days are in the 40s the sap will flow up the tree. Once it is still above freezing overnight, the sap will turn cloudy and can no longer be used for syrup. At this point the tree will begin spring growth.
Maple syrup is made by collecting the sap from a maple tree, usually a sugar maple, and boiling it to allow the water to evaporate and concentrate the sugar. Once enough water has evaporated, the sap becomes syrup.
Sugar Maple trees are tapped because their sap has the highest concentration of sugar, but even so it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Straight from the tree, the sap looks like water and has a barely noticeable sweet taste.
Did you know that salt lowers the temperature of ice water? To see this process happen, try making ice cream with only a few ingredients.
1 Gallon Zip Bag
2 Sandwich Zip Bags
1/3 Cup Rock Salt
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Ice (enough to fill 1/2 of the gallon zip bag)
In one sandwich zip bag, combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla extract together. Then, zip the bag close.
Put the zipped bag with the mixture in the second sandwich zip bag and zip this one closed. This gives your mixture extra protection.
In the gallon zipped bag, make sure there is enough ice to fill 1/2 of the bag. Then, add the rock salt to the ice.
Place your sandwich zip bags with the mixture into the gallon zip bag of ice and salt. The, zip the gallon zip bag close.
Put on your gloves and shake your gallon zip bag for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, take you sandwich bags out and open them to tasty vanilla ice cream.
There are many different recipes to make ice cream like this on the internet. We found this one on the Happy Toddler Blog.
Lift Ice Cubes with Chemistry
After making your tasty treat, learn more about salt and ice including why it is used on snowy roads in the winter. You can even learn how to make a piece of yarn to stick to ice with this experiment from Scientific American.
Animals are amazing and you can learn so much by watching them at zoos, in their natural habitats, reading books, and looking up information about them with our web resources: https://mppl.org/kids/got-homework/.
Live Web Cams and livestreams are a great way to see animals while staying home this winter. These cameras are mounted in animal enclosures and near animals’ habitats in the wild. By watching them you can get a glimpse of what these animals do daily. Here are some of our favorites:
How do insects survive the long, cold winter? In several different ways!
Some Overwinter as Eggs
Praying mantids spend the winter as eggs, waiting for the warmer spring temperatures to hatch. Both the native Carolina Praying Mantis and the Chinese Praying mantis are found in Illinois.
Some Overwinter as Larvae
Woolly bear caterpillars, the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth, spend the winter curled up under leaves.
Some Overwinter as Nymphs
Insects that have an incomplete metamorphosis only have three stages of life: egg, nymph and adult. Dragonflies spend the winter as nymphs underwater will stay active under the ice. They emerge in spring as adults.
Some Overwinter as Pupae
Some moths and butterflies will stay in their pupal cases (chrysalides or cocoons) and come out in the spring as adults.
Some Overwinter as Adults
Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico in the fall and wait for the spring to arrive to begin their journey back home.