February 05, 2009

Maple syrup pancake breakfasts, workshops on tap

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Once upon a time, pancakes didn’t come from a box and the syrup atop them didn’t pour from a plastic bottle. Thanks to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center, you can enjoy those treats in real pioneer style at a pair of Maple Syrupin’ Pancake Breakfasts and Workshops.

Sessions are set for Feb. 28 and March 14, running from 9 a.m. until noon each day. Participants start their day with a pancake breakfast followed by a two-hour maple syrup workshop. The workshop is a hands-on experience.

You’ll learn how to identify a maple tree and discover tree physiology as well as the legends and lore surrounding maple syrup harvesting. And, you’ll see just how Native Americans and early pioneers worked hard each spring to draw the sugar maple sap from the trees and cook it to create syrup.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the maple syrup workshops beginning about 10 a.m. Feb. 28 and March 14 at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center. Numerous school and youth groups will be participating in similar workshops at the center in coming weeks, too, including some prior to the public workshops. Media may make arrangements to cover any of these events by contacting Kate Hellgren at 618/453-1122, ext. 250, or by e-mail at kateh4@siu.edu.

The Maple Syrupin’ Pancake Breakfast and Workshop is such a well-liked annual event, it’s often a sell-out. Due to popular demand, that’s why a second session is on tap for 2009, according to Kate Hellgren, environmental education program coordinator at Touch of Nature.

“Last year was certainly a sell-out. So much so that we even added a session because we had such a long waiting list. So, this year we’re having two sessions. We’re really excited too because we have a new evaporator this year thanks to the generosity of a special donor. The evaporator boils the syrup down so participants will get to see it the whole process,” Hellgren said.

The cost of the breakfast and workshop is $15 for those ages 15 and older, $8 for children five to 14 years. Admission is free for kids younger than five. The breakfast is at the main Touch of Nature campus while the workshop site is at the Upper 40 Cabin, one mile south of the breakfast locale.

Participants must register in advance. To register or obtain more information or directions, call 618/453-1121.

Throughout the coming weeks, groups of children from local schools and organizations will be coming to Touch of Nature to test their skills at tapping maple trees and making syrup. For more information about schedule a youth maple syrup session or other environmental education activities at Touch of Nature, contact Hellgren at 618/453-1122, ext. 250, or via e-mail at kateh4@siuedu.