The Dunes Learning Center will hold its first ever family camp this weekend, giving parents and kids the opportunity to explore maple sugaring and enjoy a camping experience.
Participants will learn about the science of maple sugaring through stories, games and hands-on activities at the retreat-style workshop, which runs Feb. 21-22.
"There's a long history of maple sugaring - both in the historical sense and within programs at the park," said Sandi Weindling, director of marketing and development at the center.
While many families enjoy maple syrup on their pancakes, not everyone knows the process behind extracting the sweet treat. The National Lakeshore is home to hundreds of Sugar Maple trees, and in the early spring months, sugars within the tree being to move.
Cold winter weather causes the trees to start converting food they have stored up all summer into sugar, and when daytime temperatures rise, these sugars flow through the tree, according to the Dunes Learning Center.
Syrup makers drill a hole into the tree and then place a spout into the hole. Sap flows out of the spout and into a bucket, and from there the sap is processed into syrup.
Families participating in the weekend event will get to see this process first hand, and even try their hand at it, Weindling said. They will even get to stand in the sugar shack where sap is boiled using the same methods the Chellberg family did in the 1930s.
When families arrive on Friday night, they will move into cabins and eat a maple-themed dinner, followed by a night hike and campfire with maple sugaring storytelling.
"A lot of history will be revealed within storytelling," Weindling said. "Characters will tell stories through their perspectives."
The next morning, breakfast will include a maple syrup taste test and science experiments, followed by a "Walk Through Time" with more characters and a tree ID hike. Lunch will include a "maple sugaring at home" presentation and kids activities.
"After lunch, families will be able to tap a tree and gather sap," Weindling said.
They will even be supplied with the materials needed to tap trees at home, she said.
The following month, the park will host another family camp on the subject of reptiles and amphibians, Weindling said.
For more information, call the Dunes Learning Center at (219) 395-9555 or go to duneslearningcenter.org.