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Brookside Nature Center's

Maple Sugar Festival

It's that time of the year again - maple sugaring time!

Brookside Nature Center's annual Maple Sugar Festival has been Montgomery County Parks and Recreation's famed winter educational experience for over 40 years and is the perfect location to practice speech and language skills while learning about the process of making maple syrup and tasting the delicious fruits of your labors!

EXPLORE: The Use of Sequencing Words
ENRICH: Expressive Grammar

ENGAGE: Sequence the steps to make maple syrup



  • You will begin your Maple Sugar Festival experience with a short informational video that describes the process of making maple syrup. After watching this video, ask your child to complete a sequencing activity:

    • Level 1: Download the "Sequencing 5 Steps" PDF document (first red icon on the left). Ask your child to point to the steps on the document in the correct order (grow a tree, tap the tree, collect the sap, boil the sap down, maple syrup is finished) and use language at his/her language level (which can be anything from single words to complete sentences) to describe each step.

    • Level 2: Download the "Sequencing 10 Steps" PDF document (second red icon on the left). Ask your child to sequence the steps in making maple syrup using "first," "next," "then," or "last" to introduce each step. Afterwards, check to see if your child included all of the steps listed in the PDF document.

BONUS: Challenge your child to discuss whether there were any differences between the details in the steps described in the video and the steps depicted on the PDF documents.


EXPLORE: Auditory Closure
ENRICH: Oral Comprehension

ENGAGE: The ability to process auditory messages with missing information



  • Next, walk through the outdoor stations that allow you to see firsthand how maple syrup is made. Then, use the following tasks to work on auditory closure, the ability to make sense of auditory messages when a piece of information is missing, with your child:

    • Level 1: At each station, say a sentence describing what is happening during that step in the process and leave out the last word. Give your child three verbal choices and have him/her pick which one should fill in the blank to complete the sentence. If he/she has trouble, give a visual cue by pointing to the area of the station that shows the answer.

      • A hole is drilled in the _____. (ground, tree, leaves)

      • The tap lets us collect the tree's _____. (sap, roots, water)

      • The sap is boiled down in a large _____. (spoon, chimney, pot)

    • Level 2: Perform the activity explained above with your child, but do not give any verbal choices or visual cues. If your child has difficulty understanding the sentence or retrieving a vocabulary word, repeat the sentence and instead give the child the beginning sound of the word that completes the sentence. (E.g. The tap lets us collect the tree's ssss____).



EXPLORE: Liquid Sounds
ENRICH: Articulation of Individual Sounds for Clear Communication

ENGAGE: Practice producing /l/



  • Start the day by reminding your child how to produce the /l/ sound: Raise the tip of your tongue to the bumpy area right behind your top teeth (the alveolar ridge), then turn on your motor (vocal cords).

  • As you explore the festival, make a list of words that contain the /l/ sound, such as mapLe, boiL, Lid, coLLect, goLden, Leaf

  • Have your child practice these words at his/her ability level:

    • Level 1: Say each word in isolation five times, then use it in a short phrase (e.g. "boiLing sap")

    • Level 2: Use each word in a complete sentence. As a challenge, make up a sentence using two or three of the words. (e.g. "You can find a mapLe tree by Looking at its Leaves.")

h Sounds


EXPLORE: Social Interactions
ENRICH: The Ability to Obtain Information From a Conversation Partner,

ENGAGE: Initiating and asking questions



  • Asking questions to obtain information is often a difficult skill for children with social language difficulties. They can practice this skill by brainstorming three questions to ask the nature center staff about the process of making maple syrup.

    • Level 1: Have your child practice pointing and asking this simple question form: "What is this?" on three different occasions. For example, with your help, he/she can approach a nature center, guide, point to a maple syrup making tool and ask, "What is this?" to learn more details about the maple syrup making process.

    • Level 2: Review this wh- question guide with your child. Help him/her come up with three different wh- questions to ask about the maple syrup making process. For example, "What kinds of trees can be used to make syrup?" "When did people first start making maple syrup?" "Where is maple syrup made in the United States?"


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