Portland Public Schools kindergarteners will be visiting the Sugar House at the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) March 20-23 as part of a Wabanaki Studies unit for kindergarten called Maple Thanksgiving. The visit is part of a larger initiative to integrate Wabanaki Studies into the district’s social studies curriculum, which is required by state law LD291. It also is part of a district-wide effort to ensure all students have fieldwork opportunities as part of their learning.
In preparation for this fieldwork, kindergarten students in PPS have tapped maple trees on their schoolyards and have been engaged in lessons learning about maple trees and maple sugaring. Students have learned about the Indigenous origins of maple sugaring and learned how to identify maple trees, as well as learning about the habitat they provide for animals. This unit aims to introduce students to the Indigenous values of gratitude and reciprocity, which are deeply embedded within a Wabanaki worldview.
The student-built PATHS Sugar House, which opened last spring, is used by PATHS students in the Landscapes & Gardens program to learn about trees as they collect sap and boil it down to create maple syrup to use in the school’s culinary program. The kindergarteners will see a demonstration at the Sugar House and get tastes of the sweet stuff. The visits will take place during the school day on March 20, 22, and 23.
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 49.8 percent of the district’s students are white and 50.2 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.