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Students learn to make maple syrup at Sweetser School

When it's spring, it's maple syrup season for students in the experiential learning program at the School at Sweetser in Saco. 

SACO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maple Syrup season got off to a strong start with mild temperatures during February break. That wasn't ideal though for The School At Sweetser in Saco that has students collecting sap in the spring.

The students are trying to make up for lost time, tapping trees and collecting sap at Ricker Farm which is run five days a week by the school's staff and students who are a part of the experiential learning program. The students are at Sweetser because they don't thrive in a traditional school setting.

"Some of our students are identified as being hands on learners and they just do better in an environment where they can move around and learn while doing.," said farm manager Julia Birtolo. "That's what the experiential learning program is and that's what the farm is part of."

Students 12 to 18 years old work at the farm to overcome their behavioral and learning impairments. They receive a stipends of one to four dollars a day for their work. They may not be aware of the benefits and lessons happening, but they are very aware of the hard work it takes to tap and collect maple trees.

"After like two days or so we collect it, but if it's not filled to the top we just let it fill to the top," said seventh grader Patrick Kellett.

In addition to Ricker Farm, Sweetser's experiential learning program also includes automotive and repair, greenhouse gardening and culinary arts.

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