Disabled Students Overcome Limits Making Maple Syrup

A one-of-a-kind program in Greenfield, New Hampshire is teaching students with severe disabilities how to make maple syrup. The program is a full-featured agricultural/vocational curriculum called the Farm School.

The Crotched Mountain Foundation School is a non-profit K-12 school for children with mental health disorders, physical disabilities, or on the autism spectrum.

The Farm School is in the middle of maple syrup season.

Colby Hoover, age 15, is a day student at Crotched Mountain. He participates in the maple syrup making process.

"Going out collecting sap, tapping trees, checking the line - that stuff I'm all for," Hoover said.

Hoover is learning life skills through the process of making maple syrup from scratch.

"It's fun doing activities," Hoover said. "I'm more of a hands-on learner."

Crotched Mountain provides the kind of support that students like Colby need to discover what he loves.

"I love being a part of a team, because I'm surrounded by people that I like a lot," Hoover said. Although, he did admit there was one aspect of making maple syrup that he doesn't love: "The boiling part."

David Johnson is the Marketing Vice President. He said their main goal at the center is for students to gain their maximum independence.

Langdon Thorne, age 20, is also a student at Crotched Mountain who participates in the maple syrup-making process.

"I like that it gives me something to do, because I get bored sometimes," Thorne said.

The program allows the students to learn in ways that meet their own unique needs.

"I can brag to my parents and say 'I learned this today,'" Thorne said. "Patience and a lot of hard work."

These are skills that Langdon has learned through the maple making process. They are also life skills he can take with him long after he's left Crotched Mountain.

In 2017 the Crotched Mountain won the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association Maple Contest in the classrooms division. They won the $2000 prize last year and used the money for our new evaporator.

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