Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Middle schoolers moved by Earth Day demos

The Earth Day open house dubbed "Sap to Syrup: the Birch Way" attracted interested visitors; the most enthusiastic being the hosts, Tanana Middle School seventh graders.

From left, Bre-Anna Aday, Jasmine Nicholls and Emma Johnstone demonstrate how to measure concentrations of sugar in birch sap.
Science students from Carri Forbes' class were eager to share their knowledge of tapping birch trees for sap, processing the sap via reverse osmosis and making birch knitting needles. Working in conjunction with SNRE's OneTree Alaska program, Forbes and students created the public event to share the joy of harvesting one of the state's purest natural resources, birch sap.

UAF engineering students Jordan Merkes and Zach Alkire improved the OneTree reverse osmosis unit for their senior design project. "We increased the efficiency modification for birch sap reverse osmosis," Merkes explained. The machine, created by SNRE graduate student Tricia Kent, purifies birch sap and concentrates it down so it can be cooked into syrup.

A special treat occurred with OneTree Alaska Director Janice Dawe arrived from a visit to Juneau with historic pieces of mahagony from the Baranof Hotel and oak from the governor's mansion. OneTree will use them to make special knitting needles. Upon glancing at the historic wood, one of the seventh graders was so moved, he exclaimed, "I'm going to cry!"

Forbes got funding for the service learning component through a student achievement grant from Youth Service America and State Farm Insurance.

Further reading:

Graduate student invents DIY reverse osmosis system for birch sap concentration, SNRE Science & News, Jan. 15, 2014, by Nancy Tarnai

From left, Christian Rochester, Amanda Brand and Bailey Taylor make knitting needles out of birch.

OneTree Alaska Director Janice Dawe arrived with her well-wrapped historic wood from Juneau.

OneTree volunteer Birch Pavelsky opens the parcel of historic wood.

Bailey Taylor was excited about the notable wood from historic sites in Juneau.

Jordan Merkes (left) and Zach Alkire, UAF engineering students, improved the OneTree reverse osmosis unit for their senior design project.

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