Spring determined by sap rather than Punxsutawney Phil?! Goshen College SAPs to tap Feb. 2

Spring determined by sap rather than Punxsutawney Phil?! Goshen College SAPs to tap Feb. 2

Goshen College SAPs to tap Feb. 2

GOSHEN, Ind. – With several feet of snow covering the town of Goshen – and most of the country – spring seems quite distant. But again, it is time for the Goshen College Scientists/Scholars Advocating Precision (SAPs) to debunk the folklore that groundhogs and their shadows have anything to say about spring’s onset, particularly with the continuous freezing temperatures and steady snowfall.

Instead, the SAPs will look to maple tree sap and science, for the fifth straight year since the development of their scientific method, to predict the precise, and true, day spring will make its entrance in Goshen – the Maple City.

The scientific process begins with fanfare at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 2,when a group of faculty and students, led by Head SAP and molecular biology major Sasha Dyck (Sr., Montreal, Quebec, Canada), will tap the city-designated Official Maple Tree of Goshen, a 75-foot sugar maple near the college’s historic Adelphian Fountain, outside of the Administration Building. Dyck noted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has judged the groundhog to have “no predictive skill.”

The amount of sugar maple sap collected from the time of the tap will make up part of a complex formula that measures the “weight” of spring – the amount of sap collected – against the “weight” of winter – calculated weather data including temperature, precipitation, severity, etc., represented by a block of ice – to determine the exact day spring will arrive. Goshen is the county seat of Elkhart County – one of the state’s leading producers of the sap used to make syrup.

The main festivities will be held Monday, Feb. 16, when the SAPs’ analysis will predict spring’s arrival during a 10:30 a.m. ceremony around the sap-running tree.

Since SAP Day’s inception, spring in Goshen, Ind., has been declared with amazing precision. In 2000, the newly invented “Sapometer” measuring device pointed to Feb. 29 as the first day of spring – a day on which the National Weather Service recorded record high temperatures of 67 degrees in nearby South Bend (Ind.) and the mercury in Goshen topped 70 degrees.

In 2001, the SAPs predicted a March 7 spring. Despite temperatures in the 40s, the prognosticators claimed success, noting the high number of Goshen College students and faculty wearing short pants or skirts, and a college choir paid vocal tribute to its success. On a sunny Feb. 15, 2002, the Sapometer provided a direct affront to the ground hog by announcing that spring had already arrived. And last year, on Feb. 17, 2003, the Sapometer predicted a mid-March arrival of spring, bringing out the entire Science Department faculty in shorts to eat their ice cream in the sun and watch the flowers start to shoot out of the ground.

“As an institution that prides itself in critical thinking, we must fight the rodent forces from the east that subvert such thought,” said John Ross Buschert, co-Sapometer inventor (a.k.a. professor of physics), “In common with this cute, furry little creature, we too celebrate the inevitable return of spring. It is a time to have a little sticky fun, a bit of laughter and not taking ourselves too seriously. That we have in common with Phil. We just have the deck stacked in our favor when it comes to a more sound prediction.”

It isn’t just any science program that will allow itself to look like “saps” – but Goshen’s reputation in the sciences can stand maple tree-tall. Last year, 100 percent of Goshen College students who applied to medical school were accepted, and Goshen College has been named among 190 schools listed in Peterson’s Top Colleges for Sciences.

View photos from last year’s SAP Tap.

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.