2019 Spring Farm Sprouts – Celebration of Learning Wednesday PM

We welcomed sunny skies and our families to the farm to celebrate our last week of the spring season! Each spring, we investigate the question, “How does our garden grow?” and each spring, our interests take us in different directions depending on the phenomena we encounter in our farm and nature-based learning environment. Rain, water, worms, and mud led to lots of opportunities to grow in our comfort and ability to handle wet conditions in the outdoors as we worked together to make observations, solve problems, assess risks, and discover the impacts of rain on our farm. While the rain may have shifted our plans with our preschoolers, it did not nearly feel the consequences Michigan farmers felt this spring. Farm stress is a very real problem in our Michigan communities and MSU Extension is working to address the need to provide much-needed support. If you are interested in learning more, read this MSU Today article. As for Farm Sprouts, our farm-based learning environment provides them with ample, authentic experiences to support them in developing protective factors so when they encounter life’s challenges, they are able to bounce back (and to find a way to look on the bright side, despite gray skies). Visit here to read more about building strong children.

Aerial View of MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center’s C.S.A. Field

During the last day of the spring program, Farm Sprouts shared their favorite memory of the season, visited our Wonder Wall to reflect back with each other on all we shared, spent some time interacting with our rabbits, and cut pea shoots to help prepare our smoothie snack for the day. Once outside, Farm Sprouts worked as gardeners, farmers, and landscape designers. We’ve been investigating design, planning, and perspective since the fall season, following a spark of interest in these areas last spring. The book, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown generated interest in garden design and Ms. Brooke’s trip out east, combined with a classroom map and prior travel experiences of Farm Sprouts caused us to seek ways to explore these ideas further. Small world play, brainstorming discussions, literature, design tools, map making, murals, and both 2D and 3D design creations supported our investigation over the past seasons. See here to read/review a blog post on the incredible work we did together in the fall!

On our part, we’ve been working behind the scene and have recently secured funding for several internal components, including ADA accessible picnic tables and benches and educational materials so that we can work to provide accommodations and expand our programming to reach the diverse needs of our community. We’ve also purchased a 1941 John Deere! It is to become the first play component in this space, to fulfill the need for climbing and imaginative farmer play on the part of our young visitors.

We now need your support! We are kicking off a $7,000 campaign to fund fencing for our future hands-on 4-H Discovery Garden for the children, by the children. For Farm Sprouts, this will help us with safety. With a fenced area, we will be able to hold our drop off and pick up outdoors and eliminate concerns related to farm and visitor traffic surrounding our base learning spaces. We hope you will support our cause! Visit our GIVING LINK to support this cause today! Questions? Ideas for support? Contact Brooke Larm: larmb@msu.edu We are so excited about this project and will be sure to keep you updated as the project unfolds!

Farm Sprouts had the responsibility of caring for our pony, Sesame, this week and greatly enjoyed engaging in the grooming process. They also learned from Ms. Sam that long ago, horses had toes! We can still see evidence of the evolutionary process of horses by spotting these “vestigial toes” on the legs of our horses at the farm. Farm Sprouts were especially impressed with Max, our draft horse who is living out his retirement days from Greenfield Village on our Tollgate pastures.

We concluded our time together with a reading of the book, We are the Gardeners by Joanne Gaines and her family. It tells the tale of a family who falls in love with gardening and includes their garden design process! It was a perfect story to draw our garden design thread of inquiry to a close! Farm Sprouts enjoyed smoothies on the pond deck as they listened and engaged with the story. We hiked our way up to our families for our Celebration of Learning with a tractor wagon ride around the farm with our families, always a highlight of the season.

Pea Shoot Smoothies
1 cup pea shoots, trimmed and washed
2 cups frozen berries
1 banana
coconut water
local honey

Blend and enjoy!

Many thanks to our Sustainable Agriculture Program for providing us with the veggies for our snacks this season, including the pea shoots, as well as for the incredible experiences we shared to develop food systems awareness! We love our farmers!

Also, thank you to Roy Prentice, our Farm Manager, for all he has done to support our program this season. He truly goes over and beyond and this group had the opportunity to work alongside him on the important task of planting a new Japanese maple tree. During an earlier week in the spring season of Farm Sprouts, while spending time in our Sakura Garden, the young tree, planted just last spring, was stripped bare of its branches. We discussed the incident as a group and decided to turn it into a learning experience, purchasing a new one as a replacement and asking Roy to help us plant it. Farm Sprouts didn’t hesitate to “roll up their sleeves” in this authentic task to show care and concern for the land and living creatures on it, including our trees.

For those Farm Sprouts who have been joining us each fall, spring, and/or winter for the past couple years, you will be greatly missed, but not forgotten! We look forward to staying in touch and continuing to watch you grow as you return for visits, play groups, programs, and events. It’s been an absolute joy and honor to have been a part of your early childhood years! Thank you to you and your families for all you have given and provided as a part of our farm community. Wishing you well until we next see you, whether summer or for fall harvest season at the farm!

“We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.”

Orison Swett Marson
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