Good evening, friends and family! Today was the very last day of the 4-H Green Science Adventure Camp this summer. Although I’m sad to see my little peppers go, I’m glad we had such a great summer together exploring and learning about the world around us at the MSUE Tollgate Education Farm Center.
The peppers began the morning with some of my favorite animals on the farm, the goats. Mr. Alex, Ms. Jackie, Ms. Mandy, and Ms. Courtney informed the peppers that a young goat is called a kid, a male goat is called a billy, a female goat is called a doe, and a mother goat is called a dam. All goats have beards, rectangular shaped pupils, and a large appetite for grass. During a walk to the garden, the Green Peppers even let Goldy the kid help them weed their garden. Goldy spent garden time munching on weeds while the peppers picked cucumbers for lunch.
After walking Goldy, the peppers continued their garden adventures by learning how to press flowers and leaves they found around the farm. By pressing the flowers and leaves, the peppers were able to take them home with them and keep them forever. The pressed items can be used to decorate folders, make bookmarks, or any other creative idea the peppers can come up with! In addition to pressing flowers, the peppers made seed tape out of a strip of newspaper, seeds of their choice, and glue. The seed tape makes it easy to plant straight rows of perfectly spaced seeds, so it’s no hassle gardening for the peppers.
For the next activity the peppers went to the Maple Forest to learn about the process of making maple syrup. The counselors showed the peppers how to identify maple trees by observing the shape of the tree’s leaves and its branches. Maples have a very distinct leaf that is generally five lobed. The Canadians even have the maple leaf on their flag so it is easy to remember. The best time to tap a maple tree is when the sap starts to flow between mid-February and mid-March when the temperature during the day is above freezing and the temperature at night is below freezing. During these months there are no leaves on the trees, so the way to identify a maple tree is by its branching pattern. A tree’s branching pattern describes how the smaller twigs are arranged around larger twigs. There are two types of branching patterns: opposite and alternate. An opposite branching pattern means the smaller (side) twigs are opposite one another on the larger twig. An alternate branching pattern means the smaller (side) twigs alternate locations on the larger twig. The branching on a maple tree is opposite, which only occurs in maple, ash, and dogwood trees, so they are easier to identify in cold months.
In the Garden Kitchen, Ms. Robbin had a special morning treat for the peppers to prepare: whole wheat blueberry pancakes. The peppers helped Ms. Robbin pour milk, crack eggs, and stir batter to make a delicious snack in just a few minutes. The best part was the peppers had an opportunity to use the maple syrup made on Tollgate Farm to sweeten up their delicious snack!
In the afternoon, the peppers had a chance to make their own ships out of aluminum foil. The counselors taught the peppers about buoyancy, the tendency of an object to float. Objects with positive buoyancy float because they are less dense than the liquid around them, while objects with negative buoyancy sink. An object that neither floats in water nor sinks to the bottom is neutrally buoyant. The peppers shaped their own ships out of aluminum foil, put them in water, and added rocks to each ship to see what shape could hold the most weight.They learned that the ones with more surface area were more buoyant than the ones without, and could therefore hold more weight.
After experimenting with foil ships, the peppers had some time to revisit their favorite animals and activities of the week. Some of the peppers took the goats for another walk around the property. Others visited Clifford and Pasquale to say their goodbyes. This was also the perfect time for the peppers to play games and practice their skits for the closing pepper party. To keep all the peppers fueled, Ms. Robbin cut up fruit for the peppers to munch on. Thank you Ms. Robbin! The peppers’ bellies really appreciated the snack.
The last lesson of the day was all about beekeeping. The peppers observed honeycombs and even made their own candles! They learned that bees are arthropods, which means they have an exoskeleton made of chitin and a segmented body with pairs of jointed appendages. Bees are social animals that live in colonies. A colony consists of drones (males), worker bees (females), and the queen. The queen is the only bee capable of stinging multiple times without dying, but bees have no interest in stinging people without cause because there is so much work to be done! The peppers left the bee lesson with a delicious honey stick and the knowledge that honey is just nectar without water.
At the end of the day, each pepper group put on skits for all the other pepper groups. The Green Peppers sang the Itsy Bitsy Spider for all the peppers. The Yellow Peppers performed a knock-knock skit about Goldy the kid. The Orange Peppers made us laugh with a series of jokes. Last, but not least, the Red Peppers put on a mock talent show called Peppers Got Talent, which involved three mini skits. With all the skits over, Mr. Alan wanted to sing his favorite song with the peppers one last time. Mr. Alan and the counselors began the Ruminant Song and all the peppers joined in. The Ruminant Song is the perfect way to remember my digestive system: rumen, reticulum, omasum, abomasum!
After all the silliness was over, it was time for the peppers to say their goodbyes. I’m glad I had the chance to meet a wonderful group of peppers and share life on the farm with them. Thank you for a wonderful week, peppers, and to everyone who participated in camp these past four weeks, thank you for a wonderful summer! I hope to see you all throughout the year for more programs at the MSUE Tollgate Education Farm Center.
Until next summer,
Clifford the Calf