Dirt Camp: Day 1

Welcome to Dirt Camp, and thank you for visiting the camp blog! We are thrilled to have you and your camper participate in MSU Tollgate’s summer camp programs.

This blog serves as a tool for parents, family, and friends to keep up with all of our activities during camp. There will be photos and explanations of everything we do, and we encourage you to use these prompts as conversation starters with your camper. Reflecting on the day and explaining what they learn to someone else is an important part of the experiential learning process that we foster here at MSU Tollgate.

Campers are split into four groups for the majority of our camp activities. The Green Peppers are led by Ms. Mandy, the Yellow Peppers are led by Ms. Erika, the Orange Peppers are led by Ms. Nicole, and the Red Peppers are led by Ms. Jenny. Ask your camper which group they’re in!

We started off the day with a flag ceremony and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and 4-H Pledge. This is ritual that we perform every day before we start in on the day’s activities.

We went on a wagon ride and played some introduction games to get to know each other. We talked about the difference between straw (yellow, used for bedding) and hay (green, full of important nutrients, used for animal food).  While we were on the wagon ride, we stopped and did an activity called Deconstructing Lunch. We talked about what we had for lunch, and we traced each ingredient back to the soil. For instance, cheese on a sandwich came from milk, which came from a cow, which eats grass and grain, which grows in the soil. Each camper got to share their deconstructed lunch story.


The Green and Yellow Peppers play a juggling game to learn each others’ names.


Green and Yellow Peppers on the wagon!


Orange and Red Peppers playing under the parachute.


Orange Peppers work on their Deconstructed Lunch project.


Red Peppers juggle to learn names.


MSU Tollgate is a working farm, which means that we have all kinds of equipment and animals that need to be maintained. The campers are responsible for caring for the farm animals each morning. We have goat kids, milking goats, steers, chickens, ducks, a rabbit, and a goose. The campers will take turns caring for each animal. Today, the Green Peppers cared for the ducks and goose while the Yellow Peppers fed and watered the chickens. One of our goats, Isabella, had triplets in early May, and the Red Peppers helped milk her. The Orange Peppers fed the steers and bottle-fed the goat kids.

A Red Pepper milks Isabella.

A Red Pepper milks Isabella.


Orange Peppers learn how to feed the goat kids.


Those goat kids love their bottles!


Orange Peppers feeding the steers, Otis and Oliver.


Yellow Peppers learn how to take care of the chickens.

Ms. Pam, our Garden Kitchen Coordinator, had oatmeal chocolate chip raisin cookies for snack this morning, and we took a walk through the garden to see what vegetables and fruits we could find. We looked for raspberries, but none were ripe yet.


The Green Peppers stop to smell some dill with Ms. Pam.


Orange Peppers search for raspberries, with no luck!

We went on a hike to collect soil samples this afternoon that will be part of an experiment later in the week. The campers got to tour the farm and spend some time exploring.


Red Peppers walk through the woods with Ms. Jenny to find the perfect soil samples.


Red Peppers collecting samples.


Ms. Mandy and the Green Peppers go to extreme lengths to get their soil samples!


Green Peppers burying Larry, the dead frog they found.


The campers made gorp this afternoon with Ms. Pam. Campers helped read the recipe, measure the ingredients, and mix everything up. While we were waiting for the gorp to bake, we peeled garlic from Ms. Pam’s garden that will be used tomorrow when we make pickles!

Orange Peppers help peel garlic for pickles tomorrow!

Orange Peppers help peel garlic for pickles tomorrow!

We made a model of the food chain and soil cycle that represents the “deconstructed lunch” activity from this morning. Campers strung the stages together on a string and could see the full cycle in action. Ask your camper about what their soil cycle looked like.

Green Peppers get sprayed down to cool off between activities.

Green Peppers get sprayed down to cool off between activities.

Each week of camp, we choose a different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project that we work on all week. For Dirt Camp, we are constructing mud castles! Campers have access to a variety of building materials, and they have time each day to work on their castle with their partner/group. We made a great start on our castles today!


Yellow Peppers working on their mud castle.


More castle-building.


Day 1 of Dirt Camp was wonderful! We made lots of new friends and reunited with old ones. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the week holds! Thank you for sharing your camper with us here at MSU Tollgate!

Orange Peppers frolic through the Children's Garden between activities.

Orange Peppers frolic through the Children’s Garden between activities.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookies


2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 cups quick-cook oats


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine ingredients well. Drop heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool and serve.

Apricot-Pineapple Gorp


2 ¾ cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup corn chex
½ cup dried apricots
½ cup dried pineapple
½ cup honey
1/3 cup of butter
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup sunflower seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Coat pan with cooking spray.
  3. Combine oats and Chex.
  4. Warm honey and butter until butter is melted and pour over oats and chex.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes for 10 minutes.
  6. Cool and add dry fruit.
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