We are all quite familiar with the variable Michigan weather and winter came on quickly for us this year. We observed the farm change over the fall as we transitioned from shorts to snow pants. We saw a range of weather conditions this season and as we overheard a parent state last week, “You know Farm Sprouts will be out there…” despite gusting wind, intermittent rain, and cooler temperatures. We follow the saying, “There is no bad weather, just poor choice in clothing” when it comes to our philosophy on heading outdoors. On a farm, there is work to be done regardless of the weather. The animals depend on us and the chores don’t end when the weather turns. Despite the conditions, we had a wonderful time on our wagon rides! We very much appreciated the opportunity to connect with our families. It is through struggle and adversity that we grow as individuals and as a community. Some of our best adventures and stories come as a result of striking out in challenging weather conditions. We’ll need to come up with a book list revolving around the theme “stuck in the mud,” especially pertinent for those in the Tuesday afternoon group!
During our seventh week, we made homemade applesauce using a variety of apples, including Gala apples from Tollgate. Farm Sprouts enjoyed the process and the yummy smell in our classroom. They worked at the farmer’s stand, selling pumpkins, honey, and apples. Outside near the old orchard, we finished our tree cookie project, pounded pumpkins and leaves, and explored gravity with our apple ramps. We read the story, Henry’s Map by David Elliot, before heading out on our very own “animal mapping adventure,” which took us to our animal barn and chicken coop. We visited the animals, marveling at a chicken’s balancing abilities. It turns out Farm Sprouts also enjoy balancing!
This season, an interest in mapping was sparked for both children and teachers. The children’s spark came in the spring season from the reading of the book, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown (depicted in photo below) and their interest in identifying places we’ve all traveled on the map in our classroom (Ms. Brooke’s May trip to Maine elicited such discussion). For the teachers, the sparks came from visits to other farm and nature-based sites, identifying needs for our educational programs, and a session on outdoor play areas during a conference over the summer. Combined, both children and teachers have co-constructed knowledge about how mapping can help us, whether in our daily lives, in consideration of how and why our animals move, and how our farm can best support our community.
Farm Sprouts returned from their adventure to eat apple sauce and to utilize their mapping skills to create designs of their dream “Discovery Garden,” a complement to our current Children’s Garden. This garden will be a place for the children, by the children, in which they could engage with it in a very hands on way. In just a matter of a couple hours, Farm Sprouts fully experienced each component of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) through discussion and implementation of child and teacher-inspired ideas in a truly authentic manner, contributing to something potentially greater than themselves.
Finally, we arrived to our last week of the 2018 fall season. Farm Sprouts shared their favorite memories with the support of our Wonder Wall. They worked together to complete their garden designs. They ground corn, part of the process for making foods like cornbread muffins. Under the pavilion, Farm Sprouts worked as bakers with corn and cooking utensils in the sensory bin, pressed apples with our cider press, and revisited our bin of animal coverings, which was of much greater interest following a season of thinking about how animals prepare for winter and now feeling its arrival in the air.
For our harvest snack, we munched on cornbread muffins and enjoyed apple cider, a special treat. The majority of Farm Sprouts loved the muffins! We baked them in mini muffin tins and included one pepita on top. ¿Qué es una pepita? Read here to learn more about these tasty and nutritious additions!
Corn Muffin Recipe: http://www.cookusinterruptus.com/sweet-potato-corn-muffins-4136-260.html
The squash in our muffins came from our C.S.A. program. Interested in joining next year? Registration for the 2019 season opens for the public on November 23rd! Visit the website for more details. The majority of the produce for our harvest snack was sourced right from the farm. And the maple syrup? Well, that came from our Tollgate Sugar Bush and some of our very own “Sugar Sprouts” helped harvest the sap that became the syrup last winter. Farm Sprouts know where their food comes from!
We closed the day by reading Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston, just two days before the first snow blanketed the farm. The time spent visiting with families was the perfect ending to the season!
“We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it, we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.” – Wendell Berry
We would also like to add that as a part of our responsibilities as citizens of this planet, we also feel we must strive to do our best to care for and love each other. It is through communities we can connect and make a difference. Certainly, Farm Sprouts is the result of the input, support and efforts of many, many people, including our families, Tollgate staff, greater MSU Extension staff, and greater community members. Thank you to all who contribute to making this program possible. It’s making a very big impact on our smallest citizens, who in turn, will someday make their own big impact (if they aren’t already doing so).
This blog post is dedicated to Luisa. The Tollgate Farm community is rooting for you.