MSU Tollgate Farm Adapting to Meet Our Educational Mission Through Virtual Programming

How is MSU Tollgate Farm adapting to meet our mission through educational programming during these difficult times? In response to school closures and safety restrictions caused by the pandemic, we knew we needed to try to help teachers and families by providing students with an opportunity to still connect to and learn from the place called Tollgate Farm. Tollgate has recreated school and community programs in an interactive virtual format bringing the farm to students in new ways. One of these programs was a series called The Secret Life of Trees which met for five weekly 45 minute virtual interactive sessions filled with experiential learning and connection for area kindergarten students. We visited students from the arboretum, the forest, the orchard, and the great Dawn Redwood tree shown above.
Aligned with ELA, mathematics, and Next Generation Science Standards, this series and our Follow the Nutrient Cycle series, encourages students to explore the natural world to see and experience science phenomena happening right around them.

Area Novi kindergarten teachers provided input in the design stages of the original in-person kindergarten Trees program, and this fall these strong teaching teams allowed their students to visit us on their asynchronous days to explore the amazing world of trees. Farm is grateful to the Novi Educational Foundation for making it possible through a grant for 21 Novi kindergarten classes to take part in The Secret Life of Trees. Thank you, also, to the Novi Community School District and Emily Pohlonski, Science Coordinator for the Novi community schools, for helping to bring this opportunity to students. Educational Leader Jenny Speyer, Day Camp Coordinator Sara Mund, and Education Coordinator Ellen Koehler worked over the summer months to pivot the in-person educational farm visit to the fun, engaging online sessions accompanied by The Secret Life of Trees blog, follow-along journal pages, videos recorded on the farm, and plenty of hands-on activities for students. This deep extended learning would not have been possible without the help of staff member Carmen Hamilton and volunteers Dawn Snook, Kathy Begin, and Marilyn Schulte, who helped with broadcasting and monitoring groups of share, eager, and happily engaged students. Tollgate is so grateful for the opportunity to carry out the Tollgate education mission in these ways!

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