Veterinary Science Camp: Part 1

Tollgate’s pilot Vet Science Camp has gotten off to a strong start with lots of experiential learning and, of course, time caring for our animals! Campers have been out and about on the farm experiencing and exploring all about the field of veterinary medicine. 

Monday was hot and humid, but that didn’t stop us from spending time with our Tollgate Livestock Instructor Rachael Moran who explored with us the digestive system of the horse as compared to that of our ruminant goats and sheep. Campers learned all about the proper care of horses and had a chance to groom Sedona and Tulsa, including brushing their coat and picking their hooves. Farrier Koren joined us for a close up look at her work as she filed Friday’s hooves. Extension Livestock Educator Nick Babcock joined us from campus to give us an overview of biosecurity, veterinary terminology, and safety working around animals. We explored the flight zone and much, much more as we learned how to make sure we and our animals are safe. Nick’s intern Nicole helped campers become Zoonotic Detectives with a hands-on lab and campers were put to the test with interactive quizzes on much of what they learned. The heat was intense, but our hardy campers made it through the day with gusto, stopping to make and enjoy an ice cold fruit smoothie for garden kitchen. 

Tuesday began with an interactive exploration of the ruminant digestive system and a model of the four compartments – the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Campers placed their hands in buckets simulating each of the compartments and worked to determine which compartment their bucket represented. For garden kitchen, campers prepared and enjoyed a snack of veggies and hummus. Campers milked our Toggenburg dairy doe with ease as we learned all about goats from long time 4-Her Susanna Khanuk. We had the privilege of having Dr. Hillary Lobar and her vet assistant Rebecca share her vast knowledge and skill in veterinary medicine. Campers learned that ‘vitals are vital’ and that TPR (temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate) are key to monitoring an animal’s health and they had the opportunity to take vitals on our Tollgate horse Griz. Campers were right in the action while Sam Stokes, Rachael Moran, and Rebecca helped Dr. Lobar sedate pony Friday and assess her teeth, using a large tool to grind down her back molars. Dr. Lobar and Rebecca joined us for Lunch with a Vet as they shared all about their individual paths to working with animals and answered lots of camper questions. After lunch, campers explore the organization Youth for the Quality of Care of Animals with Nick and then learned all about an important part of vet care – taking fecal samples and studying them under the microscope to look for parasites, in this case the barber pole worm. Using a FAMACHA card, campers learned to assess parasite pressure on sheep and goats by comparing the color of the animal’s inner eyelid with a scale.

Wednesday we are off on an adventure as we travel by bus to campus to visit the dairy, horse, and cattle barns or a look at veterinary medicine and research at the premier vet school in our state and country – Michigan State University! Stay tuned for more vet science adventures to come.

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Water Camp: Tuesday

Welcome back to Day 2 of Splish Splash Water Camp! Today, campers took part in several activities that encouraged them to think about healthy habitats and the impacts we have on those environments.

Garden Kitchen

Banana Sushi

  • 2 bananas
  • 2 Tbsp sunbutter
  • 1 cup granola or cereal of choice (I used Chex)
  • 1 tablespoon Chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cacao nibs or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions: Add cereal, chia seeds and cacao nibs to a gallon Ziplock bag. Crush with rolling pin. Peel bananas and evenly spread sunbutter on all sides. Place cereal mixture on baking sheet. Carefully roll bananas in mixture to coat. Slice bananas into 8 even slices.

Sunny Broccoli Salad

  • 1 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1.5 head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • ½ cup shelled sunflower seeds

Stir together mayonnaise, onion, raisins, sugar and vinegar in a large bowl. Stir in broccoli until coated. Top with sunflower seeds.

As we focus on water this week, we’re thinking about the creatures and plants that live within. In an activity called Fishy Story, campers followed the life of a fish named Freddy and learned how his life and home were affected by various pollutants. As campers listened to the story, they took turns adding pollutants that matched those in the story to a tank of water. Freddy’s home became increasingly murky, clouded and dangerous to live in! Following the story, campers discussed where they have seen pollution happen around our camp and in their lives and the ways that they could prevent this fate for other fish like Freddy!

Boat Building continued this afternoon. Green Peppers worked on creating boats made from up-cycled materials such as old boxes and aluminum tins. They’re working in small groups and have been practicing cooperation and teamwork.

New and exciting things are always happening! We’ve been collecting caterpillars throughout the summer and releasing them as they change into butterflies. We set a few free in the Children’s Garden with Miss Carmen this afternoon.

In a hike around Tollgate, campers investigated vernal pools, forest swamps and pond life. Campers made observations of the natural features they noticed and tried to identify factors that would make for a healthy pond. As they moved around the different environments of the farm, they took note of which are well protected and which are at risk from environmental, human, and animal impact.

A crayfish found in the creek near the waterfall.

Campers were Water Wizards. We learned a few magic tricks that all involved a common secret ingredient…water! In the Water Wizards activities, campers learned that their tricks weren’t actually magic but they were able to perform them because of the properties of water.

Station 1: Crawling Up – We explored capillarity of water and the properties of adhesion. Two jars were placed side-by-side, only one was filled with water. When each end of a strip of paper towel was placed in each jar, campers watched as the water “crawled” up the paper towel and into the empty jar.

Station 2: To the Brim – Campers discovered the concept of surface tension. After filling a cup to the brim with water, campers were asked to predict how many pennies could be added to the cup before the water spill over. The group shown below was able to add 27 pennies before their water spilled over. Campers were shocked!

Station 3: Sink or Float? – At this station, campers explored the concept of buoyancy of water. As EduLeaders presented several objects of varying shape, size and makeup, camper were asked to predict whether they thought each would sink or float. We found out that an object floats when the buoyant forces of water directly beneath it are greater than its own weight.

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Advanced Eco-Challenge: Part 3

Advanced Eco-Challenge Week has come to an end! We had the farm to ourselves as the younger campers were on a field trip. Campers started the morning with flag ceremony and reciting the 4-H Pledge. They finished work on their Remote Control Vehicles and tested them in the water. When they took them to the pond, they were shocked by how challenging it was just to move them in and out of hula hoops.


Our group ended the day by sharing their work with the rest of the Tollgate campers at the Closing Celebration. We hope that campers enjoyed Advanced Eco-Challenge Camp!

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Water Camp: Monday

Welcome to Day 1 of Splish Splash Water Week! This week we will dive into the world of the pond to investigate the animals, bugs, and plants that call it home. Our campers will take part in fishing, canoeing, and pond dipping for macro-invertebrates. Additionally, we’ll learn about water conservation and water ecology. What happens to the rain that falls on MSU Tollgate Farm? How do the plants and animals impact our water? We will have to wait and see!

Animal Chores take place daily. Today, our Orange Peppers cared for the chickens. They went over a few safety procedures with Mr. Julian before entering the coop. Campers provided food and water for the chickens and collected eggs that had been laid. The eggs we collect are available for purchase in the large cooler next to the Activity Center!

Campers tried out some new designs during Tie Dye this week! We’re working on different methods to help our shirts stay vibrant and colorful. Typically, our staff washes the shirts prior to sending them home. This week, we’ve let the shirts dry in the sun and will send them home on Thursday. We recommend washing in cold water so they’re ready to be worn for Closing Celebration on Friday.

What happens when in rains at Tollgate? How much rain water is impacting our gardens? These are questions that we started to answer today during Garden Time. Pepper Groups used recycled plastic bottles to make rain gauges. We learned that rain gauges need to be able to hold the water, have a form of measurement (we measured and labeled the sides in inches), and be placed in an area that the rain would land. We’re expecting some rain this week so we’ll check back on our water levels during our visits to the garden.

During the morning visit to Garden Kitchen, campers made a Blackberry Mango Breakfast Shake. It was refreshing, filling and helped energize us for the rest of the day!

Blackberry Mango Breakfast Shake

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup mango juice
  • ¾ cup (one third of a standard block) silken tofu
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ cups frozen blackberries

Place ingredients in blender, juices first, and blend until smooth.

Our afternoon recipe was sent home on the recipe card today. It’s listed below as well!

Asparagus Rafts

  • 16 thick asparagus spears
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Heat grill or stovetop grill pan over medium high heat. Cut or snap off tough ends of asparagus and halve. Skewer 3-4 asparagus spears along the top and bottom. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic. Brush on asparagus rafts. Grill for about three minutes on each side or until crisp and tender. Top with sesame seeds.

We love having Wagon Rides on Monday so that our new campers get to see more of the camp! In addition to the usual nature sightings, a few groups spotted turkeys and foxes during their ride. This led to a conversation among some Yellow Peppers about the strength of different species (foxes and wolves) and which one would win in a battle. One camper thought they might have seen the elusive Bigfoot! We weren’t able to capture any pictures, so we’ll have to keep looking.

Our STEAM activity for the week is Boat Building. Campers will plan and design different models throughout the week to see what works best. During the first day, we saw some groups choosing to use natural materials to build their boats. They worked near the waterfall and stream so that they could test their boats as they worked.

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Eco-Warriors Camp: Friday

Our Eco-Warriors ended the week with a field trip! It’s not often that our campers leave Tollgate during the week, but we had the opportunity visit Woodland Meadows Landfill and the RRRASOC Materials Recovery Facility.

Once campers were loaded onto the bus, they were off for the entire day! Both facilities offered campers a chance to see what happens to our trash and what can be done with our recycling. Seeing such massive amounts of garbage helped us to better understand the importance of reducing when it comes to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Shortly after returning to Tollgate, campers gathered in the pavilion for popsicles and our closing celebration. All of the groups stood together to perform their Recycling Rap. This was followed by a presentation from the Advanced Campers. They showed the remote control vehicles they’ve been working on and let some of the younger campers try them out!

Thanks for visiting with us this week. Have a wonderful summer!

For more pictures from the Eco-Warriors camp, follow the link:

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