Collaborating Classrooms and Tollgate School Partnerships

MSUE Tollgate continues to partner with area schools to provide students with innovative place-based inquiry learning experiences. Recently, Tollgate staff worked closely with the Novi Community Schools, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services R.J. Webber, Science Coordinator Emily Pohlonski, and kindergarten teaching teams from all five Novi Elementary Schools to tailor a program about trees that aligns with the Michigan Science Standards and the teaching goals of the teachers.

Also new this fall, Tollgate staff partnered with Farmington Schools Associate Superintendent Aaron Johnson, Principal Greg Smith, Science Coordinator Colleen Stamm, and the teachers from Lanigan Elementary so that every Lanigan student will visit Tollgate twice this school year for authentic learning in the living laboratory of Tollgate’s forest, fields, barns, and pond.

This fall, each Lanigan grade experienced a different program designed to inspire learning and to align with the new Michigan Science Standards. Built on the national Next Generation Science Standards and as found in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, the new standards emphasize not only what students are to know about science, but also what they are able to do with science.

Tollgate programs incorporate science and engineering practices that students should be able to demonstrate at various stages in their K-12 education. One important change in the science standards is an emphasis on integrating science content with application. By presenting students with real world challenges and guiding them through awareness, understanding, and action, children investigate phenomena, record and analyze data, make models, and draw inferences through their explorations in the natural world.

As shared in a report sponsored by the National Science Foundation, many strands of science learning take place in informal settings which result in positive outcomes for students. “For example, learners can experience excitement and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world. They can come to understand and use concepts and facts related to science. They can learn how scientists actually conduct their work using specialized tools and equipment. And they can develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science.”

Visits to Tollgate foster these outcomes and bridge multiple disciplines using crosscutting concepts to allow students to connect their farm experience with different aspects of their classroom learning and to deepen their understanding of core ideas observed in the farm environment.

Newly piloted Tollgate programs include Water and Land: The Connection, Ecosystems Explorations, and Weather and Animal Adaptations. One grade experienced the Collaborating Classrooms version of Weather and Animal Adaptations with a visit to the school by Tollgate educators to explore big ideas and driving questions. Students were commissioned to gather weather observations and data in their schoolyard and to develop and present a weather forecast.

Next, students took a field trip to the farm to explore animal interactions and weather investigations on site. Thirdly, Tollgate instructors created a virtual classroom, including video updates on weather data collection and live outdoor observations to explore connections between what’s happening in their schoolyard and on the farm.

As Tollgate Education Staff continues to collaborate with school leaders and teachers to develop innovative programming to inspire learning, we are privileged to witness wide-eyed discovery taking place through the vantage point of our young visitors. We look forward to extending learning throughout the school year through multiple interactions with the students. For more information about Tollgate school programming, contact us at koehle43@msu.edu.

National Research Council. 2009. Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/12190.

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Giving Tuesday – Help Support MSU Tollgate!

As a friend of MSU Tollgate, you know the wide variety of programming and educational opportunities our staff offers to the surrounding community. 

In partnership with Michigan State University’s Give Green Day on Tuesday, November 27th, we are asking you to consider supporting the MSU Tollgate Financial Aid Fund. The MSU Tollgate Financial Aid exists to support families, schools, or individuals who are experiencing financial hardships, but still wish to attend an MSU Tollgate program.

As you may be aware, many of the programming opportunities at MSU Tollgate are fee-based to support the employment of qualified instructors, education materials, and to care for farm livestock. In the past year, a substantial amount of students who visited the farm benefited from the MSU Tollgate financial aid fund. With your help, we can increase the amount of financial aid granted in order to provide a greater number of students access to agricultural-based educational opportunities.

Catherine Hamilton of Stevenson Elementary stated, “The program at Tollgate addresses the needs of our students. Many of our students are in need of cultural experiences outside the classroom. Our students need the opportunity to make real world connections to the content they learn about in school.” An elementary school teacher from Hazel Park Elementary expressed similar gratitude in saying, “We really appreciated the scholarship support which reduced our costs and enabled our students to attend.” Thanks to the scholarship fund, schools such as these are given the chance to partake in hands-on learning opportunities at Tollgate.

With this year’s Giving Tuesday Campaign, Tollgate is also eligible for some incredible bonus opportunities to have their donations matched or increased:

  • Two random donors will be selected every hour from gifts made during that hour – the allocation they supported will have $250 added in additional funding.
  • During certain periods throughout the day, all gifts will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $1,000 per donor.
  • The first $5,000 of donations from a current MSU student made during the 24 hours will be matched. This is the perfect opportunity for student supporters to double the impact of their gifts.

For more information on supporting the MSU Tollgate Financial Aid Fund, or to make a donation to help us meet our $2,500 goal, please visit our donation page. Please also consider sharing our fundraising initiative with your friends and family who have benefited from MSU Tollgate offerings.

Donate Here!

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Tollgate Volunteer Opportunities

There are many fun and friendly opportunities to contribute to Tollgate!
  • The Tollgate Garden Volunteers maintain the nearly 20 ornamental gardens on the farm.
  • The Tollgate Maple Syrup crew makes maple syrup every year, and does all the preparation and maintenance for sap collecting.
  • The Tollgate Educational Programming staff seek volunteers throughout the calendar year for school and community field trips at the farm.
  • We are also seeking adults interested in helping to care for the farm animals.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

For educational programming, contact: koehle43@msu.edu

For animal care, contact: simmo221@msu.edu

For all other opportunities, visit: Tollgate Volunteer Page

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Fall Farm Sprouts 2018 – Week #6 Wednesday PM

Hay is for horses! This week we shifted much of our focus to investigate how animals prepare for winter, in particular, our horses! We thought about the question, How do animals stay healthy and strong? Our horses rely on us, the people who are part of our farm community, to care for them. Just like us, horses need food, shelter, water, and rest. Farm Sprouts are learning important concepts through play and authentic experiences as part of our farm community. These concepts emerge quite naturally as children discover, wonder, and explore our environment. We are observing patterns as we note similarities and differences among our plants, animals, and each other. We take care to find what is common to build connections, while celebrating differences. Did you know horses can sleep standing up? We observed this happening with our pony Sesame, who found our grooming in the sun to be quite relaxing. Some us noticed horses can change the direction of their ears so they can hear what is both in front of and behind them. We noted their feet are much different than ours. We wonder how hooves help horses navigate the world? What if horses had feet instead? Encourage your children to ask questions like these! Questioning is a scientific thinking skill we are practicing and encouraging. What does it mean to ask a question? In comparison to telling a story?

Farm Sprouts voted for curry comb or saddle upon arrival. There was a lot of interest in both objects and we had the opportunity to learn more about each! They signed in by writing the first letter or full name in the sand of a horse arena. One welcome activity supported the continuation of an area of interest for Farm Sprouts: Why do leaves change color? Farm Sprouts could take a closer look at the leaf patterns in the leaves through various means of dissection. Another activity included utilizing map-making tools and horse stamps to continue our exploration of how mapping helps us.

To prepare to visit the horses, we counted each other and the number of horses we have at Tollgate (using a photo) in a variety of languages. This season, we have Farm Sprouts who speak Spanish, Lithuanian, Korean, Hindi, and Arabic. Other languages some of us are learning include Mandarin Chinese, German, and French. Over the past weeks, we’ve been practicing numbers, greetings, and the word for tree in a variety of languages. We learned the word for horse in Spanish by greeting our horse (¡Hola, caballo!) and some also learned the Korean word for horse (말 pronounced “mal”). We’ve shared plenty of giggles this season at all of the different ways our animals communicate with us. Thank you to our amazing families who have supporting us with learning the languages they speak in their homes!

We headed for the arena where we greeted Sesame and Friday, our ponies, and Ms. Nicole, our Animal Care Coordinator. Ms. Nicole is a horse expert, so we were very appreciative of her support with the program this week. She showed us the tools we can use to groom a horse, including a curry comb and body brush. We each had a turn to groom Sesame, before turning our attention to a variety of other tasks. We had imaginary horse play items available, including a saddle, stick horses, bandanas, and ropes. Farm Sprouts learned the difference between straw and hay and could explore these materials, along with oats, in the sensory table. We also had our tree cookies available for those who were ready to glue on nature discoveries we have gathered over the past weeks. Journals and mapping tools were available to document and map our thoughts, discoveries, or environment. We identified the shape of the arena, an oval, and the shape of the horse barn, a rectangle. Farm Sprouts also rode Friday. All Farm Sprouts were adventurous as they interacted and played among some of our biggest animals at the farm! We felt grateful that we work and go to school in such a special place and showed Friday our thanks for the ride with a special rub and a healthy treat, carrot peels from our snack and apples from the orchard.

We were now ready for and had earned a snack break of our own. We washed up our dirty hands and hiked down to the animal barn to munch a carrot, grown right here at Tollgate, and read to our rabbits. We read, Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a book that had us considering perspective, point of view, and open-mindedness. Those of us who rode a horse had earlier marveled at how the farm looked quite different from up in the saddle versus down in the sand. We greeted a few of our other animals as well before wrapping up a big day.

“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences.” – Loris Malaguzzi

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Fall Farm Sprouts 2018 – Week #6 Wednesday AM

Hay is for horses! This week we shifted much of our focus to investigate how animals prepare for winter, in particular, our horses! We thought about the question, How do animals stay healthy and strong? Our horses rely on us, the people who are part of our farm community, to care for them. Just like us, horses need food, shelter, water, and rest. Farm Sprouts are learning important concepts through play and authentic experiences as part of our farm community. These concepts emerge quite naturally as children discover, wonder, and explore our environment. We are observing patterns as we note similarities and differences among our plants, animals, and each other. We take care to find what is common to build connections, while celebrating differences. Did you know horses can sleep standing up? We observed this happening with our pony Sesame, who found our grooming in the sun to be quite relaxing. Some us noticed horses can change the direction of their ears so they can hear what is both in front of and behind them. We noted their feet are much different than ours. We wonder how hooves help horses navigate the world? What if horses had feet instead? Encourage your children to ask questions like these! Questioning is a scientific thinking skill we are practicing and encouraging. What does it mean to ask a question? In comparison to telling a story?

Farm Sprouts voted for curry comb or saddle upon arrival. There was a lot of interest in both objects and we had the opportunity to learn more about each! They signed in by writing the first letter or full name in the sand of a horse arena. One welcome activity supported the continuation of an area of interest for Farm Sprouts: Why do leaves change color? Farm Sprouts could take a closer look at the leaf patterns in the leaves through various means of dissection. Another activity included utilizing map-making tools and horse stamps to continue our exploration of how mapping helps us.

A construction crew was on site to work on our pond and dredged up a snapping turtle. He was relocated to the other side of the pond, away from the work. We had the opportunity to take a peak! It’s not every day a turtle gets to ride a gator. 🙂

To prepare to visit the horses, we counted each other and the number of horses we have at Tollgate (using a photo) in a variety of languages. This season, we have Farm Sprouts who speak Spanish, Lithuanian, Korean, Hindi, and Arabic. Other languages some of us are learning include Mandarin Chinese, German, and French. Over the past weeks, we’ve been practicing numbers, greetings, and the word for tree in a variety of languages. We learned the word for horse in Spanish by greeting our horse (¡Hola, caballo!) and some also learned the Korean word for horse (말 pronounced “mal”). We’ve shared plenty of giggles this season at all of the different ways our animals communicate with us. Thank you to our amazing families who have supporting us with learning the languages they speak in their homes!

We headed for the arena where we greeted Sesame and Friday, our ponies, and Ms. Nicole, our Animal Care Coordinator. Ms. Nicole is a horse expert, so we were very appreciative of her support with the program this week. She showed us the tools we can use to groom a horse, including a curry comb and body brush. We each had a turn to groom Sesame, before turning our attention to a variety of other tasks. We had imaginary horse play items available, including a saddle, stick horses, bandanas, and ropes. Farm Sprouts learned the difference between straw and hay and could explore these materials, along with oats, in the sensory table. We also had our tree cookies available for those who were ready to glue on nature discoveries we have gathered over the past weeks. Journals and mapping tools were available to document and map our thoughts, discoveries, or environment. We identified the shape of the arena, an oval, and the shape of the horse barn, a rectangle. Farm Sprouts also rode Friday. All Farm Sprouts were adventurous as they interacted and played among some of our biggest animals at the farm! We felt grateful that we work and go to school in such a special place and showed Friday our thanks for the ride with a special rub and a healthy treat, carrot peels from our snack and apples from the orchard.

We were now ready for and had earned a snack break of our own. We washed up our dirty hands and hiked down to the animal barn to munch a carrot, grown right here at Tollgate, and read to our rabbits. We read, Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a book that had us considering perspective, point of view, and open-mindedness. Those of us who rode a horse had earlier marveled at how the farm looked quite different from up in the saddle versus down in the sand. We greeted a few of our other animals as well before wrapping up a good day.

“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences.” – Loris Malaguzzi

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