Survival Camp: Day 1

Welcome to MSU Tollgate’s Survival Camp! Our staff has gotten great vibes from the campers today, and we’re sure this is going to be a fantastic week!

This blog is intended to help parents, family, and friends keep up with everything that we do at camp throughout the week. You’ll find photos and explanations of all of the activities, as well as prompts to initiate conversations with your camper about their day and what they learned. Be sure to check back every day for a new post!

Each week, we have four groups of campers, divided by age and led by one of our Education Leaders: the Red Peppers with Ms. Jenny, the Orange Peppers with Ms. Nicole, the Yellow Peppers with Ms. Erika, and the Green Peppers with Ms. Mandy. Each Education Leader is supported by at least one teen Steward and/or a Steward-in-Training. These teens volunteer their time to help everything run smoothly, and are an essential part of our camp team.

We begin each morning with a flag ceremony and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H Pledge. Ask your camper to repeat them for you!

MSU Tollgate is a working farm, and that means that we have lots of chores to do each day to keep it running smoothly. Our campers take time each morning to care for our animals, which is a big undertaking! We have one rabbit, two young cattle, one milking goat, three goat kids, five ducks, one goose, countless chickens, and much more. All of the animals need food and fresh water every day, and it is up to our campers to provide for their needs.

The Yellow Peppers bottle feed our three goat kids.

The Yellow Peppers bottle feed our three goat kids.

The Orange Peppers meet our steers, Otis and Oliver.

The Orange Peppers meet our steers, Otis and Oliver.

The Orange Peppers fed the steers their daily ration of grain.

The Orange Peppers fed the steers their daily ration of grain.

We have two sessions of Garden Kitchen each day, and this morning Ms. Pam provided fresh watermelon and a guided walk through the garden. We will be harvesting fruits and vegetables throughout the week and using those ingredients in our recipes. Today’s garden walk was just a brief introduction to the world of growing vegetables!

Red Peppers explore the garden and talk about strawberries with Ms. Pam.

Red Peppers explore the garden and talk about strawberries with Ms. Pam.

We went on a hayride around the farm and played some introduction games to get everyone acquainted with each other. The Red and Orange Peppers traveled together and the Green and Yellow Peppers rode together. We learned about the difference between hay and straw (hay is green and is fed to animals; straw is yellow or golden and used as bedding) and got an awesome tour of the MSU Tollgate property. The threat of rain cut the wagon ride a little shorter than we originally planned, but we still had a great time!

The Red and Orange Peppers on their way back from their wagon ride.

The Red and Orange Peppers on their way back from their wagon ride.

Orange Peppers play an introduction/memory game.

Orange Peppers play an introduction/memory game.

This afternoon, we went on a scavenger hunt and followed clues to different locations. We visited the Children’s Garden, the 4-H Club’s hoophouse, the garden, and many other sites around the farm. It took a great deal of teamwork to put all of the clues together, and our campers did an awesome job helping each other out.


The Yellow Peppers explore the arboretum during their scavenger hike.


Yellow Peppers spot a frog in the Children’s Garden pond!

We introduced the Essentials for Survival and talked about the various uses for each tool or item. The backpack contained a whistle, a bandana, a rain poncho/jacket, a length of rope, a first aid kit, sunblock, a multitool, jerky, sunglasses, a headlamp, trash bags, matches, and more. Ask your camper what each item might be used for!


Red Peppers discussing the many uses of each item in their Survival Essentials pack.


Orange Peppers tying their pack in a tree to keep the contents away from animals (especially bears).


The Orange Peppers wanted to test their bear-proof design…


…and had a “bear” attack the camp!

The Garden Kitchen recipe for this afternoon received rave reviews from the campers! Ms. Pam helped them make Chocolate Cherry Crunch. Honey, brown sugar, oats, dried cranberries, chocolate…it’s no wonder the campers loved it! The full recipe can be found at the end of this post.

Green Peppers mixing up their Chocolate Cherry Crunch.

Green Peppers mixing up their Chocolate Cherry Crunch.

As part of our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activity, we started learning about building shelters in the wilderness. This is a week-long project that campers will improve upon each day. We started out with trash bags, a rain poncho, duct tape, and some rope. As the week progresses, we hope to see the campers’ shelters get most sturdy and advanced.


Green Peppers showing off their shelter!


Green Peppers huddled in their shelter.


Yellow Peppers building their shelter using a tree.


Yellow Peppers using teamwork to construct a shelter.

We all survived Day 1 of Survival Camp! We look forward to the learning and friendships that will develop throughout the rest of the week, and we thank you for sharing your camper with us!

Chocolate Cherry Crunch


Cooking spray
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup crispy wheat cereal squares
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional – we did not use nuts at camp due to allergies)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 300°.
  2. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Coat parchment with cooking spray.
  3. Combine oats and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine honey and canola oil in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat 2 minutes or until warm. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and chocolate, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Gently stir chocolate mixture into oat mixture.
  4. Spread chocolate mixture onto prepared pan. Bake at 300° for 28 minutes, stirring twice. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Stir in cranberries. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


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