It was another wonderful day of wild winter camp at Tollgate Farm. Today was filled with sunshine and lots of discovery as campers wondered just what plants do in the winter.
We began our day with the 4-H pledge and a gathering activity looking at different types of dried seeds from our gardens. Campers used “I notice…” and “I wonder…” statements to brainstorm about the seeds and their functions. After our gathering we split up into our three pepper groups and began our morning activities.
We once again visited our animal friends, continuing our responsibility of caring for the farm animals. Campers made sure everyone had the right amount of food, fresh water, and even found a few eggs in the coop. Everyone’s favorite seemed to be visiting the hens keeping warm in the animal barn.
In garden kitchen, campers enjoyed fruit leather prepared on Monday using fresh strawberries, blueberries, and apples. After being dehydrated last night, the fruit leather was ready for our morning snack. Campers also got to enjoy the contrast of our fruit leather with some fresh fruit including mango! We then worked hard grinding our own corn into cornmeal for our afternoon snack of cornbread. We quickly learned that grinding corn is a lot of work and often requires a few trips through the grinder before we get a fine enough product. One camper declared, “This is why we have machines that do this!”
Along with garden kitchen, our campers revisited their cardboard sled STEM project. Using what they learned from their experiences the previous day, they improved and modified their design. We all enjoyed investigating physics concepts of weight, force, speed, and kinetic energy, as we happily sped downhill in the bright sunshine.
After sledding and garden kitchen, we came back together to explore seeds. We first brainstormed the different ways seeds can be spread by plants, highlighting the seven Fs of seed dispersal (fly, float, fling, fire, fur/feathers, feces, and fruit). Campers then acted out the role of a seed, slowly emerging from their seed coat, sending their root down into the ground and sending their shoot up into the sky to capture the bright sunshine to create food within. Each camper then dissected a bean seed, carefully removing the seed coat to reveal the radicle (the beginning of the root), plumule (the beginning of the shoot), and the cotyledon (the food storage). We used microscopes to peer into our beans and see these structures up close.
After lunch, we once again explored the serene Tollgate forest, looking this time for seeds. Along the way we saw even more tracks and animals signs that campers eagerly pointed out. All three pepper groups checked their track traps, but alas, only the yellow peppers saw signs of an animal taking the bait. Along the way, the groups visited our newly minted Red Pepper Hill and Yellow Pepper Bridge.
A quick warm-up stop at the greenhouse allowed us to visit with botanists carrying out research right before our very eyes. Lush green plants and warm moist air helped us feel the role of the sun’s energy in growing. With plenty of bright sunshine, it wasn’t hard to think spring as we did a little seed-starting with a season-extending technique called winter sowing. They created their very own mini-greenhouse in which they planted herbs or veggies. Also in preparation for the growing season, campers created seed tapes to save and plant outdoors in their gardens come spring.
As the day came to a close, our campers enjoyed one last ride down the hill on their cardboard sleds. We hope our 2 day campers left the farm with new friends and good memories. We’ll certainly miss our new and returning camper friends, and we eagerly look forward to spring break and summer season ahead.