Check Out the Tollgate Camp Video!

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Outdoor Adventure Camp: Looking Forward to Another Summer of Exciting Wilderness Skill-Building Experiences

Campers at the 2021 Outdoor Adventure Camp had a blast learning wilderness survival skills and testing their limits on the rock wall, kayaking the Huron River, and tubing down the Argo Cascades. 12-14 year old campers at our Outdoor Adventure Survival Camp not only learned important survival skills like how to build a fire and how to signal for help in an emergency, they also bonded with fellow campers through team-building activities and skill building challenges.

Each day at camp was packed full of hands on activities to keep campers engaged and active. Camp started on Monday with an introduction into Leave No Trace Principles, a chance to try out the slack line, and demonstrations on how to make fruit leather and GORP. Campers also started on their shelter building STEM activity in the forest and continued to add to it all week. Tuesday campers got to go fishing, learn about the 10 essentials for survival, and made a solar oven to roast s’mores. On Wednesday, campers had the chance to learn to kayak on the Huron River in Ann Arbor and tube down the Argo Cascades. Finally on Thursday night, campers set up tents and spent the night at Tollgate Farm, learning about astronomy and cooking their dinner over an open fire. On Friday, campers showed off their shelters, performed skits to teach each other Leave No Trace Principles, and had popsicles and said good bye to new friends.

We cannot wait to see returning and new campers in summer 2022 for Outdoor Adventure Camp. Keep checking the MSU Tollgate Farm summer camp website for updates on registration! Got questions? Email Ellen Koehler at koehle43@msu.edu.

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Growing Kindness: The Edu-Garden Bee Kind Crew

As we wrap up a wonderful 2021 growing season for the Tollgate education garden, we want to recognize our edu-garden volunteers, each of whom tirelessly gave of their time and creativity to help create and care for a fun child-friendly garden space. The edu-garden beautifully bloomed in 2021 under the loving care of volunteers Kathy Begin, Dawn Snook, and Nancy Turner.

Tollgate educational programs incorporate plant science and practical aspects of growing food locally and sustainably. The gardens and grounds across the farm afford a living laboratory to discover, investigate, and explore the world of plants in hands-on ways.  The overarching goal for the education garden is for school children and campers to be actively engaged in the gardening process. Kids are allowed to investigate science phenomena; sow, weed, and water; and harvest and cook with the produce.  

The edu-garden cohort became fast friends as they helped provide new and ‘tried and true’ educational elements in the garden – plant scavenger hunts, student-made garden signs, experimental fall cover crop plots, investigation of good and bag bugs, a pizza garden, a tea garden, pollination, irrigation, and much more. During the pandemic, these dedicated volunteers. also known as the Bee Kind Crew, helped staff pivot our Plants and Their Partners program from an in-person to virtual program, incorporating themes of kindness to others, supporting pollinators, and growing food for others.  

The edu-garden continues to grow into a fun, inviting place for kids, where staff and volunteers sow, weed, water, and investigate alongside children. The edu-garden is an essential element of the overall education happening on the farm. Thank you does not begin to describe how grateful we are for all the hard work put in by our fabulous edu-garden volunteers. The small but mighty crew rolled up their sleeves to dig in the dirt and share their love of gardening with our young learners. 

We thank our edu-garden volunteers and are continually inspired by their generosity, commitment, and effort which have made this year in the edu-garden such a success. For more information or to join this amazing crew, email koehle43@msu.edu.

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2021 Summer Camp Reflection

It is the middle of September and all the summer camp activities of 2021 have now come to a close—giving us the opportunity and time to reflect about what an amazing summer it was. After over a year of virtual programming we were beyond grateful that 2021 in-person summer camp programs got approved. There were some changes from our past camps, however, regardless of these changes we came together, tried new things, and had an amazing time exploring, learning, and supporting each other!

Despite the challenges of this year’s camp season, we were able to host and fill 11 different camps- including 3 new themes! From catching an 8lb bass in Tollgate Pond to walking a goat through the forest—each week of camp was a new and exciting adventure thanks to you all!

Of course, we also couldn’t have done it without our “camp counselors” which because of the last-minute nature of the camp, was made up of all Tollgate Locals including the Farm Director, Camp Coordinator, Educational Coordinator, Assistant Educational Coordinator, Assistant Camp Coordinator, 4-H Program Coordinator, Horse Camp Coordinator, Garden Education Coordinator and more– all wearing many hats to get everything done.

This has been a summer to remember and we will forever cherish the wonderful memories and friendships that were made this past summer. We hope that your camper(s) will too!

We wouldn’t be MSU Tollgate Farm without all of you—Keep on exploring!

From all of us at MSU Tollgate Farm,  Thank you!

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MSU Tollgate Farm Steward Teen Leadership Program 2021

What is a Steward? A steward is a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something. This experience offers teens a chance to enrich, mentor, and lead campers while gaining valuable leadership and life skills. In a positive educational environment, teens experience the responsibilities associated with potential career paths before entering college. The Tollgate Camp Teen Steward (15-19 yrs) and Tollgate Steward-in-Training (13-14 yrs) positions are for teens interested in gaining experience working with campers in the farm setting. 

The Stewards-in-Training (SIT) program is the start of the progressive MSU Tollgate Teen Leadership Program. Stewards-in-Training are 13-14 years of age and must have the ability to commit to one full week of camp and no more than 4 weeks. SITs serve as role models for campers during activities.

The Stewards program is for teens 15-19 years of age as volunteer assistants to the educational leaders and role models for both SITs and campers. Stewards develop a deep understanding and knowledge of the farm and our educational camp program and develop skills which can be called upon as they move forward through their academic and work careers.

This camp season, we needed our SIT and Stewards more than ever to help us navigate camp in these unprecedented times. Not only did our SIT and Stewards come ready to support our limited staff and smaller camper groups, they stewarded campers through the camp many know and love after more than a year of interrupted school and changes in routines.

Each morning our Stewards and SITs came ready to help with camp chores to get everything set up to start the day. They then helped welcome our campers at our new check-in location and guided them throughout the day through their camp activities with their educational leader. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Stewards and SITs had their own team building and leadership activities where they explored what makes a strong team and how to be an effective leader. These activities and games are applicable to camp situations with their own campers but also to their own daily lives and future careers. After camp on Tuesdays, Stewards and SITs met with our camp staff to reflect on the highs and lows of their camp days and brainstorm ways to more effectively steward campers.

Outside of their camp weeks, Stewards and SITs were invited to our Mid-Summer Celebration to hear speakers, engage in team-building activities, eat, and celebrate all their accomplishments and growth. At the end of the camp season, our Stewards and SITs helped clean up from a busy camp season and celebrated the closing of camp with food, games, and paper plate awards. We highlight the strengths of these incredible teens and celebrated all over their growth over the season. We are incredibly grateful to these Stewards and SITs for their hard work, enthusiasm, and positive attitude that made MSU Tollgate Farm Summer Camp 2021 a year we will never forget! We look forward to seeing the next group of Stewards and SITs in Summer of 2022. Interested in this program for your teen or a friend or family member? Bookmark our webpage or check out facebook for updates and sign up dates this winter.

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Splish Splash Water Camp 2021:

Monday:

Happy Monday and happy Last week of summer camp this summer! Wild how quickly this summer is going by– I am not sure we are ready for it to end!

This beautiful Monday the Orange Peppers kicked off the day with flag ceremony. After flag ceremony we went down to the pavilion for the Stewards and Stewards in Training to lead us in our C.A.R.E.S. Contact skits.

After skits we headed out on a wagon ride around the farm! We saw quite a few deer out there! 

After it was time to head out to the garden. We learned about the importance of rain, why its important to track rain, how to use a rain gauges, etc.. We also were able to harvest some tomatoes for salsa later this week! 

After the garden it was time to do some animal chores! We also found a snack out in the goat pastures, the Yellow peppers had no fear. 

After chores it was time to do our tie dye for camp t shirt Friday and then off to lunch! 

After lunch we took a hike to the pond to learn about Riparian Buffers and their importance to water/animal/human heath. We read the story “Riparian’s River” and took a pond walk to see it in action. 

After that we learned about erosion and how we can prevent it on our farm. We created our own little rived edge bottles and watched how we could use rocks, plants, mulch to prevent erosion and loosing our soil. 

After we headed over to the pavilion to have snack and paint our “teams” flag. 

Last activity for today was talking about our STEAM project for the week: Boat Building. We will work on building our boats this week and then test them out on Friday. 

Great Monday Campers! See you all tomorrow! 


Tuesday:

Happy Tuesday! The Yellow Peppers kicked off the day with flag ceremony. 

After flag ceremony it was time to make some delicious Pony snacks for Sesame and Friday. We practiced our cutting and cooking skills and made them a delicious vegetable salad. As you can tell the ponies and humans loved it! 

After animal snacks it was time to head over to the Edu Garden to meet the Edu Garden Volunteers for a fun day in the garden doing various water activities. We made music with water, had a water balloon fight, and then made mini tornados in water bottles. After these fun activities we harvest some carrots of our afternoon snack and hung out in the mister to cool off! 

Then we headed over to the field to learn about how cities, houses, and farms use water and how we pollute the water. We learned that doing our best to use less water is the answer! 

Nest we headed over to the barn to do our animal chores. The green peppers got to milk a goat today! We learned about the importance of cleanliness and the uses of goats milk. 

After lunch we got building our boat. We have 3 days to make a functioning boat that we will test out on Friday. 

Then we headed out to the forest to build a waterproof shelter. We also talked about why a waterproof shelter would be important, different supplies you can use, and good and bad locations for shelters. 

The final activity of the day was playing water wizards. Water is a magical thing and has incredible powers. Its soft and easy to move and manipulate but can also be powerful and shapes our landscape everyday. Today we tested surface tension and talked about cohesion and adhesion. 

What a fun day! See you all tomorrow 🙂 


Wednesday:

Happy Wednesday! Today the green peppers led our flag ceremony and did a terrific job!

After flag it was time to rush over to canoeing! We learned the importance of being safe on canoes, how to paddle, what to do if you go over, and played some games in the water. It was a great day to explore the pond 🙂 

After canoeing we headed over to the creek and learned about beaver and human dams. We even got to make our own beaver dam and test it against water. The campers did great! 

Then we headed over to the barn to do our animal chores for the day. The Yellow peppers got to milk a goat today and it went the smoothest yet. It was exciting to see all the campers do such a good job milking Sage. 

After chores we did our last morning activity which was learning about the watershed. We created our own city and talked about where the water goes after it rains and what it might carry with it. The campers did a great job exploring watersheds and learning about how to keep them clean! 

After lunch we spent far too long trying to capture a run away chicken– Campers loved it.. but that darn chicken is too good! Maybe tomorrow with the net we can get her! Then we headed out to the forest to test our shelters against water. I think all the camper did amazing testing their shelters against the harsh rainy conditions. 

Then we headed over to the barn to continue building our boats. The campers boats are looking quite good! 

After boat building we headed over to the silo for snack and to read the Fishy Story. We had discussions on how we can do our part to prevents pollution. 

Then, casting practice! Tomorrow is fishing day so today we tested our skills on land and oh boy the fish better be nervous because we have some super star fishermen/woman this week! 

After casting practice we headed over to the forest to test our waterproof shelters. They worked quite great! 

Happy Wednesday! See you all tomorrow 🙂 


Thursday:

Happy Thursday! The orange peppers got to kick off the morning with leading flag ceremony. They did an amazing job!

After, we headed out to the pond to go fishing. The campers did an amazing job keeping sprirts up on this hot day. We caught a lot of fish! 

After fishing we learned about irrigation and designed our own gravity powered irrigation system. Leaks were a definite problem, however, the campers were up for the challenge and were excellent problem solvers! 

Then we headed over to the barn for the final day to build on our boats. Tomorrow we test ! 

Next we did our animal chores for the day. Today the orange peppers got to milk a goat! They did amazing! 

After lunch we headed out to the forest for a vernal pool hike. Vernal pools are awesome because they are seasonal pools of water that provide a habitat for distinctive animals! Although vernal pools are amazing, and we could enjoy them probably for an entire camp day, the mosquitoes were so bad so we ran in and ran out very quickly! 

Once we escaped the forest we headed over to the CSA fields to learn about irrigation from farmer Darby! From the rain from the sky to the reservoir to fire hoses were learned all about irrigation and how they use it to grow their vegetables. 

The final 2 activities were pond dipping where we explored the ponds edge and learned about the life it brings! Campers loved the crayfish hunt and the cooler temperature that the shade and water brought them! After the pond we enjoyed some fresh tollgate tomato, garlic and onion salsa!

Thanks for a great day, see you tomorrow for Slip n slide Friday! 


Friday!

Happy Friday! We started the morning with the green peppers hosting the final flag ceremny of the summer. Going to miss these mornings <3 

Todays schedule got a little mixed up and changed with the weather. Although we didn’t get too much rain, we did get a lot of thunder. We seeked shelter for about half the day and took the opportunity to hangout, play games, read books, completed some challenges and have fun! 

When the thunder was over we were able to have a great time outside testing our boats and hanging out on the slip n slide. What a great summer camp season! Looking forward to enjoy these memories for years to come. Thank you all! 

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