Animal Camp: Day 1

Welcome to Animal Camp at MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center! We are thrilled to spend the week learning all about animals with your camper!

This blog is a tool for family and friends to stay up to date on the activities and learning that goes on at camp each day. There will be a post each day with photos and explanations of what we accomplish, and parents are encouraged to use the blog prompts to start conversations about the camp day. A crucial part of experiential learning is reflection, and your involvement at home will help solidify the lessons that we’re teaching here at camp.

The campers are divided into four “pepper groups” that are each led by one Education Leader and a few teen Stewards. The Green Peppers are led by Ms. Mandy, the Yellow Peppers are led by Ms. Erika, the Orange Peppers are led by Ms. Nicole, and the Red Peppers are led by Ms. Jenny. Click over to our 2015 Summer Staff page to learn more about our camp leaders!

We begin each day of camp with a flag ceremony and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and 4-H Pledge.

MSU Tollgate is a working farm, which means there are lots of chores and maintenance needed to keep everything running smoothly. Campers are responsible for taking care of our farm animals each morning, and there is a lot to do! We have dairy goats, cattle, chickens, ducks, a rabbit, and a goose, and all of them need fresh food and water every day. The Green Peppers took care of the ducks, the Yellow Peppers cared for the chickens, the Orange Peppers milked our Toggenburg goat Isabella, and the Red Peppers fed the goat kids, the cows, and the rabbit.


Red Peppers feeding Jackson, one of our three goat kids.


Orange Peppers milking Isabella, one of our Toggenburg dairy goats.


Milking Isabella!


Red Peppers introducing themselves to our rabbit, Alice.


Yellow Peppers gather eggs and take care of the chickens with Ms. Erika.

We took a wagon ride to look for animals around the farm and play some introduction games. Campers spotted birdhouses and lots of birds!


Orange Peppers play a name game to introduce themselves.


Orange and Red Peppers play with a parachute!

During Garden Kitchen this morning, we talked about proper handwashing techniques. Then we sampled different flavors that Ms. Pam cooked up for us. Butter and salt, brown sugar, maple syrup–they were all delicious!


Orange Peppers enjoying their popcorn flavors!


Orange Peppers serving themselves a mystery popcorn flavor.

This afternoon, we went on a bird hike to scout out nests, feathers, and other signs of birds. Campers used an iPad app to simulate bird songs and tried to identify the birds they found based on their appearance and their calls. Ask your camper what kinds of birds they saw on their hike!


Orange Peppers on their bird hike.


An Orange Pepper gets a little help to check a nest.


Red Peppers listening to bird calls.

We introduced chickens today. Just like dogs and cats, there are many breeds of chickens, and we discussed how you can thell the difference between breeds. Some chickens lay brown eggs, some lay white eggs, and some even lay green eggs–it all depends on the breed of chicken. We also talked about the anatomy of a chicken as well as their diet, predators, and many other features. See what you camper can tell you about our feathered friends!

Red Peppers hanging out with a chicken.

Red Peppers hanging out with a chicken.

Campers helped Ms. Pam make granola this afternoon in Garden Kitchen, and it smelled amazing!


Green Peppers learn about measuring out ingredients with Ms. Pam.

Green Peppers take turns stirring their granola.

Green Peppers take turns stirring their granola.


Yellow Peppers chopping vegetables for soup tomorrow.

Green Peppers show off the carrots they pulled in the garden with Ms. Pam.

Green Peppers show off the carrots they pulled in the garden with Ms. Pam.

As part of our camp curriculum, we work on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project every day for the duration of the week. The campers have been tasked with designing their own fantastical creature and building it our of playdough. Today, we talked about teeth, their functions, and what kind of teeth the campers were going to have on their creature. Ask your camper what their creature looks like so far!


Green Peppers working on their creatures!


Green Peppers brainstorm together.


A Yellow Pepper sketches her creature before delving into the playdough.


Yellow Peppers read animal stories to gather inspiration for their creature.

Thank you for allowing us to work with your camper this week. We look forward to learning and growing together, all while exploring the world around us. We appreciate the opportunity to spend each day teaching youth in such a beautiful setting, and it’s all made possible by you. Thank you!


Green Peppers cool off in between activities.



2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups Corn Chex cereal
Cooking spray
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line one large rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the rolled grains and/or oats, nuts, and seeds. Don’t add the fruit yet! You’ll add that after you’ve baked the granola. (The dried fruit is added after it’s baked).
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the honey, syrup, or brown sugar (or a combination), butter, and vegetable oil, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and ingredients are fairly well combined. Add the cinnamon, pinch of salt, and/or vanilla extract if using.
  4. Pour the honey/butter/oil mixture over the grain/nut/seed mixture, and toss until evenly coated.
  5. Spread granola on cookie sheets and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola turns golden brown.
  6. Let cool, then toss in the dried fruit.


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