School and Community Programs

Give to MSU Tollgate Farm Educational Programs

Children and adults who feel connected to the natural world and who understand where their food comes from provide a foundation for a more sustainable future. Your support helps provide resources to transform education and inspire a new generation of caring stewards. Gifts of all amounts are deeply appreciated.

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COVID-19 Update: MSU Tollgate Farm remains focused on the health and well-being of its participants, volunteers and employees. Michigan State University has made the decision to cancel or postpone all adult and youth activities until September 1st. There is nothing we love more than sharing the farm with each one of you. However, providing a safe place for social, emotional, and physical growth is paramount, and in person programs for schools and community groups have been suspended at this time.

We're interested in feedback from teachers and school leaders regarding how we can support your teaching goals during during this time of remote teaching and this coming fall. Please take a few moments to fill out this teacher needs survey. We are happy to meet with you and your teaching team to design meaningful virtual remote learning series for your science units. See The Pollinator Project. 

Tollgate offers place-based educational opportunities to schools, organizations, and community groups in an inquiry-based, experiential farm setting. Tollgate programs promote conservation of natural resources and food system awareness through exploring the sustainable, nutritional, and cultural aspects of agriculture. Experiential learner-centered journeys are listed below. Every farm visit includes authentic hands-on interactive learning.

To place a reservation for a school or community program, please fill out this reservation request form.  Contact Ellen Koehler with questions at koehle43@msu.edu or call (248) 347-0269 ext. 227 or (248)701-9956.

Aligned with literacy, math, and Next Generation Science Standards, programs for schools provide students with the opportunity to use science and engineering practices to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of science on their daily lives. Students explore the farm while making important connections to concepts learned in the classroom.

Grade levels are suggested per program, but programs can be adapted for any age. For schools who wish to dig deeper, our Collaborating Classrooms model offers valuable options where the school to farm visit is complemented with virtual classroom visits, guided data collection and analysis, and an action service learning project. Teachers who choose these options meet with our education team to tailor their collaboration to provide students with extended interactions with MSU staff. 

 

What to expect with an MSU Extension Tollgate Farm Visit:

  • 2 - 4 hour farm visit
  • Seasonal outdoor program with driving questions
  • Inquiry-based, hands-on learning
  • Collaboration with MSU Tollgate staff to connect to classroom learning
  • Lunch area available in the outdoor pavilion or historic 19th century barn
  • 30 minute self-guided hikes available after field trip
  • Financial aid process available 

How to prepare for a Tollgate Farm visit:

  • Fill out this reservation request form and email koehle43@msu.edu to notify us.
  • Divide your total number into smaller groups.
  • Bring lunches to enjoy before or after your program.
  • Dress in layers for the weather. We will be outdoors for the duration of the program.
  • Have name tags for your students. 

At a typical farm visit, your group will:

  • Arrive fifteen minutes before your program.
  • Place lunches in barn upon arrival.
  • Participate in large group orientation. 
  • Divide into smaller groups.
  • Rotate through (4-5) 25-35 minute rotations led by educational leader.
  • Wash hands before snack and lunch.

Payment: Please provide final head count and payment two weeks prior to your program. We accept checks made payable to Michigan State University or payment by Cashnet. Please no cash.

Financial Aid for Educational Programs

Tollgate strives to provide opportunities for youth and adults of all income levels and welcomes a broad cross-section of participants to experience farm-based experiential learning. The goal of the Tollgate financial aid process is to provide as many youth and adults as possible with the opportunity to enrich learning and broaden their experiences. Funding is limited and applications are reviewed based on the needs of the participants, potential impact on their learning, cost of the program, and potential for meaningful collaboration.

To learn more about how to apply for financial aid, visit the Tollgate financial aid webpage.

A Year of Seasonal Farm Visits for Schools and Community Groups

Programs $ 12/per participant

Contact 248-347-0269 X227 or koehle43@anr.msu.edu

Harvest Farm Ecology (Grades K - 5) Late September - Early November

Designed to allow participants to experience and explore the sustainability of the farm environment and how we as humans interact with the farm. We explore the essential question of how animals and plants prepare for winter in this harvest-themed learning adventure. This inquiry-based program is interactive and takes students on an exciting tour of the farm. Take a wagon ride to pick a pumpkin at the patch, visit the orchard  to explore apple life cycle and the science of tasting, press apples into cider and enjoy a harvest snack with cider, and engage with the farm animals to learn how they prepare to cope with the coming cold. 

Trees, Trees, Trees (Kindergarten) September - October

How do trees survive and grow on the farm? What is something you observe that all trees have? What do some trees have and others don’t? How are trees different from other plants and how are they the same? How do trees compete with other trees for sun, water, nutrients to meet their essential needs? Observe and explore these and many more phenomena as you investigate the world of trees in the forest, orchard, and arboretum on the farm. Aligned with Kindergarten Next Generation Science Standards, this program allows students experiential learning at its best!  

Weather and Animal Adaptations (1st Grade) September through early November

What is the connection between weather and how animals (including humans) use resources to survive? Engage with our farm animals in the fall and learn how animals use their internal and external parts to survive. Explore animal adaptations and how they use the world around them to survive while taking an exiting tour of the farm. Help care for the farm animals while you observe animal body coverings and how they help the animal cope with the coming cold. Make and use weather instruments to collect weather data on the farm and compare with measurements taking in your schoolyard.

Water and Land: The Connection (2nd Grade) September through October

What shapes the earth? What role do humans play? What are some nonliving parts of the environment that you’ve seen before? Which of these exist in Michigan, and specifically on the farm? Students will study geological features of the land, investigate soil types, engineer their own erosion barriers, discover what a riparian buffer zone is, and participate in a watershed demonstration. How can we have an impact on the movement of the land?Students will use this knowledge of the nonliving parts of this earth and apply it to uncover how they are connected to the living things in an ecosystem. 

Insect Investigations (2nd Grade) Fall/Spring

What role do insects play in an ecosystem? Insects are very unique organisms with fascinating life cycles. There is a great diversity of insects that can be found within ecosystems, and they are an integral part of the food web. Although insects are typically pretty small, they certainly play a big role in the world.

Ecosystems Explorations (3rd Grade) September - October, April - early June

Join us for an adventure to solve a mystery of what internal mechanisms and external behaviors living things carry out in order to aid their survival in a complex and ever-changing environment. How are the plants and animals we see on the farm alike and how are they different? What roles do they play in their ecosystem and how is everything connected? How do the lifestyles of organisms change from season to season and how might this impact the other members of their ecosystem? Visit the fields for a simulation about birds and migration, observe and interact with herd and flock animals at the pond and barn, investigate plant competition, and look up close and personal at the pumpkin and its ecosystem. 

The Journey of Water and Beyond (Grades 3 - 8) September through October, April through June

The secret is out! Every water molecule is on an incredible journey. MSU Extension Tollgate Farm and Education Center has its science educators on standby to explore with your students the water cycle, water conservation, and watersheds to take your water understanding to the next level. Set up a scientific field excursion at Tollgate Farm and investigate how important water is to human life and, because of agriculture, how important it is to plant life. But what about the earth in general? How important is water to the ecological balance of the earth? What role does it play and what would happen if we were to lose it or it didn't exist?

Winter on the Farm and the Mystery of Energy (4th - 6th Grade) Late January through February

Baby, it's cold outside, and we're investigating the phenomena of the transfer of energy in the winter farm setting. Traverse the farm as we investigate how animals on the farm cope with cold, collect and graph data during a hands-on insulation investigation, visit the greenhouse to experience first hand the impact of heat and light energy on growing plants, and test the transfer of heat energy while making a delicious treat. Suitable for 4th - 6th grades, this program aligns with Michigan performance expectations as students search the farm for signs of how energy is conserved, transferred, and used in times of cold, all while having fun and experiencing winter at Tollgate Farm! 

The Science and History of Maple Sugaring (K-8th Grade) Late February through March

Bundle up and join us in the sugar bush during this hands-on program that investigates one of nature's sweetest treats. From tapping to tools to tasting, discover one of Michigan's best treasures. Experience:

  • Tools through time as we explore the history of maple sugaring throughout the eras
  • A wagon ride to explore the sugar bush, the science of sap, and how to tap a maple
  • The operational sugar shack as we investigate the science involved in making syrup
  • Concepts involving sugar and steam first hand with sap, syrup, and sugar tastings

Embryology (1st Grade) April - early June

How does a chicken grow from an egg to a chick to a chicken? How are the adult and young chickens alike but different? How does a chick use its external parts to survive, grow, meet their needs? Why do parents and offspring behave as they do? Explore these and other concepts as students engage with various stages of the chicken's life cycle.  Students investigate how animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs as well as how behaviors of parents and offspring help the offspring survive. Participants will learn about the purposes of chickens on the farm and in the community and they connections between the egg and its source. Designed to align with Next Generation Science Standards, 1st Graders will use science and  engineering practices to engage in real world dilemmas and solutions.

From Sheep to Sweater (K - 8th) Mid-April - May

Do "ewe" know how sheep stay cool in the summer with their wool coats?  In this hands-on program, students will unravel the mysteries of wool yarn by stepping into the process: sheep, card, and drop spindle!  Learn how sheep have influenced much more than your winter scarfs and socks. Each participant takes home a product. 

Spring into Farming Field Trips (Pre-K - 8) April through early June

Spring into Farming: Baby Animals: Pre-K
Meet the Tollgate farm animals; explore animal coverings, purposes, life cycles, and vocabulary; and experience the farm through discovery-based sensory learning.

Spring into Farming: Nutrient Trail: Grades K-8
Explore springtime on the farm and choose from the following: garden, pond study, chickens and embryology, goats, compost/vermi-compost, wagon as you travel down the 'nutrient trail' and explore the big question - how are all the creatures and plants on the farm connected? Experience the transfer of matter and energy as you question, hypothesize, analyze data, conclude and question again. Close the nutrient loop of producers to consumers to decomposers.  

Spring into Farming: Plants and Their Partners - Structure and Function (1st - 2nd)

How do plants depend on their parts and on other living things to help them survive? Students explore plant structure and function and what plants need to grow. Visiting the garden, greenhouse, orchard, pond area, and animal barn, students will investigate how plants depend on animals and insects for pollination and seed dispersal as we look at the interdependence of living things on the farm. Students will question, hypothesize, experiment, analyze data, conclude and question again as they experience hands-on lab activities.

Spring info Farming: Plant and Their Parents- Heredity and Traits (3rd - 5th) 

How are plants and animals alike and different from their parents?  What do plants and animals need to survive? Organisms, such as plants and animals, have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death. These organisms also have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.  These traits can be influenced by the environment.  Variations in traits can provide advantages in survival and mating.  Some organisms survive better in a particular environment and not at all in other environments.

The Pollinator Project Virtual Series (Elementary)

What are pollinators, and why are they important to us? How can we help pollinators? The MSU Tollgate Farm Pollinator Project uses inquiry learning to explore the importance of pollinators in our world and how we can help them. The Pollinator Project is a place-based learning extension of a farm visit called Plants and Their Partners which focuses on an action planting project and the interdependence of plants and animals including plants, pollinators, and pollination. 

To request a school or community program, please fill out this reservation form.

Financial Aid for Educational Programs

Tollgate strives to provide opportunities for youth and adults of all income levels and welcomes a broad cross-section of participants to experience farm-based experiential learning. The goal of the Tollgate financial aid process is to provide as many youth and adults as possible with the opportunity to enrich learning and broaden their experiences. Funding is limited and applications are reviewed based on the needs of the participants, potential impact on their learning, cost of the program, and potential for meaningful collaboration.

To learn more about how to apply for financial aid, visit the Tollgate financial aid webpage.

 

 

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