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MEDIA ADVISORY: Preschoolers to ‘get their hands dirty’ at GRO.UND Learning Gardens program

Children in the Grand Forks Head Start program will visit UND to plant seeds, sing songs and learn ‘love of the dirt’

“The garden is nature’s schoolyard,” the saying goes. And over the course of three days next week, over 70 Grand Forks-area children will explore a garden-based classroom right on the campus of UND. Children will participate in hands-on and interactive planting and growing activities, all from a nature-based learning approach.

Grand Forks Head Start preschoolers will take a field trip to explore a model classroom in the College of Education. Classroom 22 and the attached greenhouse was designed as an interactive and experiential learning space that brings garden-based learning inside for year-round exploration.

The children will visit UND from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. each day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3, 4 and 5. As mentioned, the visits will begin in Classroom 22 in the Education Building, which is located on the eastern side of UND’s central Quad.

The room features interactive displays that promote direct engagement with nature and give the preschoolers the chance to learn first-hand about the plant growing process.

During the fieldtrip, preschoolers will explore the dirt with magnifying glasses, feel the seeds with their fingers, and make predictions of what happens when seed meets dirt, all to support and encourage the children’s natural inquiry skills. To reinforce the learning on such an occasion, preschoolers wiggle their legs (growing roots), stretch their bodies (as strong stems) and shake their arms (as expanding leaves) while singing “The Plant Song,” which reinforces their earlier learning about parts of a plant.

“Gardens provide the perfect setting for all ages to learn about nature and how to protect it, while simultaneously developing their own relationship with the natural world,” said Joshua Hunter, associate professor at UND and co-director of the event’s sponsor, the GRO-UND Learning Gardens project.

Cheryl Hunter, associate professor at UND and co-director of the GRO.UND project, agreed. “A love for our planet and the protection of the living ground that sustains us must begin with our youngest learners,” she said.

“Our goal is to create multiple experiences of working in the ground to promote a love of the dirt, a sense of amazement of how things grow, and a deep appreciation that leads back to protecting our planet.”

The mission of GRO.UND (pronounced “grow UND”) Learning Gardens is to foster environmental and community values of stewardship, sustainability, engagement and responsibility through garden education. As part of that mission, GRO.UND also provides healthy and locally grown produce to increase food security in the UND community.

For more information about next week’s event and GRO.UND’s ongoing collaboration with Head Start, please contact Kenya Zarns, director of communications and outreach recruitment for the UND College of Education and Human Development, at 701.777.2862 or