University Children’s Learning Center
Preschool Outdoor Classroom
Our Nature Explore Classroom, located at the University Children’s Learning Center on the campus of the University of North Dakota, continues to provide a multitude of learning experiences for the children, teachers, and preservice teachers who join us.
Though we spend as much time as we can outdoors throughout the year, our reality here in North Dakota is that much of our year is cold and frozen and buried under feet of snow! Thus, the warmer months are when we can really extend the learning that is happening in the classroom to the outside space. One of the main ways we do this is with the planning of our garden spaces.
As a center, we work together to plan and to plant, to care for, and lastly to harvest our crops. This year we connected with the community as we partnered with a program here at the University of North Dakota called GRO UND. They assisted us in trying crops in “gutter gardens” and provided us with some grow lights to help us start plants indoors. Not every new thing that we implemented this year worked, which led to opportunities to troubleshoot and rich conversations about what we could do differently next year. GRO UND invited us to visit their spaces and we took the entire center on a field trip to get even more ideas for the future of our gardens. The connections we made with the GRO UND program have not only opened our eyes to what we have available here on our campus but have made even more departments aware of our work and our mission.
Families were engaged in our gardening efforts through the donation of plants and seeds as well as through the excitement of their children as our gardens began to grow. Children were delighted and proud to bring home some of the literal fruits of their labor! Children engaged in heavy work as they hauled buckets and watering cans to water the garden boxes, created art with the natural items they found and measured themselves against the wildflower patches. Together we learned about bees and why they are important to our crops, and about worms and why they are important to our soil (as we gently placed them back where we found them!).