University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Hands-On Learning Fair celebrates 22 years April 20

The Hands-On Learning Fair is the largest annual festival of early learning in the region and this year will feature 50 exciting learning activities for children ages birth to age seven and their families. The event will take place at the Purpur Arena on Saturday, April 20, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Hands-On Learning Fair is a free family event to observe April as the Month of the Young Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Centered on the theme, Early Years Are Learning Years, children and their families will have the opportunity to engage in many learning experiences together including art, science, language, math, sensory exploration, building, music, and safety skills. There is also an infant and toddler area designed for the very young to interact with their parents. Emphasis is on active involvement in the learning process, as children are playing, guided by adults. A common misconception is that children’s minds are blank slates that need to be filled with information by adults. In reality, children are equal partners in learning, acting on their inborn curiosity and motivation to explore, discover and understand their world. The young child’s brain becomes organized through active play experiences, creating the capacity to acquire complex skills and knowledge.

The Hands-On Learning Fair is sponsored by the Northeast Chapter of the North Dakota Association for the Education of Young Children (NENDAEYC) and Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota. Its purposes include:

To provide an exciting way for children ages birth to seven and their families in the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks area to mark this special month.
To underscore the importance of parent involvement to healthy development and optimal early learning in children.
To create awareness of learning as a process that begins at birth and continues lifelong, with the most rapid brain development occurring during early childhood.
To highlight the nature of appropriate early education as hands-on, or experiential, building on children's inborn curiosity and motivation to understand their world.

Local early childhood programs, including the University Children’s Center, and many other entities involved in early education and development provide the learning activities. These professionals plan and carry out the educational experiences on a voluntary basis, applying the same commitment and expertise with which they engage in their regular early care and education responsibilities.

Community partners for this year’s Hands-On Learning Fair are UND Early Childhood Education Program, UND Department of Social Work, Tri-Valley Child Care Resource & Referral, Healthy Families, Northland Community & Technical College Early Childhood Program, Valley Community Health Centers, Grand Forks County Social Services, Early Head Start, Safe Kids Grand Forks, and North Dakota Child Care Resource & Referral. Many area businesses, institutions, and individuals donate goods and services for the celebration. These include the Grand Forks Park District, UND, Altru, Grand Forks Air Force Base, retail businesses, and service clubs. Their support and the hundreds of hours contributed by early childhood educators have helped to achieve over two decades of success for this family event and keep it free of charge.

For further information contact:
Judy Milavetz, 775-4473,
Dawnita Nilles, 741-5539,
Barb Kramer, 777-4971,

A brief audiovisual presentation about the Hands-On Learning Fair is available at