A Fresno State political science student will never forget seeing how happy her daughter is when she gets dropped off and picked up from Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center.
The center, located in the Kremen Education Building, provides education and child care for Fresno State students who have children.
Danielle Patch, a political science major has brought her 4-year-old daughter Briana to the preschool since she transferred to Fresno State in fall of 2015.
Patch became aware of the program on campus from other friends, and she applied as early as she could.
“It’s an immense help being able to know that I can sign up for the classes that I need to take because I’ll have somebody to watch my daughter,” Patch said, “I don’t know I’d be able to go through school without having that resource.”
The program began years ago with the idea of “quality” child care. A large part of that quality comes from the environment in which the child is being placed.
“It’s possible to be a parent and truly succeed. These resources are there to help you so you can go to school,” said Chamroeun Yann, a masters teacher at the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center in the Kremen Education Building. “Just because children are in school or daycare doesn’t mean they’re OK, but a quality site makes a difference.”
Patch is glad that her daughter gets to learn things she will use in her everyday life as an adult.
“They really teach the kids stuff. It’s not just the boring ABCs and numbers. They really engage them,” Patch said, “It’s very interactive, and they get to learn about all different parts of life instead of just doing worksheets.”
Patch said that the teachers at the preschool play a large role in getting the kids up and motivated to learn. They join the kids in participating in the lessons and actively have conversations with them.
“The whole environment is very positive. I feel such a focus on learning and the kids instead of just a regular daycare where they’d just be sitting there playing with toys,” Patch said.
Knowing children can stay on campus while their parents learn brings peace of mind for some.
“The support we offer and knowing that they’re in good hands at a quality site gives them the opportunity to finish school and stay focused to study,” Yann said.
Patch highly recommends this resource to students who are struggling being both a full-time parent and student. She can now fully focus on her academics knowing her daughter is in good hands just across campus.
“You don’t always get to pick when the classes you need will be available so having someone to watch your kids when you know it’s quality care is really something they (students) should look into,” Patch said.
The university offers these sources at three different locations on campus – the Kremen School of Education and Human Development; Family & Food Sciences in the College Science Building; and near the dorms. Each location offers different classes accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The four main programs offered to students are infant and toddler programs, preschool classes and an afternoon dual-immersion class.
The classes are different from others around the community because they use the “Reggio Emilia” approach. This approach focuses on early education in which children are seen as the “protagonist.” The children are capable of questioning things and finding the answers with in-depth investigation.
“They are the ones working in small groups, finding the answers by themselves. As the teachers, we are the facilitators,” Yann said.
These classes also serve as a lab site for students on campus who are studying in the fields of education, child development and psychology. The facility has two-way mirrors to conduct observations of children and provides an opportunity for aspiring professionals to receive lab hours for their credentials.
“We’re mentoring the future teachers on how to be great facilitators and hopefully keep in mind that the idea of projects that go off a child’s interest will build a better curriculum,” Yann said.
They also offer a family resource room where university students can study and print out assignments without having to be far from their children.
Yann said parents come back and tell the teachers how much more mature their children are in elementary school after being in their classes.
“They really have the opportunity to problem solve but build relationships with other peers and think outside the box,” Yann said.
These classes are also “full inclusion” classes, meaning that they partner with Fresno Unified School District to include students with special needs. Along with the diverse campus, students are introduced to different cultures and languages, teaching them to be respectful.
“It offers the children that idea of being accepting and culturally diverse. They’re going to elementary school with that understanding,” Yann said.
The students learn all of these life skills in a one-of-a-kind facility equipped with different learning environments. In the Reggio Emilia approach, children are given “a hundred languages” which are different outlets they can use to express their ideas.
The children learn from different places on campus created to enhance their learning. These places include an art studio, chicken coop, vegetable garden and a turtle pond.
University professionals also play a part in helping educate the children by being invited to teach lessons about their profession that correspond with what the children are learning. All of these different experiences are displayed throughout the halls on “documentation boards” that showcase to parents and visitors what the children have studied.
Whoever is interested in volunteering or enrolling their child is encouraged to contact the Early Education Center Office at (559) 278-0225 for more information. Tuition for the children’s education varies based on the parents’ financial aid status. Most children attend for free or a very small monthly fee.
“These children are our future. They’re not just children, … they’re able and capable to do anything as long as we give them those opportunities,” Yann said.