Sharing a mission to provide quality education to early learners

Fansler Foundation awards Huggins Center $150,000

Research doesn’t show anyone how to prepare for a pandemic, let alone how to put a 3-year-old in front of a computer camera for weeks to learn.

But the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center within Fresno State’s Programs for Children was up to the task, having set the bar high for innovation and teacher training over the years thanks to the support of the Fansler Foundation.

After a four-month closure early in the pandemic, the Programs for Children reopened in August 2020 to provide the children of student-parents, faculty and staff with hybrid learning options: engaging and creative online interaction for those who chose to stay home, or onsite learning in a safe and sanitized environment.

The Huggins Center and the Fansler Foundation have long shared a mission to provide quality education to young children. The foundation, a private nonprofit in Fresno supporting organizations that assist challenged youth, has awarded grants to Programs for Children since 2003 to help with programming, professional development, the creation of an endowed chair and more. The foundation’s reach has also touched other areas of the University over the years.

In August, Fresno State received notification of a $150,000 gift from the Fansler Foundation to support the endowment for the D. Paul Fansler Endowed Chair for Leadership in Early Childhood Education and to continue the work of the Huggins Center.

Programs for Children provides services for about 155 children ages three months to 12 years through its three centers: the Campus Children’s Infant/Toddler Center, the Campus Children’s Preschool Center and the Huggins Center.

The Huggins Center includes the Marlene M. Fansler Infant and Toddler Program, the D. Paul Fansler Preschool and School Age Program, and the D. Paul Fansler Institute for the Leadership in Early Childhood Education. D. Paul Fansler was the nonprofit’s founder, who with his wife, Marlene, set out to help special needs and socioeconomically disadvantaged children in the Valley. He passed away in 1990, and his wife continues to lead the foundation.

“The Fansler Foundation shares our vision to provide the highest quality of service and priority for student families,” said Dr. Pei-Ying Wu, Fansler Chair and assistant professor in the Department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education. The Fansler Chair was  established in 2002 to expand opportunities for professional development and research.

“Many of our children are not from wealthy families. In the literature, children from those backgrounds don’t have resources to receive high-quality, advanced STEAM education,” Wu said. “With the Fansler Foundation’s generous support, we are able to provide that education to young children and their families. It means a lot to us that we have the Fansler Foundation who trusts us and are willing to give to us, share our positive outcomes and celebrate with us.”

The Huggins Center is inspired by the Italian “Reggio Emilia Education” approach based on the idea that children learn and express themselves in a variety of ways. Literacy development, critical thinking and creative expression are central to the curriculum. The Fansler Foundation believes in this approach and has helped the program send two teachers every year to Italy for training.

In recent years, Programs for Children started incorporating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) into its teaching. That includes having equipment like light tables, microscope pens, a digital microscope, coding robots and coding blocks for the children while adapting online apps like Scratch Junior for early learners. The app is designed for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Teachers are trained to use the equipment and are adept at using online platforms like Google Suite, laptops and cameras to communicate. Their familiarity with using technology was beneficial this past year with virtual learning, said Brittney Randolph, director of Programs for Children. In addition, a virtual coaching team led by Wu was also able to observe the virtual classes and provide feedback on what could be improved, changed or tried.


$1.5M grant supports child care services for student-parents

Children’s laughter is audible upon entering the Kremen Education building at Fresno State. The playful chatter of boys and girls on the playground, water splashing in the discovery pond — these are the sounds of the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center, one of three early care and education centers on campus offered through Fresno State’s Programs for Children.

In fall 2019, 49% of new undergraduate students at Fresno State reported a family income of less than $48,000. Because some of these students being parents themselves, Programs for Children offers subsidized child care services for low-income students. These students are able to enroll their children, ages 3 months to 12 years, and receive a largely discounted rate for their child care.

“Because of my income I am not required to pay for child care,” said Marisa Martinez, a Fresno State criminology student. Martinez has a nearly 2-year-old son, Yonas (not pictured), who has attended the Huggins Center for over one year. “I am so grateful. The Huggins Center has been such a great asset toward the progress of my education and growth at my job. I am able to have an efficient amount of time to go to work and complete my required assignments.”

To further support low-income student parents, Programs for Children received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant supports Fresno State student-parents’ academic success by supporting on-campus and off-campus child care costs, piloting a distance learning program for preschoolers, providing coaching services and resources and creating a safer environment for staff and children.

“The child care options and parental support provided by this grant are projected to improve retention, increase degree completion and increase a sense of belonging for Fresno State students,” says Dr. Pei-Ying Wu, assistant professor in the Department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education and principal investigator of the project.

“Due to COVID-19, many child care facilities in Fresno County have closed, leaving student-parents in need of a safe space for their children. Programs for Children closed for a short period last year but has since reopened, and has been servicing students and their children since August,” said Brittney Randolph, Programs for Children director and project director. “However, we have made significant changes to policy, operational, procedural and instructional levels to help ensure the wellbeing of the program, staff and families.”

The grant will assist in ensuring a safer environment. Programs for Children will purchase protective equipment and supplies, such as air purifiers, coveralls, face shields, masks and disinfecting tools.

Read more.

Connie Mosher – Named National Child Care Teacher of the Year

Fresno State’s Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center is full of children laughing and playing as they engage and explore with the world around them. This is a typical day for Infant/Toddler Master Teacher – Connie Mosher. Mosher has been working at the Huggins Center since 2012 and she uses her educational expertise in early childhood education to fill each day with educational opportunities where curiosity is encouraged by the children.

The Huggins Center, known for its Reggio Emilia inspired approach to education, recognizes that collaborative and participatory relationships among children, parents, teachers and others not only create powerful and successful education and care programs but also improves the quality of life in the community.

Connie_Mosher_Headshot“My co-teachers and I work to create secure relationships with each child and their families. Working at a Reggio inspired early education center, we view even our youngest learners, our infants and toddlers, as capable beings,” said Mosher. “As a teacher, I learn just as much, if not more from the children so I truly value the process of co-researching alongside the children to develop emergent curriculum throughout the year.”

It is the quality of the Huggins Center’s early educators and educational approach that has received the attention, for a second time, from the Terri Lynne Lokoff National Child Care Foundation (TLLCCF). 

Each year the TLLCCF awards fifty early educators from across the nation for their critical role in providing quality early care and education. Of those fifty awardees, one is awarded the Helen Marks Award and is named the National Child Care Teacher of the Year. This year Mosher was selected as one of the top fifty in the nation and was additionally named the National Child Care Teacher of the Year.

“Receiving the award was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It was surreal sharing the news with my parents, friends and my fellow teachers. I cried telling my parents because I was absolutely blown away and it was such a special moment for all of us. My whole family is extremely proud of me so that is the icing on the cake,” said Mosher. “The award means a lot to me because it truly honors early education and the hard work and dedication that so many of us have to the children and families we serve.”

Mosher is the second teacher from Fresno State’s Huggins Center to be selected among the top fifty early educators in the nation. Last year, Chamroeun Yann was selected among the top fifty in the nation as well.

Along with Mosher’s National Child Care Teacher of the Year award, she was also gifted over $1,500. With that money, she plans to implement a portable light studio in her infant/toddler classroom. 

“I can only hope that with this award I will inspire other infant/toddler and early educators to continually strive for the best for themselves, the children and their families,” said Mosher.

Children at Fresno State Celebrate Week of the Young Child

Fresno State’s Programs for Children, along with the Huggins Center, celebrated the annual Week of the Young Child (WOYC). Children engaged in a week full of festivities heightening their senses, building on their skills and letting their minds explore through creative activities.

The Week of the Young Child, hosted by the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC), celebrates early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. The NAEYC accredits the Kremen School of Education and Human Development’s early childhood education program along with the Huggins Center. The Kremen School is proud to participate in the NAEYC’s annual events and celebrations.

Tasty Tuesday

When it comes to picky eaters, parents will try any game or disguise to get their children to try new foods. For the WOYC’s Tasty Tuesday, parents sent the Huggins Center recipes that they would like their children to try.

Multiple picky eater recipes were tried at the center; from broccoli tart to vegetable tacos. Many children were willing to try different vegetables and enjoyed being involved in cooking process.

Gardening Together Wednesday

Children used their senses to explore the garden. They felt the soil between their fingers and smelled the different scents from the plants. Once the children were done exploring the soil and plants, they started digging in the soil and planting the seedlings and plants.

Over the next few months, the children at the Huggins Center will watch the plants grow and will be able to explore the next life-cycle in the garden.

Artsy Garden Thursday

The children at the Huggins Center spend a lot of time in the garden. It is a place which allows children to explore nature, foods and endless sensory exercises. For the WOYC’s Artsy Thursday, the center decided to decorate their garden.

Children beautified the garden by creating wind chimes from CDs, painted on the walls and created texturized collages using natural elements.


Family Music Parade Friday

To culminate the Week of the Young Child, the children from the Huggins Center held a music parade across the Fresno State campus. The youngest learners on campus invited their family members and the Fresno State community to celebrate the WOYC. Children brought their favorite musical instruments from home or the center and marched across the campus.

If you would like to learn more about the Huggins Center, visit their website.

Huggins Center Celebrates the Week of the Young Child at Fresno State

Fresno State’s Programs for Children along with the Huggins Center celebrated the annual Week of the Young Child. Children engaged in a week full of festivities heightening their senses, building on their skills and letting their minds explore through creative activities.

The Week of the Young Child is hosted by the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. This year’s festivities were held from April 16–20, 2018. The NAEYC accredits the Kremen School’s Early Childhood Education program along with the Huggins Center. We are proud to participate in the NAEYC’s annual events and celebrations.

Music Monday

Through music, children develop math, language, and literacy skills.

Children from the campus children centers and the Huggins center had a music parade by the Fresno State library. The children marched through the campus, playing music and chanting ‘It’s Week of the Young Child!”.

Tasty Tuesday

Cooking together connects math with literacy skills, science, and more.

Children prepared healthy snack bags to share with the members in our Fresno State community with the hope of encouraging people to eat healthier.


Work Together Wednesday

When children build together they explore math and science concepts and develop their social and early literacy skills.

The day was full of various activities. There was a loose parts play, a children‘s wire sculpture exhibit, and planting activities in the Huggins Garden. Later in the afternoon, a puppetry teacher came to the Huggins Center and made a big dragon puppet with the children.

Artsy Thursday

Children develop creativity, social skills and fine motor skills with open-ended art projects where they can make choices, use their imaginations, and create with their hands. 

The children created clay sculptures in the Huggins Studio.

Family Friday

NAEYC applauds family members’ role as young children’s first and most important teachers. 

For the last day of the Week of the Young Child, there was a family breakfast and collage activity at the campus children center.

If you would like to learn more about the Huggins Center, visit their website.