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Mission, Vision, Values & History


The mission of the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education is three-fold. It is a model of inclusive early childhood education that:

  • Ensures optimum experiences for education and professional preparation of early childhood professionals who will serve children, and their families, on local, state and national levels.
  • Provides a unique environment for faculty and student research that contributes to knowledge about child development and quality early educational experiences.
  • Connects with children and families to form family-school partnerships in order to enrich each other’s experiences and lives.

The center's mission interweaves the department, college and university's three-pronged mission of education, research and outreach. It is a place for teacher candidates to use best practices in teaching and to integrate teacher research practices. It is a place for all teachers to generate knowledge through inquiry-based practices and research. And finally, it is place for community (local, state and regional) outreach to occur as it provides high quality early childhood experiences for community children and family members.


As part of the Early Childhood Education Program's curriculum and experiences for teacher candidates, the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education's vision complements the Early Childhood Education Program's vision.

The teachers strive to be an active learning community. We see ourselves as teacher-researchers developing relationships with families and children, and together building knowledge with children and teacher candidates about the relationship between learning and teaching.


Our learning community values relationships and connections that we make with each other. We value working together and using inquiry that fosters curiosity and wonder. We value children's intelligence and competence. We value creating a sense of community as we learn together.


The Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education has a long history of 83 years. Its roots began in the Department of Home Economics in 1928 as Helen Young, a faculty member, established a play group for new Child Development majors to observe and interact with young children. Prior to the development of the play group, in 1921 the Department of Home Economics began the Home Management House in which all Home Economics majors lived in for a semester, providing home management and care for children living in the home. The Home Management House was in operation until 1939 and during that time, ten children had lived there with the college students.

In 1929, the play group became an established preschool and moved into a home on the first floor and the basement of East Men's Hall. The new laboratory school, like others that began with the land-grant laboratory school movement, followed a curriculum of constructivism and John Dewey's ideas of education. There were two classrooms to study and practice child development skills of observation and flexible curriculum planning.

In 1976, the laboratory school moved to the Pugsley Center. The Pugsley Center had been the Student Union on campus and so the move meant the "Jungle", as the Student Union gathering spot was known, became the preschool classrooms. Constructivism and planning for active learning in centers were still at the heart of the laboratory school experiences.

In the mid-1980's, the Child Development and Family Relationships Department decided to expand the ages of children enrolled at the laboratory school. The Toddler Labs began. The youngest children enrolled at the laboratory school were now 15 months old. Also at this point, the college students began taking a new class on infant-toddler development and curriculum.

In 1998, the three laboratory school classrooms were renovated. New technology was added in the observation booths which included classroom video cameras and in-room microphones to listen to classroom conversations.

In 2000, the outer areas of the laboratory school including the kitchen, resource/planning room, assessment room and faculty offices were renovated. We also added an indoor large motor area to be used when children could not go outside due to inclement weather conditions. It was a great addition!

In 2001, the teachers and director at the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education began to look more closely at the work that the teachers in Reggio Emilia, Italy were doing. Based on what they read, they decided to begin to use Reggio-inspired elements in their work with the children at the laboratory school. Our journey of how we would use Reggio-inspired practices began at this point.

In 2002, the use of curriculum projects was first used in the preschool classrooms. The concept of learning in small groups and working on an investigation for an extended length of time was a new idea for the laboratory school.

In 2004, the SDSU Kindergarten Laboratory was added as a collaboration between the Early Childhood Education Program and the Brookings School District. The SDSU Out of School Time Program was added to facilitate extended hour care for the Kindergarten families. Four smaller rooms were also added to the environment. Two served as project/investigation rooms for the preschool classrooms. One served as the Kindergarten project/investigation room. And one served as the K-3 Reading room for Early Childhood Education teacher candidates.

Also in 2004, five faculty members traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy to attend a conference and study tour in order to see Reggio Emilia schools first-hand and to interact with their teachers. We learned about the role of the studio space, or atelier in Italian, and how materials were selected to support the children’s work. We saw first-hand how children used documentation, as well as their teachers, in order to determine what to do next.

In 2006, the facility received its latest major indoor update and addition. This new 2,800 square foot expansion included a documentation room, a small conference room, a family gathering space, and an art studio. All of these rooms support the teachers in their use of Reggio-inspired practices. The family gathering space is our own 'piazza' that is used in many different ways throughout the day, small group meetings for all who enter - faculty, teachers, family members and children, a place for reading or waiting, a place to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

In 2009, the Outdoor Learning Laboratory became a reality. It was designed to support children's inquiry and learning in the natural outdoors. It, in itself, was also an inquiry investigation for the children and SDSU's senior Landscape and Design majors who helped design it. It truly cultivates the love for outdoors and open-ended play that can occur in it.