Caring for Humboldt County’s Little Learners

Feb, 2021
Shannon Hall

As a young single mom, Shannon Hall (‘08 Early Childhood Development) entered a local business competition with the idea for a daycare that partnered with working parents. From firsthand experience, she understood the challenges of juggling school, work, and kids. After taking home the grand prize for her business plan, Hall opened Little Learners in 2008, shortly after graduating from Humboldt State University. Today, Little Learners is a highly regarded local daycare and community resource with four facilities in Arcata and Eureka. 

“I enjoy helping families and I’m passionate about kids,” says Hall, a mother of four and first-generation college student.

When Hall first arrived in Humboldt in 2002 with two young children, she signed up for classes at College of the Redwoods. Her siblings were attending HSU and encouraged Hall, who had never considered college before, to apply. After completing a certificate program at CR, she transferred to HSU’s Early Childhood Development program. 

“As a student, I also worked as a nanny and had two young kids,” says Hall. “I personally knew how hard it was and wanted to help other parents navigate their own journeys.” 

Using her $25,000 in prize money for seed capital, Hall nurtured the community daycare that she had envisioned as a student into a thriving business.

At Little Learners, Hall incorporates the practices and values that she observed as a student in HSU’s Child Development Lab. With a focus on hands-on learning, the Child Development Lab has served the HSU community since 1971 and employs student “teachers in training” each semester. 

“I was able to watch different teachers approach situations in the classroom and see them work directly with preschoolers,” remembers Hall. 

Often bringing her own young daughters along to campus, Hall leaned on the support from the entire Early Childhood Development department. 

“We did a lot of group projects to build cohesiveness, and learned about family dynamics. It really helped me in parenting my own children,” she recalls.

Hall is grateful to the mentors who helped her along the way, notably her advisor at HSU, Child Development Professor Claire Knox, and community members who provided business coaching.

In 12 years in operation, Hall expanded Little Learners to three additional locations and grew her business from two to 50 employees, including several recent HSU graduates. 

“We tend to speak the same language when it comes to kids,” says Hall. 

Since March 2020, Hall has reduced capacity by 60% and weathered two temporary site closures due to COVID-19 infections. But overall, Little Learners has remained open, in compliance with state and county COVID-19 guidance, throughout the pandemic.  

“With schools closed, working parents need safe and reliable childcare more than ever,” says Hall. 

To keep families and the community safe, Hall and her staff constantly reinforce safety practices with their “little learners,” reminding children to wear a mask and wash their hands. 

“With every challenge, we grow and change,” says Hall. “Just like our kids.”