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Duck's Nest Preschool (Berkeley & Oakland, CA)

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > Duck's Nest Preschool

Duck's Nest Berkeley
  • Owner: Monica von Gierke-Stoltz
  • Phone: 510 527-2331
  • Email:
  • Neighborhood: W. Berkeley on 4th St.
  • Zip: 94710
  • License #: 010210068 (view)
  • Capacity: 91
  • Website:
  • Bilingual:
  • Ages:
Duck's Nest 41st Street
  • Owner: Monica von Gierke-Stoltz
  • Phone: 510 428-0901
  • Email:
  • Neighborhood: 250 - 41st St.
  • Zip: 94611
  • License #: 013421405 (view)
  • Capacity: 80
  • Website:
  • Bilingual:
  • Ages:
  • Editor Note: prior to 2014 located on Piedmont Ave. license # 010213969 (view)
Duck's Nest Arts & Science
  • Owner: Monica von Gierke-Stoltz
  • Phone: 510 658-5443
  • Email:
  • Neighborhood: 5714 Broadway in N. Oakland
  • Zip: 94618
  • License #: 013418978 (view)
  • Capacity: 25
  • Website:
  • Bilingual:
  • Ages:

Duck's Nest Berkeley

Dec 2014

I have read the reviews for Duck's Nest, but I wanted to get some updated feedback specific to the Berkeley campus. First, is Pacific Steel still an issue at that campus? Or, for that matter, is there anything in the neighborhood that's an issue? Second, I feel like DN in general gets mixed reviews, but it appears that most of the negatives are for the other two campuses, not Berkeley. Is that right? Are there those with criticisms of the Berkeley campus? Finally, my child is born in January, so she'd be starting there at 2 yrs + 7 or 8 months (depending on exact start date). Does that mean she'd be a Duckling, with the ''young 2s''? I worry that that won't be so stimulating for her for the whole year. Any thoughts? Many thanks! Potential DN Parent

We are finishing up our third year at Duck's Nest in Berkeley and wholeheartedly recommend the school and its staff, facilities, community, and kids.

Our son started in the Duckling classroom and is now in the Mandarin (oldest classroom) after a middle year in the Wood Duck room. He actually started off in another classroom his second year, but we were able to move him to a younger classroom because he had a hard time finding a niche in the classroom. The school was very accommodating and easy to work with in this classroom change.

We have experienced no issues with air quality save for some brewery smells from Trumer across the street (which I kind of like, to tell the truth). There have been no other neighborhood issues, and honestly, the entire ''Gilman District'' area is rapidly gentrifying, so if you have any concerns about the hood, they'll rapidly be overtaken by an onslaught of boutique coffee shops and eateries.

We have a very active, very high energy, very smart and sweet son who is a definite challenge. Throughout all of his classrooms, from all of his teachers, we've experienced nothing but positive support for him and great feedback on how to get him to listen better, calm himself, and be a loving friend and student. We really love the Reggio Emmelia method practiced at the school; it has served our son really well.

I also can't forget the garden program and Heather, the garden teacher. Both are gems. The garden is down the block and absolutely lovely. Duck's Nest is a deal for the garden alone.

This is a community full of families with whom you will *want* to be friends, and you will be. There are a lot of outside activities planned, both formal and informal, and I'm happy to say we count many parents among close friends.

Highly recommend. Duck's Nest mama

Duck's Nest Berkeley vs Aquatic Park School

Aug 2014

I am hoping to get updated information about Duck's Nest Berkeley and Aquatic Park School. I read some reviews about Duck's Nest, but I think they refer to the Piedmont campus. I really love both schools and they have similar philosophies, so I imagine other parents have compared the two and would love to hear which you picked and why. Thanks! Prospective Parent

I can't say enough good things about this past year at Duck's Nest Berkeley. It was everything I could have dreamed of for my daughter. She entered last fall right before she turned 3. It was a magical, transformative year, and her Duckling class teachers were so nurturing, loving, fun and creative. I like the fact that there are several teachers per class, and my daughter has truly bonded with each in unique ways. We like to sing a lot around the house (although I can't carry a tune), and they would incorporate the same philosophy into their mundane activities, as well. ''Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up.'' In addition, there is an amazing music teacher that comes once a week. Plus, the gardens (both on campus and the one they cultivate a block away) are lovely, and the children spend one day a week playing and planting and learning there. The other children in her class are loving, as well, and she has made some fabulous friendships. She's been at school 4 days a week, from 8:45 until 5:15, and she still can't wait to go back the next day. I am getting choked up just writing this, as I don't want the experience to end. I have gotten familiar with the other teachers, though, as has my daughter (on the playground during afternoon hours and at Parents' Night Out), and I know this upcoming year will be just as rewarding for her. Lastly, the administration is remarkable and very communicative & responsive. My coworker's kids are at Aquatic Park School, and she's pretty happy with it, too, for the most part. I'll let her or someone else speak to that, though. I just have to say that in the four years I've been reading these newsletters/BPN, this is the first time I've been compelled to take the time to respond. That's how important my message is! Duck's Nest Zealot
My children were accepted at both APS and Ducks Nest. I was impressed with both schools but chose Ducks Nest as each class is in a self contained classroom which felt contained and not over-stimulating.

The teachers have all been great. My children were provided with an incredibly supportive and nurturing environment.

Ducks Nest has a great community of parents and is a very social school. There are lots of parties and other community building event. It was great to get to know parents in different classes as many of the kids will end up in elementary school together.

Our time at Duck's Nest was wonderful. It was a great preschool for my children.

Feedback on Duck's Nest Piedmont?

June 2014

I'm hoping to get current parent reviews of Duck's Nest Piedmont Ave (41st St) or Duck's Nest Broadway for my four-year-old. I've read the very mixed reviews of Duck's Nest on BPN but on some reviews it's unclear which Duck's Nest campus they are referring to, or if the review is for all three locations. Any info is helpful. We are new to the Oakland area and require a school with longer hours, so other full-day preschool recommendations are welcome. Thank you! New to Oakland

We've had a great experience at the Duck's Nest 41st St Oakland campus (last year located on Piedmont Ave) and have been with this school for almost two years now. My daughter started at 2 yrs 3 months and has absolutely loved it and is thriving. I worried at the beginning that it might be too big for her, but actually the ratio of teachers to kids is excellent (3:1 for the 2's and 3's and then it changes gradually). I was also pleasantly surprised just weeks into her first year that teachers of other classrooms knew her name.

Positives: I have found the teachers to be warm, well grounded in emergent curriculum/play-based approach and always attuned to my child's development and changing needs. The campus is truly engaging for kids (gardening, bunnies, chickens, art stations, sand box, and space for several interesting play structures). I have found the administration to be receptive to parent feedback and great at helping form community. At that, the parent community is a source of both support and enjoyment. Not everyone is looking for that, but we've formed many new lasting friendships. (Of note, I have been involved with the parent association for the past two years.)

Not so stellar: Those same, very nice administrators have been sloppy in the past with handling of a few issues – some relatively innocuous, and others of greater debate among families and the school that made it on to this list. That said, I think they are trying hard to change. A group of active parents stepped up this past year to help bridge parent concerns with administrators' approach to handling of issues that crop up, and admin communication feels like it's improving.

Ultimately, it's what happens in the classroom that matters most to our family and we give DN an enthusiastic thumbs up on that count. If you would like to hear more feedback, feel free to get my contact information from the administrator of this list. Satisfied Duck's Nest parent

We are second year Oakland/41st Duck's Nest parents (our daughter is 4.5 yrs old) and we are planning to enroll our youngest daughter next year as well. I toured almost a dozen preschools in the Rockridge/North Oakland area, and Duck's Nest was in our top 2. We have been so happy with our choice! We were most impressed with the emphasis on creating beautiful and inspiring and loving spaces for young children to learn and grow. We also felt that the Reggio Emilia/emergent curriculum approach was a good fit for our child.

The new campus on 41st (they moved there in Jan of this year) has been transformed and made into a wonderful place. The well-established garden of the old campus has been missed by everyone, and the school is making lots of effort to bring back that wonderful garden environment (though plants take some time to grow!). The new outdoor painting/art area is awesome. The teachers we have had are GREAT as have the projects and topics they explore in the classroom. We love that there are live animals (tortoise, chickens, frogs, etc.) and varying enrichment activities such as yoga, dance, music, spanish, science, etc.

I think that there have been some criticisms in the past about the poor communication between the administration, teachers and parents- but as part of the parents' association for 2 years now, I have witnessed the amazing and positive change in that respect, and the genuine effort on all sides to improve transparency and sharing of information, etc. In addition to the daily classroom log, we get weekly emails recapping the highlights from that week as well as announcements and reminders for the next week. During the lead up to the move to the new campus, the parents were given continual updates and the teachers in each classroom prepped their kids (as appropriate for each age group).

Our teachers have been very approachable and easy to talk to. We have seen some teacher turn-over, but not much. One teacher said that he had worked for many preschools in the past, and he has chosen to stay for so many years at Duck's Nest because the teachers have input into the process and programs, have good benefits (not always the case at preschools) and it's a great community to be a part of.

We feel very lucky to have been part of the Duck's Nest community ourselves. -Duck's Nest parent

I wanted to offer a review of Duck's Nest Preschool located near Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. I should say that like many new parents I poured over BPN reviews before selecting a pre-school. Duck's Nest was originally my 2nd choice, and we sent our son to a smaller preschool. That school was charming, close to BART (good for our work commute), and the Director said all the right things about early childhood pedagogy. Needless to say, we started school a week late because of summer vacation and 3 days into the program were asked to start picking-up our almost 3 year old son up by 3pm. For a total of seven days we received negative feedback about our son, everything from him knocking over someone's blocks to pushing a child. It was very traumatic for us as a family because we really wanted this to be the right school and never imagined this scenario and a school that did not seem interested or perhaps capable of working to help socialize him.

We pulled our son and enrolled him in Duck's Nest. They were amazing about working with us as a family and making the extra effort to help him modify his behavior, which he did both as a function of age and extra effort on the part of teachers and us as parents (I do think parents need to work with schools).

The Duck's Nest teachers are loving and very creative. I have come to appreciate that what they may not articulate in academic terms, they clearly understand both from training and time spent in the classroom. It is a creative play based emergent curriculum and they introduce music, movement and even have Lawrence Hall of science come in the Spring to teach. My son is asking me about volcanos and marine life and I have seen how their art projects and story telling are influencing his questioning and world view. The school just moved into a new three building campus and has great outdoor space. I also love the community the school creates with festivals and plenty of opportunities for families to convene. We have made so many new friends as adults, it is great!

I do think the school is more laid back and allows for more rambunctiousness, e.g. dance parties to get energy out. At times this creates a less controlled environment and I know it not right for every family. I am happy to recommend Duck's Nest whole heartedly and my only advice is that what you may think is right for your child, may in fact not be the right fit. Trust your gut and their happiness. Luckily, the East Bay has many options. Elizabeth

April 2014

Re: Duck's Nest or The Model School for 2-year old?
I have to admit that I was apprehensive about starting my daughter at Duck's Nest at 29 months. She was the oldest child in the youngest class, and the second smallest. After reading reviews on here that made it sound like Lord of the Flies, I wondered how my low key, non-combative kid would do.

My fears were fully unfounded. There were children in the class who turned 2 in November and December when we were there, so your child may not be the youngest. My daughter made friends in other classes and has not once come home with a complaint about conflict on the playground. The teacher/student ratio for the youngest class is quite high so I wasn't concerned about supervision. One of the teachers has been there more than 15 years and I found all of them to be quite nurturing. I hope this is enough detail, but if not, ask the moderator for my contact info. Good luck with your decision! Satisfied Duck's Nest Parent

Duck's Nest School of Arts and Sciences

Oct 2013

I cannot imagine a better preschool than Duck's Nest (Broadway campus). The teachers (especially Ms. Lilia) are wonderful, warm, and truly gifted in their ability to understand, appreciate, and relate to children. While many schools say that they focus on social and emotional development, the teachers at Duck's Nest are really skillful in helping children grow in these areas and develop compassion and self confidence. The school's approach of observing the kids and building ''lessons'' around their interests seemed to be a great fit for our high energy, ''spirited'' son. I was always impressed with the range of fun, engaging, and creative projects the teachers came up with. It seemed that every morning there was something new and interesting set up for the kids to explore. The classrooms and outdoor space are very well designed and provide a creative environment for kids to play, learn, rest, and get some energy out. Finally, the school did a lot (i.e. holiday celebrations, field trips, picnics, etc.) to foster a sense of community among the families. It is really a magical place! I will always be grateful for all that Duck's Nest did for my son and our family. Happy Duck's Nest parent

Considering Duck's Nest for 2 and 4 year olds

August 2013

Hi Parents, I am now hearing mixed reviews about Duck's Nest and am reconsidering placing our 2 and almost 4 year olds there in September. We are looking for a warm, nurturing environment that isn't too large -- does Duck's Nest fit the bill in your opinion? Thanks for any advice people can share.

I cannot recommend Ducks Nest on Piedmont Ave. The school has some great teachers, but there has been quite a bit of chaos there this year. Teacher turnover is very high, with four or five leaving this year alone. As previous reviewers have noted, the yard continues to be ''rough''. As for supervision, sometimes when picking up our child, we would find him/her playing alone or with another child in an area of the yard or classroom unattended by an adult. In the spring, all the parents in our child's classroom (3- and 4-year-olds) received a notice of incidents of inappropriate touching among a handful of children. The letter also reminded us that children's sexual curiosity is natural. The school held a meeting with all the parents, mediated by a psychologist. The Director promised to implement several changes in the yard design and supervision schedule and admitted that mistakes had been made. However, the administration also continued to suggest that we as parents were overreacting. Because one of the aforementioned incidents was reported to the state, a state inspector visited last month and found four citations on the day of their visit. (The school was required to provide written notice of these citations to all parents and to all parents of incoming students for the next 12 months.) Ducks Nest parent
I have lots to say, but will cut it short due to the character limitations. My kid attended Duck's Nest for two years and we are not going back. She had an issue with a boy in her class the year before of him biting, scratching, and hitting her. The teachers assured me this was normal behavior for the age group. This year she increasingly asked not to go to school due to the same boy and I talked to the teachers again and they said they thought the two were progressing in their ''friendship''. I found out a month ago that this boy went from hitting her, to touching her vagina repeatedly. When confronted the school they said we didn't understand this culture and that we were making a big deal about it. The school administration does not read email regularly and so does not respond to parents' concerns in a timely way to address situations properly. My family needs to be at a school that actually watches the kids to make sure they play appropriately together, as well as being transparent to the parents. They don't allow parents to talk to one another if there is an issue; they specifically ask you not to contact each other and to let them deal with it if anything arises. I can't recommend this place.
As a Duck's Nest parent with a child about to begin their second year, I wanted to provide an alternative perspective on the DN experience. From Day 1, my child was excited to go to school, see teachers and friends. I pick up at 3, and few parents pick up then, so it's a great time to observe what's going on in the yard. By the second week, every teacher from every classroom said goodbye to my child by name. Yes, communication from the administration could be improved, but the director committed to making several changes and these commitments were delivered upon from that point forward. Three teachers departed this year. While this is high, it's worth noting that preschool teaching as a career is low paying and there tends to be high turnover thoughtout the industry. I'm not suggesting that Duck's Nest is perfect, but then again, no preschool is. My child is happy and thriving there. Returning DN Parent
My daughter is 3 3/4 years old and entering her second year at Duck's Nest preschool - Piedmont Avenue. She loves it there and during the weekends and summer break she is constantly asking when she can go back to preschool! Just prior to enrolling at Duck's Nest, my beautiful daughter was sweet and loving but also painfully shy, fearful, unusually risk-averse, and barely communicating verbally. Now, a year later, i hardly recognize her. She is talking up a storm, climbing trees, excited to meet and play with new children and generally loving life. Duck's Nest is on the bigger side, relative to other East Bay pre-schools, but the teacher-student ratio is better than most. This year my daughter's class has 14 kids and 3 teachers. Plus, the school has a beautiful outdoor space, chickens, bunnies and a garden; as well as science, music and drama classes. I like the fact that there are school-sponsored activities to help build community and an active parent's association. The teachers are genuinely happy to be there and i have found the Administration to be open, receptive to feedback and sincerely wanting and willing to make the kind of changes that parents want. I highly recommend it and would be happy to talk more to prospective parents about my positive experience there. Janet
We've been at the school for a year and we and our son all love it. Why? (1) great teachers, (2) great curriculum, (3) great physical space (which is going to get even better when DN moves to a bigger space in January), (4) great, kind kids and down-to-earth mostly relatable parents. You have to be into a play-based, emergent curriculum approach, and not uptight about your kids getting dirty--he or she will spend the day chasing live rabbits, chickens and a rooster; making pancakes; playing with water; and just generally getting good and dirty. Also you have to be OK with a mixed playground (2, 3, 4, and 5 year olds all playing together--it's rough and tumble but great fun). We feel really lucky to have found Duck's Nest! Kathleen
July 2013

Re: Looking for a Preschool with a Garden
Ducks' Nest has 2 wonderful gardens -- one in the back by the older kids and one accross the street. The kids play and work in the garden a lot. It's a large preschool but is very very well run, most of the teachers are wonderful and the place is full of wonderment and and playtime fun. The admissions process, at least 4 years ago, was not as pleasant. They do get many applications. I have found that if you ask at the last minute they sometimes find they have an unexpected place. ruthe

Feedback on Duck's Nest Arts and Sciences Preschool

Feb 2013

I am looking for comments/feedback about Duck's Nest Arts and Sciences Preschool on Broadway. I love the preschool my 3 year old is at right now, but they do not have room in their afternoon program. So, I am looking for a great preschool for him next year that he can stay until 3 or 3:30. I would like one near his sister's elementary school so the Broadway location works great for us. The most recent postings are from 2007. What's happening lately? Does anyone know? Thanks so much! Nervous mom who hates to leave current school

Our child graduated from Duck's Nest in 2011. We had a mixed experience. It is a warm, friendly, and loving place. There was only one teacher there (Lilia, who is fantastic) who seemed to really ''get" childrens' creativity. My child made a lot of artwork that seemed designed to please the parents - a little dish with the child's name spelled out in letters, clearly adult-directed artwork. It also, while small, ended up being too big for our kid, who was 3.5 at the beginning. The entire school is the functioning unit, rather than a smaller cohort, because the kids flow from one room to the next, so it took him a lot longer to establish close relationships than it had in a previous more intimate setting. There are a lot of adults around -- student teachers mostly -- which also added to the lack of intimacy for us. Good things about it: the teachers are all very loving and sweet. The school values their families a lot and they take care of the community. They are very flexible about different families' needs and shifts in scheduling, that sort of thing. The teachers and director all clearly love children and are really passionate about their work. My kid loved his friends there and I think it's a great place for older kids, 4 and 5 year olds. Definitely prepares kids for kindergarten with lots of school-ish skills. Anon
We transitioned our Son from the Piedmont Duck's Nest to the Arts and Sciences location this year. We LOVE the Duck's Nest Preschool Group. They are super supportive and truly nurture the children. We moved him to the Arts and Sciences campus because our Son was in need of a smaller, more controlled environment. There are 3 main teachers that are wonderful with additional support staff. I do have to say that they have higher expectations out of the children such as ''writing'' their names (AKA tracing) in their check in book, greeting or addressing everyone when they arrive, and other preschool prep. They are also good at instilling proper manners such as how to politely ask or interrupt for requests. From my perspective, most of the children attend from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. This leaves a smaller group in the afternoon, great for the remaining children. Due to this, there is only one of the main teachers remaining for the late afternoon pick up and of course support staff. This can prove to be a challenge if you wish to receive regular feedback on your child's daily activities but the school is willing to work with your needs as I receive weekly status calls from his main teacher to fill this void. They are working on their communication with the parents and have created a Google group account to keep parents up to date. I also feel that the school is well maintained and clean. All in all I feel that they are doing a good job. Kimberly

Duck's Nest vs. Other preschools

Feb 2013

Looking for specifics on/comparisons of three preschools: Cedar Creek Montessori, Hearts Leap North, & Ducks Nest. We've visited all three pretty extensively, but are looking for some specifics from a parent POV. How is each in terms of teacher turnover, teacher experience, & relative teacher quality - i.e., are all teachers within the school comparable (in all three it's not clear exactly which teachers we'll get)? More specific questions: CC: How was your child's creativity nurtured? How did they deal with spirited kids who rebel against structure & transitions? DN: Compare younger 3s to older 3s classrooms (Wood Ducks vs. Puddle Ducks)? HLN: Teachers experienced enough to deal with spirited kids? Compare Juniper & Sequoia classrooms? Any other advice? Thanks! Trying to Decide

We were at Duck's Nest (Berkeley campus) for 3 years [my son is now in kindergarten].

Regarding your question on ''Wood Duck'' room vs. ''Puddle Duck'' room. Without question, the Puddle Duck room was the most dynamic, engaging, project-based, hands-on-fun of the two.

Teachers Corey and Megan are *fantastic*. Every day was filled with activities and special projects. My kid is in his second semester of kindergarten and still talks enthusiastically about all the stuff he learned as a Puddle Duck.

A few of the things they did when were were there:

1). Building a giant castle out of boxes: with a a moat, a dungeon, windows, etc. The whole ''castle unit'' was fantastic with lessons on knights, queens/princeses/ladies-in-waiting; books on Medieval times, a dress-up day with knighting ceremony.

2). Shark unit -- including field trip to aquarium at Pier 39.

3). ''Abiyoyo'' unit: building a huge monster/robot out of boxes that the kids painted silver. Books on giants, robots, etc.

4). Dinosaurs -- of course. The unit culminated with construction of a almost-life-sized paper-maiche Pteranadon that hung from the ceiling.

5). planets/space unit. Again, they did construction: a space capsule this time; the kids played in that thing for months [keyboard, windows, glowing stars inside]. Planets hung from the ceiling.

6). Butterflies. The kids hatched a bunch from a caterpillar/cocoon kit. Lots of art and outdoor fun around butterflies.

We conidered year #2 as our favorite. You should lobby for the Puddle Duck room. anon

Sept 2011

Re: Preschools that have the most quality outdoor time?
You should take a tour of Duck's Nest Preschool in Berkeley [on 4th St. near Gilman]. It's hard to imagine a more comprehensive, attractive, and integrated outdoor program. happy nature/animal lovin' parent

April 2011

RE: Preschool with great outside space?
Duck's Nest Preschool in Oakland at the end of Piedmont Ave has one of the better outdoor spaces. They also go to the meadow next door on occasion to let the kids run long distances. K

Duck's Nest in Oakland on Piedmont Av

Dec 2010

My husband and I both work full-time outside the home and moved to Piedmont this past year. We are planning to place our boy/girl twins in preschool in the fall (they will be 3 and 1/2 then) but the co-ops in Piedmont with PT schedules are not an option for us. Their primary childcare to date when we are working has been in our home with my mom and/or a nanny. We need something convenient in terms of location in order to pick up and drop-off timely with our work schedules. Schools we are considering and would love current input on are: Duck's Nest on Piedmont Avenue (a few negative reviews on BPN concern me, though appear under old director? My son is definitely not a big boy so some of the comments are of particular concern); [...] Any input, positive or negative, on the above and/or any other schools I may be missing that are less than 3 miles from ''lower'' Piedmont would be much appreciated!! Thanks! -Piedmont Mom of Almost-Preschooler Twins

In response to your inquiry about Duck's Nest, I wanted to give some input. My daughter is in her 3rd year at DN and I am enrolling my younger daughter as well next year. Both will have begun school there at 2.5 years-old. Our experience has been very positive and I am puzzled by the more critical recent reviews.

My child went through the following classrooms but there are others depending on the kid's age: The younger ''Duckling'' class for the 2-3 year-olds is a really warm and caring environment for little ones. Two of the three teachers have been at DN for many years and the third is just lovely. It is a small but cozy classroom with developmentally appropriate activities. The middle class ''Wood Ducks'' is a jump in curriculum with many very cool and creative projects. Kids have multiple ''stations'' to choose from. I often felt that I wanted to stay there and do their amazing projects rather than go off to work! That year was more structured and less loosely play-based overall. The third year ''Mandarin'' class, which is a shared space with the slightly younger ''Mallards'', has been a very welcomed environment for kids and parents. There are higher level ideas being discussed, as guided by the kids' interests, and the teachers are phenomenal. Very sensitive, communicative, attuned to the kids' individual needs and personalities. I have no doubt that my daughter will be kindergarten ready after this year at DN.

Through the years we have not had any problems with aggression at the school in the yard or otherwise. I am often in the rather magical play yard and always see several teachers dispersed throughout monitoring the activities. Overall, when conflicts do occur between kids, the teachers use a conflict/problem resolution model of talking things out. If one kid is rough with another (within the normal range of kids stealing toys, acting out, etc.), they talk it through and have all involved focused on helping the kid who felt hurt, etc. I find the teachers to be ultra-sensitive and patient, sometimes more than I am myself. They give kids lots of respect and find ways of redirecting them rather than being negative or punitive.

I do know that some of my peers have had frustrations at times with a teacher or administrator here and there in response to their own kid's individual issues. However, I do think that feedback was given on both ends to improve communication and problem-solving so that issues resolved themselves.

I really love the DN environment and am happy to be continuing within their community in the coming years with my 2nd child.

Hope this is helpful in future decision making! Happy DN Parent

Sept 2010

Re: Seeking a preschool with Reggio-Emilia philosophy
Ducks Nest is a fantastic Reggio Emilia school. We've sent 3 happy kids there and the program is amazing. christine

Foreign Language Program at Duck's Nest

May 2010

We are considering Duck's Nest in Berkeley for next year and while I have a pretty good understanding of the Emergent approach, I am looking for more detail on how they incorporate languages into that specific program. Are they offering French or Spanish? I can't tell from the website as they mention both. Thanks. tania

Duck's Nest offers both Spanish and French, but these programs are optional. There is an additional cost, and the children leave their classroom to go to another room for the instruction. A former DN parent.
Our son has thrived at Duck's Nest. One of his amazing teachers is from France and taught the kids how to sing a French lullaby and make crepes. The formal lanuage program at Duck's Nest includes classess in Spanish and French taught twice a week by the school's language teacher. While the classes are good, I think the schools real stength is in its diverse teaching staff, who naturally teach the kids about different lanauges and cultures. Happy DN parent
I have a child enrolled at Ducks Nest West Berkeley. Foreign language costs an extra $40 or 45 dollars per month for an hour a week. While this is a great preschool for many reasons, I can't say that language has been a strength at Ducks Nest for our child; more likely it's been their weakest link.

From what I can tell, both Spanish and French are taught by seemingly non-native speakers and the 'lessons' consist of reviewing printouts from a book and doing art projects.

If language is a must have for you, DN may not be your best fit. DN Parent

Reviews of Duck's Nest on Piedmont Av

Feb 2010

Hello, I am interested in reviews from current or former Duck's Nest (Piedmont Ave) parents. We would like to enroll our 3 year-old full-time. Can you recommend the afternoon program? Are there many full-time families? Thank you! anon

My son has attended Duck's Nest on Piedmont Ave for 3 yrs ( since he was 3 yrs old) We've been really happy with the school, teachers, director ( though the director changed this year, we are happy with the new director as well), and their response/resolution to any issues with my son. There is a good balance of full-time and part-time families. If your child is full-time there would be plenty of children to interact with in the afternoon. In addition to the regular classroom teachers, they have another teachers assigned to the afternoon who is a talented artist and full of imagination- the children love him. I wouldn't hesitate enrolling your child! youngskelle
I cannot recommend Duck'­s Nest. We enrolled our daughter into the 2-year old class two years ago and withdrew her after seven months. Yes, the facilities were beautiful and we liked the emergent curriculum philosophy. But here'­s a look beyond the beautiful exterior:

1. Since my daughter was the oldest child in the class (by a month) and very verbal, I asked about bumping her up to the next class (where she would be the youngest by a week). I was told by the director that because she was a girl and physically small, she would be "¬bowled over by the bigger boys".. I was shocked that they would use gender and size as a reason to hold a child back.

2. As the only child in the class who was potty trained, they did not support her potty training because it did not fit with the rest of the class developmentally. The teachers would occasionally ask her if she needed to go potty, as opposed to taking her to the potty on a regular schedule like they did with the next older class. As a result, she regressed in her potty training and it was very upsetting for her.

3. During outside time there were regularly 30-40 kids in the yard, and there were parts of the yard (the play house and clubhouse above the slide) that would get overcrowded with very young children (2 year olds). More than once I saw several children clustered around each other trying to take toys away from each other. The teachers did break it up, but had not done anything to intervene proactively.

4. My daughter was getting increasingly stressed out, especially by the yard chaos, and responded to acts of aggression, or kids getting in her space, by biting. I certainly don'­t condone biting, but the reality is that this is not abnormal behavior for a two year old. After a few incidents in as many days we were called into the director'­s office and given 24 hours notice to move our daughter to half time. Since we are two working parents, that put enormous stress on our family.

Within two weeks at her new pre-school, our daughter was fully potty trained again, and our happy, sweet child has showed no signs of aggression since moving. Two other children in her class left Duck'­s Nest in their first year as well, and joined us at our current pre-school.

It took going to our current pre-school to understand how teachers can promote socialization and prevent aggression through proactive approaches, such as limiting the number of children in any given play area, intervening before aggression happens between children by giving them words to use, and designing unique social and developmental goals for each child. - former nester

I cannot recommend Duck's Nest as well, had to chime in. We enrolled our son in the 3-4 class, he was 3. In hindsight we should've taken him out of the big kids class. Duck's Nest is a family-owned business. The location is beautiful and we liked the philosophy too. We did not get support from teachers or director when we thought our child should have been moved (other parents might be more successful). Please consider if this school is a good match for your child. Beyond the great facility: My child was only 3, teachers thought it was detrimental to keep him at home for such a long period. He hadn't learned 'rug time/snack time' & other 'qualifying social skills'. He was like any other kid who loved to play. He loved to run with the big boys who in turn 'bowled him over'. He was teased about potty training and picked on in class time after time.

I saw no interaction by teachers in the play yard. My son was bitten by one of the biggest kids, a 4 year old, no teachers were present at the time to stop the escalating bad behavior. I learned that at times there was no supervision in the yard after 3:00 p.m. The yard is chaotic and you should visit unexpectedly to check this out. The biting was the last straw, we switched schools and learned to appreciate what good teachers can do for our children. Besides teaching them good social skills through positive guidance techniques their focus was on one word -RESPECT.

Careful supervision and observation of the children is the key. Teachers can see and learn of the inappropriate behavior and help children prevent future incidents, as well as provide them with clues regarding ways to help the biting child express themselves in more positive ways. We have a wonderful, kind, kid and We love his new teachers!

Oct 2009

Re: Need Recent Reviews of Oakland Preschools
My son attends Duck's Nest in Oakland on Piedmont Ave. This is his 3rd and last year. It's a wonderful preschool. Most of the teachers have an strong background in early childhood edu and have been at the school for a long time. There is little teacher turn over. The classes are project/play based. As is true with any school, it's all about the right teachers and how they fit with your child. I've always felt the school director and teachers listened to any concerns or suggestions I had about the class or my son. They have also helped our son through some serious social anxieties. They have one of the best preschool play yards of all the preschools I visited. If you child is an explorer, they will love being at Duck's Nest. Lush gardens and garden teacher, animals in the yard they learn to take care of, lots of art and science projects. It's a busy school with lots of kids, but the class sizes never exceed 19 per 3 teachers for the older classes.

Duck's Nest in Berkeley on 4th St.

March 2009

Hello, We are actively researching Duck's Nest in Berkeley as a preschool for our son to attend in the Fall and I would love to hear from current/former parents about their thoughts on the close location to Pacific Steel and the poor air quality. We already live in the Ocean View neighborhood and I am concerned that if we do get into DN the fact that he is around the plant most of the time may harm him. Do any current/former parents have the same concerns? Everything I have heard about the school (teachers, lessons, etc.) has been outstanding, I just don't want to jump into and than regret it later. Any advice would be appreciated. Anon.

We've been incredibly happy with Ducks Nest for two children and still going, and the air hasn't caused any problems to speak of. Of course I'd prefer if the school or steel could be moved but in the meantime it's the sort of thing I normally don't notice or think of. The education and growth they've received there has been phenomenal and that's what really counts to me. Berkeley mom
Our older son will be ''graduating'' from Duck's Nest this year and our younger son just completed his first year. We've been extremely happy with their program and teachers. Many times my husband and I wished we could bring our laptop there and spend our days hanging out on the pirate ship jungle gym or in the secret garden. As for air quality I think it has probably crossed most parents minds, however the preschool has been there for some time and I've never heard of any health problems in either the children or the teachers associated with the air quality. Good luck! Ducky Parent
We are former parents who've done some research on pollution as well as Berkeley preschools. I'll be happy to give you more info. and thought you should read up on legal actions against Pacific Steel, specifically a class action suit outlined in the Berkeley Daily Planet: ''Berkeley Schools Top Bad Air Quality List.''

Excerpt from the story reported last April in the Daily Planet, ...''the class-action lawsuit is seeking an injunction to require the foundry to lreduce its off-site toxic emissions impact to safe levels or relocate from this neighborhood,n and demands a lcompensation to the thousands of neighbors affected daily by the noxious odors and toxins.n Let's talk. please contact me via email...we can exchange phone numbers and talk former Parent

We live several blocks from Pacific Steel and must say that the headache-causing odors have definitely reduced after the last scrubber was installed a few years back. But, we decided against Duck's Nest because I didn't fall in love with the school and was concerned about the concentration of pollutants there. We took time to see more preschools, and decided on a school that we are really looking forward to, and is even closer by. Happy to help

Puddle Duck classroom at Duck's Nest

Feb 2009

We are considering sending our son to the Puddle duck (3.5-4 year old)and later, mallard duck classroom(4-year-old). We noticed that there are not many materials (books and toys) in these classrooms. We would like to hear any comment on the teachers and activities and anything else that you like to share about the puddle duck and mallard duck rooms. Thank you very much!

Those are two of my favorite rooms, and I have a child in one right now! I would note that kids don't usually go through both rooms - Puddle Ducks generally graduate to the Mandarin room in the back, skipping the Mallard room. The young 3s are Wood Ducks first and then in fall when they're young 4s they become Mallards.

Remember at ducks nest the classes spend a day a week in the garden, and lots of time outside on other days. also, it's not the sort of program where the kids just play with toys all day - they're working on group projects all the time and that develops form the children's questions and observations, not from toys. What said, I have always been impressed with the quality of the materials there and what my kids have painted or built - they work with very nice supplies and in a beautiful space that is thoughtfully designed from the childrens' perspective and with their own art and quotes everywhere, and always changing to reflect their changing interests. berkeley mom

My child is currently in the Mallard class at Duck's Nest. Not sure if you had a chance to really poke around in the classrooms, but there are different areas for different activities. Books are rotated out in the classrooms from the school's library so there are not too many things competing for a child's attention at any one time. Also, Duck's Nest uses an emergent curriculum approach, and books are selected to support the theme. Duck's Nest is not a super academic school in terms of drilling kids on their letters or numbers, but it's also not strictly play-based. It's been a wonderfully rich and stimulating learning environment for our daughter and we'll all be sad to leave it next year. Susie
We are former parents of a mallard and have very good friends attending Duck's Nest preschool now. They have quite a few activities, the toys are put away in clear bins on shelving. Our story may be too long to write but we thought the same thing, not too many materials in the classroom. Please contact me via email at and we can exchange numbers and talk.

Considering Duck's Nest

Dec 2008

Duck's Nest has 3 branches and doesn't see the children before accepting them, so I worry they are very business-like. Am I just chain-phobic? In practice, do they follow the children's interests, as an emergent- approached school would? potential Berkeley Duckling mom

I highly recommend Duck's Nest Berkeley. The Berkeley directors are very responsive to parents and focus on the Berkeley campus. The teachers set the curriculum around the kid's interests and help them learn through play. My son is very happy there. I also like their first come, first serve admission process. Parents don't have to stress about their child getting rejected and the classes are diverse. The kids in my son's class are bright, funny, and considerate.
Our child is in her second year at Duck's Nest in Berkeley, and we've been very happy with the school. Each of the Duck's Nest schools has it's own administration, and there's no contact with the other schools, so we certainly don't feel like we're part of a ''chain''. I was frankly relieved I didn't have to go through an ''interview'' process when my daughter was only 2 because you never know how your 2-year-old is going to behave in that moment or setting. It is one of the bigger preschools, and we've certainly found that some teachers are better than others, but we've been really happy with our choice. Most importantly, our daughter loves going to school every day. anon

Considering Ducks Nest Preschool (Piedmont)

Nov 2007

I am looking to send my 2 year old daughter to Ducks Nest Preschool (Piedmont) and I was hoping to hear what other families thought of the school, curriculum, teachers, etc. If you do not feel comfortable replying back to the group please contact me. kristen

Our 4yo is in his second year at the Piedmont Ave Duck's Nest and our 2yo just started there this fall, and we're happy with it. Nice families, nice teachers, interesting classrooms and activities, good balance of play and learning, from my perspective (though I am on the play side of the equation compared to many people I know). My kids seem to enjoy it. The teachers in the 2yo class have been especially great with helping all the kids with their different personalities adjust to preschool and being away from parents. Happy mama duck

Duck's Nest in Oakland?

May 2007

I was wondering if anyone has any recent experience there? I am thinking of sending my daughter to their afternoon program. She is shy and not particularly assertive, and a lot of the past reviewers seemed to feel this type of child would not fit in there, but I was wondering if anyone has had any different experiences in the afternoon program or otherwise? anon

I had the same concerns you do after reading those reviews of Duck's Nest Piedmont a year or two ago, but we went ahead and put our son is in the afternoon program at Duck's Nest Piedmont and he loves it, and so do we. Admittedly, he's not shy, but there are some in his class who are and they are always nurtured and included. I haven't seen anything to indicate that the culture there is any more aggressive than in any other group of 3-5 yos. One of the good things about the afternoon program for shy kids is that it's a fairly small class, so they get lots of attention from the teacher and aren't overwhelmed by a bigger class. The teachers are nice and the program is fantastic; they do lots of creative stuff, Spanish, dance, sign language. Maybe ask the director, Laura, if you can come observe the kids on the playground some day; that might give you a better idea of whether your daughter will fit in. Happy mama duck
In response to your question about Duck's Nest on Piedmont: Our daughter has been at the school for two years and we have been nothing short of thrilled. The teachers are so caring and thoughtful, and the parent community is thriving. We have made several true friends w/other familes and the education my daughter is receiving has been absolutely spot on. There are many enrichment programs which she has been able to benefit from; gardening, Spanish, dance, Laurence Hall of Science regularly visits w/activities for the kids, field trips.

My daughter is in the Wood Duck class, which is the class in which I assume your child would join as a Newnduck in the afternoons. My daughter has made some very good friends with some of the Newnducks, and mentions them all the time, both the girls and the boys. The teachers do a very good job at both creating an individual group feeling, as well as activities for the Newnducks as well as integrating them in with the rest of the kids who are there for the afternoon from various classes. Incidentally, the teacher of the Newnducks happens to babysit for us on the side, and she is a wonderful teacher as well as caregiver.

I can honestly say we have no complaints thus far about the school, the director or the teachers. Please feel free to email me directly if you would like to ask further questions. Isabel

Reviews of Duck's Nest in Berkeley

Jan 2007

I'm looking for current reviews of Duck's Nest--the Berkeley campus. In particular, I am interested in how people feel about the two's program. How likely are you to want to stay at Duck's nest and move from the two's program through the preschool program? The administration seems a bit difficult to contact during the admissions process. Does this continue once you are enrolled?
potential future parent

My daughter has attended Duck's Nest in Berkeley since 2005 and she, my husband, and I think it is terrific. My daughter is quite spirited, and the teachers are wonderful - enthusiastic, friendly, engaged - and the program has offered her learning through play, foreign languages, art, music, gardening, cooking, multicultural awareness and more. The art my daughter brings home and the stories she tells each day make Duck's Nest worth every penny. I have found the administration to be very easy to work with over the past several years. The admission season is definitely a busy time. However, once enrolled, the staff have been very attentive to our needs. My daughter has a November birthday, and the administration has been very helpful in discussions about whether to have her start kindergarten this year or next. The teachers and administration get to know the kids and families and have a genuine interest in each kid’s success. My son is currently 9 months, but when the time comes we plan to send him to Duck's Nest as well. I highly recommend the school. Very Happy Duck's Nest Parent
Oct 2006

Duck's Nest in Piedmont recently held a kindergarten information series for their parents and those at the affiliated School of Arts and Sciences. The first talk dealt with navigating the process of kindergarten admissions, the second highlighted what to expect in kindergarten, and the third was a parent panel of parents of both private and public school kindergarteners. The director of Duck's Nest did a fabulous job of putting this series together and the information was invaluable.

Considering Duck's Nest preschool for 2yo

Feb 2006

I am considering Duck's Nest preschool for my 2 y.o daughter. Can anyone give feedback regarding their experience with this school. I was very impressed when I saw it, but would love to hear from others who have a child in the 2's program. Thanks! liz

Our son is in his second year at Duck's Nest, and will attend his third year next year. He has had a wonderful preschool experience, and has adored his teachers in each class. He has strong friendships, but plays with all of the children in his class. There are perks to the school--a music curriculum (our son loves this!), a Spanish or French class, gardening, yoga (also a huge hit), and so on. Our son enjoys all of this, but he mostly loves his caring and warm teachers, his excellent buddies, and simply playing and thriving and laughing. This being said, it is important to remember that every child is different, and they will not all react the same way as do the children of the parents who respond to your message. Our two daughters also attended Duck's Nest, and they liked it, but did not love it as does our son. When I leave him each day, he is smiling. When I pick him up each day, he is smiling. He is thrilled to be there (and thus, as a parent, I, too, am thrilled). I don't know why his sisters liked it but he loves it! But for him, these past two years have been absolutely wonderful . I can't say enough about his teachers, all of whom we have found to be absolutely splendid people--loving, funny, gentle, calm, responsible, and the list goes on and on. We are very happy there (we've made friends, too!). I hope this helps. I know that this process of choosing a school is a difficult one (and scary). Good luck to you! Mary
Our daughter started at Berkeley Duck's Nest as a two year old and has attended for three years. We have loved the school and appreciate many of its strengths: 1) the teachers are overall GREAT, very loving and strong, and were wonderful for our child in those early years, very nurturing; 2) the grounds are overwhelmingly magical, from the chicken coop to the trike area to the large wooden ship play area and lastly the phenomenal secret garden. There couldn't be a more wonderful physical environment for a little child to attend school in; 3) the school is very well organized and thoughtfully structured with delightful field trips, adorable concerts and many special activities--such as weekly yoga with Bina and music with Jeff Luna Sparks from Jingle Jamboree. Our daughter has truly loved every day of her experience at Duck's Nest!!! My critique of the school would be: 1) the community is QUITE yuppie and many of the parents drive Saabs, BMW's and other, what I consider OBNOXIOUS CARS--with equivalent lifestyles and values;'' 3) the school lacks racial diversity and makes little to no effort to do outreach to families of color, particularly African American families, so is not truly representative of the community; 4) the school is EXPENSIVE!! Still, I would recommend Duck's Nest to many families (who had the money) in a heart beat. We are grateful for the wonderful care, nuturance and excitement for learning that our child has gleamed from her experience. It has provided a super rich and joyful school beginning. Extremely satisfied Duck's Nest parent
I read this post and was shocked: ''the community is QUITE yuppie and many of the parents drive Saabs, BMW's and other, what I consider OBNOXIOUS CARS--with equivalent lifestyles and values;'' I am wondering what values this persons child is learning from his/her parents. Are they teaching prejudice? To judge someone by the car they drive is so simple minded. Where is the sense of community? Where is the acceptance? If I drive the wrong car, you won't let your child play with mine? What next... segration? A school for what you call obnoxious types? A school for subaru drivers? Come on. Parents are suppose support each other. Not judge and tear down. signed:sad to see this thinking exist in our community

Duck's Nest on Piedmont

Oct 2005

The reviews of Duck's Nest on Piedmont are a few years old. Does anyone have more recent feedback about their experiences there? New preschool mom

My sons both went to Duck's Nest, with my younger one graduating this past August. During our several years there, I was impressed with the dedication and knowledge of the teachers and the involvement of the parents. The parents' association brought in a lot of great enrichment activities that were terrific for the children. Both of my children formed strong friendships and developed a lot during their time at Duck's Nest. However, I had some concerns about the school.

First, communications with parents have been a problem for at least six years. If you do not see signs posted in the classroom, you will not know what is going on in the classroom, about projects, or about the classroom needs. We received a summary newsletter about once a month, through which we sometimes learned, after the fact, about projects that required the children to bring items from home. I have no idea if my children were able to participate in those projects because we didn't learn about them in advance and did not send in the right supplies (a T-shirt, a picture of my child as an infant, etc.). The lack of communication is particularly a problem for working parents who may have a babysitter pick up and drop off their kids.

Second, the student-teacher ratio is quite high, so shy, quiet, and developmentally delayed children can feel overwhelmed or excluded in the classroom and particularly on the playground. If you are thinking about sending your child there, spend some time on the playground while two or three classes are out there. The result can be a lot of very active kids in a relatively small space. The kids are not without supervision, but there is a lot of energy. While you are visiting the playground, think about whether your child is the type to jump in with the rest of the kids, or is likely to feel overwhelmed by the noise and activity. If it is the latter, your child may not be happy at Duck's Nest. I know that one of my sons was the type to join in, and one was not. As a result, one was much happier than the other one during his time at Duck's Nest.

Third, the school administrators are not particularly good at addressing issues. They also seem to clash with some of the teachers, which has resulted in higher than necessary teacher turnover. If your child fits right in, this will not be a problem for you, but if your child has any challenges at all, you may not be happy with how the administrators deal with those challenges or with your parenting decisions. The parent of one particularly shy child was told that her child would not be having as much difficulty at school as he was having had it not been for the parent's decision to delay preschool until he was four. Rather than blaming the parent, it would have been helpful if the administrators had proposed solutions to help the child feel more comfortable in school.

Fourth, due to changes that were instituted as of last year, there is no longer space at the school for children with fall birthdays in the year that they turn five. The parents of the almost five year olds in the Mallard class last year were encouraged to send their children to the affiliated school for Arts and Sciences for their preschool program, but I am not sure if any of the parents selected that school. So, if you think that once you have your child in Duck's Nest you won't have to think about selecting a preschool again, keep in mind that this is not true if your child has a fall birthday and won't be eligible or ready for kindergarten the year that she turns five. (Most private schools will not accept children with fall birthdays, although most public schools will.)

I hope this helps. I think that the school is a good school for outgoing children, but it not the best school for every child. Good luck with your decision.

Parent of Two Duck's Nest Graduates

Our child attended Duck's Nest for one year and after that experience we wanted to find another pre-school to complete the experience. On the surface, Duck's Nest has a lot to offer: a beautiful play area, a hen, a rabbit, a nice play structure, cozy lofts in the classrooms. But in our experience, once you scratched beneath the pretty surface, a lot was lacking at the school. To echo some of the other respondents' thoughts, the director seemed not to want to solve any issues and prefered to attribute any concerns to something that should be changed at home. Also, during our tenure at the school, many children had injuries, some of them quite serious. One girl broke her arm after falling from the play structure and another was pushed off the play structure by another student. There was a fair amount of aggressive behavior: hitting, pinching, scratching, and throwing of sand. The teachers and the administrators followed a philosophy of letting the children work out conflicts on their own, even if things escalated to the point of physical violence. In fact, when asked about the school's response to this sort of behavior, the director said that kids will be kids and that hitting and scratching are developmentally normal. If your child is extremely assertive and aggressive, Duck's Nest might be the place for him/her. But if your child is at all reserved or can be contemplative at times, the place is overwhelming and stressful, not magical and energizing as other pre- schools are. Also, the school does not focus on manners, respect, or kindness. We found it to be a very aggressive environment in which aggression is rewarded.
Former Duck's Nest Parent
Thank you for your posting re: Duck's Nest Preschool, on Piedmont. I wanted to address some of the issues you brought up in your posting. First, communication with parents. This year we have added voice-mail for teachers, and have increased our emails to parents re: upcoming events at Duck's Nest. Teachers also post a monthly calendar, and write a daily open journal to chronicle events and fill parents in on upcoming events. Secondly, the student-teacher ratio. It is true our school is larger than some, but we take great pride in the fact that our student-teacher ratio is well within licensing guidelines; in fact it surpasses those guidelines. Our large yard allows plenty of gross motor activities many smaller programs cannot offer, and we make certain the supervision is excellent. Lastly, I would like to clarify that we have now adjusted our enrollment process so that in almost every circumstance, we can now accomodate children until they are five and can attend public or private kindergarten.

Thank you for your feedback--it helps us build a better program when we have an honest discourse with parents.
Laura Lundy-Paine, Director

I have read the Ducks Nest postings with interest-some agreement and some disagreement. After 3 years in their program, I feel we've had enough experience to offer an opinion.

What inspired me to write was the comment that if your kid is aggressive or assertive, this is a good place for them! Or that aggression is rewarded. Wow. With over 100 kids in this school, in 6 classes, I personally do not find it surprising that each class has typically one or perhaps two children who fit this description. To paint the entire student population with this brush is unfair and misleading, and absolutely forced me to respond.

My son is creative and respectful and KIND. These qualities are important in our family, and I found them mirrored at Ducks Nest, in particular by teachers in every class.

That said, I, too, had my issues with the administration- sometimes it seemed as though ''they could always fill their school, why respond to parents or child-specific needs?'' We also considered leaving after 2 years ourselves. Like many other parents, we were very disappointed in a specific action taken by the Director towards one of the best teachers in the school, when she was fired on the last day of school without notice or an opportunity to say goodbye to our kids. But, upon reflection, the many other things we most love about Ducks Nest won out. My son loved to play there. Of course, he was never seriously injured in 3 years. His projects have been creative and instructive and fun. The enrichment programs are absolutely unmatched, in my opinion, with such variety and quality as weekly visits from the Lawrence Hall of Science in the Fall, French, sign language, MOCHA, drama class, weekly music, dance class, etc. We have also worked on and contributed to community projects--last year my son went door to door in our neighborhood collecting cann! ed foods for the Alameda Food Bank, and one of the book fairs contributed dozens of books and well over $1000 to an inner-city preschool that was in sore need of funds.

It is true that Ducks Nest isn't for everyone. But, having visited roughly 10 of them before selecting this one, I'm not sure how many--if any--are perfect out there. Another parent with a view

Our kids attended DNPA for 2 years. There were some wonderful teachers, but at least 3 left during our tenure. However, our concerns were mostly about communication and behavior problems. Two straightforward communication problem examples: First, a teacher was fired on school's last day; she had told kids she was looking forward to seeing them in her class after vacation! Secondly, the already high tuition went up 15% without notice. Our main concerns had to do with behavior problems. Early on, 1 child had an undiagnosed ear infection – the teachers expressed enormous anxiety about his sudden bad behavior. The infection treated, the behavior stopped. I remember thinking they had been quick to diagnose behavioral issues. Then our 2nd child had a very difficult phase; the worst was that she bit a child. It was awful and very hard on everyone, of course including the teachers. The staff communicated a high anxiety level but gave virtually no practical help. One day, the most anxious teacher handed me a list of my child's observed behaviors, with nothing positive listed. The other teacher told me, “We think that something must be going on at home.” The administrator told me she was very concerned about my daughter and encouraged us to get professional help. I became very anxious and we went to a child psychiatrist who assured us that my child was OK. We ended up moving our kids for multiple reasons, including these concerns about communication, cost and how behavior problems were dealt with. Our experience with behavior issues is different than some of the other post! ings -- I think this is because there had been a biting incident the year before by another child and the parents of the child who was bitten threatened to sue the school. A few months after that, my child went through her very difficult behavior, and I think the teachers and administration came down very hard, fearing a repeat of the previous lawsuit threat. In any case, there are some wonderful things about the school, but ultimately it was not worth the very high tuition for us. We have several friends whose kids are still there, and are very happy. I guess everyone's experiences are different, adults and kids both.
Former parent

Duck's Nest in Berkeley - experiences?

April 2004

I was wondering what kind of experiences people have had at the Berkeley Ducks Nest. We have not had a very good experience at the Oakland/Piedmont Ducks Nest with our older son. But I have our younger son on the waiting list to start at Berkeley DN in the fall. Our main problems at Piedmont DN were related to lack of diversity among the families, inability of teachers & staff to ''get'' our son, understand how his personality did not fit with certain aspects of the environment, Thanks for your feedback.

We have our daughter in the two year old class and have been extremely happy with our experience at Duck's Nest. The teachers are very in tune with the kids and have done their absolute best to help out the parents with issues that arise with each child. I believe that the individual teachers make a big difference, and that your experience with your child will depend on the teachers that will be in that classroom. You can probably set up some times to visit the classroom and do some observing for yourself. Happy Duck Parent
We have gone to the DN-Berkeley on and off for about five years or so. While it IS a great preschool, with an excellent yard and chicken pen and a garden, I have found that it is pretty hit-or- miss in terms of the classes. Some classes are wonderful (the room, the toys, the activities, the teachers), other rooms are mediocre to poor. The administration does seem to be fairly disinterested in parents' concerns about certain teachers. Overall, though, I have found the teachers themselves to be very interested in what parents think and work with the parents to help each child. I express my concern about certain issues with my child directly to the teachers, and they do seem sympathetic and they do respond. I would like to see more hugging by the teachers, teachers sitting on the floor reading to kids (other than during circle time), playing with the kids, and so on. Happy, but not thrilled

Duck's Nest in Berkeley

Feb 2004

I'm looking for more current thoughts about Duck's Nest in Berkeley. The facilities and extra programs seem grand. I'm wondering about experiences others have had with the teachers (specifically for the two year old classrooms, but not limited to that), success in helping children navigating through difficult behavior, parental community, and overall perceptions. We're trying to decide between Ducks Nest and a cheaper but well- thought of, smaller preschool (the taecher here is a famous ''known quality.'') Any and all advice appreciated.

Go for the smaller preschool with the great teacher! I had two children go through Duck's Nest - I was also impressed with the grounds, etc. However, I found that there was a lot of teacher turn-over, variability in quality of teachers and chaos on the playground due to so many classrooms on the site. This was a few years ago, so things may have changed, but it was an issue for the 5 years that I was associated with the school. Also, I did make good friends with some other families at Duck's Nest, but many of the families do seems very busy with full-time jobs, etc., so community feel is so-so. Depends on your child too - if you have a kid who loves larger groups, etc., they may love the school, but it may not the right match for the quieter or over-stimulated ones. It is also a pricey school. Had I to do it over, I'd go for the well-established, smaller funkier school. anonomous please!
We have attended DN in Berkeley for several years (three kids), and here is my two cents! First of all, you ask about the two year old room. This room is wonderful! The two teachers who are in that room currently are both splendid, and the love they show the children is genuine and true! The thing about DN, though, is there is no telling which teachers will be in which room from year to year. For the most part, there is little variation, but the teaching teams do change, so it is not 100% that you will have these same two teachers if you go there in the fall. My take on the school is that the baby rooms and the older kid rooms are pretty good, but the two ''middle age'' rooms seem to be more mediocre. This being said, I have heard from other parents that even what I consider to be ''mediocre'' is far superior to what other preschools offer, however. All of the rooms at DN offer music, dance, yoga, gardening, and so on. The kids seem happy, and seem to have a good time. My two cents

Duck's Nest classroom activities/structure

Sept. 2003

I have read the previously posted reviews for Duck's Nest but none are terribly recent and seem to mainly talk about the great outdoor play space. I am interested to hear feedback on the staff and classroom activities/structure, especially from someone who has or has had a younger child there. I know it has a great reputation but I would like to hear more before I enroll (and plunk down serious cash - it doesn't sound like a real bargain, but if it's worth it....!!). Preschool Parent-to-be

Our daughter just started at Duck's Nest this fall in the youngest class (Ducklings), so our knowledge is limited. That being said-- we could not be more delighted with the care she is receiving. Her teachers are experienced, loving and sensitive to the needs of all the children. Our daughter has had considerable difficulty adjusting to new care situations in the past; but she has looked forward to arriving at Duck's Nest since her first day there, and has not even cried at morning drop-off time since the second day. We are amazed at how easy this transition was compared to previous ones, and give her teachers full credit.

Time is scheduled throughout the day for creative projects (painting, play dough, etc.), unstructured outdoor play (yes, the play areas are wonderful!), music, reading, and visits with the resident chickens and other animals. Starting next month there will be time set aside for foreign language instruction (French or Spanish) and gardening. There is probably much more that we are not even aware of yet! Older children at the preschool are allowed the opportunity to interact and play with the younger ones, but only while closely supervised--care is taken to make sure that the interactions are not hurtful to the smaller parties. Anne

Duck's Nest in Berkeley

March 2003

Can anyone tell me about Duck's Nest in Berkeley. I saw the school last week and was impressed but than I met somebody who told me that the turnover rate in some class rooms are high and that the Director is not always around. I want my daughter to go to a school with happy teacher. Are these rumors true ? Thanks for any advice. I also consulted the website but most of the advise was from a while ago and maybe things have changed. anon

I've been a Duck's Nest Parent for four years (two to go) and have been very pleased with all aspects of the school. Both my kids have thrived there, enjoying warm relationships with their teachers and the children. The music (Jingle Jamboree) and dance classes, along with language and gardening offer lots of enrichment. The facility is clean and attractive, safe and fun. There's also a parents' association that arranges social functions, does fundraising, and supports community outreach and giving

To address your concerns: Yes, there has been too much turnover in one of the six classrooms this year. It was not very pleasant for anyone. (Illness and personality conflicts were the main causes.) However, the staffing is very stable for the most part. Also, though the director does work short days, I've always been able to get in touch with her, and supervision is not an issue. There is always someone in the office (an assistant director), and Monika (the school's founder who lives above one of the buildings)is usually available.

My personal observation is that Duck's Nest is a great place for a family with a positive outlook and a tendency to trust. (This is probably true of most preschools!) The majority of families are very happy. Happy Nester

We sent our son to Duck's Nest 8 years ago, and we're sending our younger son this fall. I'm pleased to say that I was just as impressed as I was all those years ago when I went for another visit earlier this year. Not only did we recognize at least 5 of the teachers who were still there, they recognized us. When we were parents there during the mid-90s, I don't recall any mid-year teacher turnover.

The director is the daughter of the founder, and she too, is wonderful. Her younger son is a current pupil, her older son has gone on to kindergarten.

Duck's Nest has a great atmosphere, teachers, spirit and kids. I'm looking forward to being part of their community again.

If you're interested in sending your child there, you should think about bringing your concerns to Kristen Trainor, the director. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me. Mollie

We sent our child to Duck's Nest and were very disappointed with its administration. Children were admitted to one class and then soon after transferred to another...kind of a bait-and-switch.
I had an unpleasant experience with Duck's Nest. > I applied for a space for my son when he was almost 3 years old. I was scheduled for an interview, told that there was a space for him, and all I needed to do was send in my deposit. Then, they learned that he had a disability. Suddenly, there was no space available. I had a friend call the next day to see if there was space for her ''ficticious 3 yr. old boy'' and there was. When I spoke to the director and mentioned that I was open- minded about ways to make the school work for my son (i.e. sending an aide with him, etc.) she indicated that she just didn't think her teachers were up to any extra energy that a child with special needs might require.
Nov. 2002

Re: Afternoon preschool programs
Duck's Nest on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland has an afternoon program called ''Newn Ducks'' that you might want to investigate. Both of my kids have attended Duck's Nest and we are pleased with the teachers and enrichment programs. - Parent

Sept. 2002

Re: "Traditional" school 2-3 mornings a week
I would like to recommend the Duck's Nest on Piedmont ave in Oakland. We recently moved to Danville & it was with great sorrow we moved our daughter to another school after 1 year and a half (she started at 2.)

I loved my daughter's teachers for the 2 classes she was in. I felt they were very engaged with all the kids & very interested in developing different projects. I believe the teacher turnover is low.

They offer fieldtrips. My daughter went to the beach, the little farm, and a retirement home (they sang) & loved it all. I'm not sure if they teach the alphabet (maybe in older classes), but they did things like ''science'' projects where they froze different objects & talked about their properties.

They have a nice facility with an outside play area. All in all, we loved the experience there & felt like they encouraged interaction between kids & helped to develop friendships. Email me if you want more info. Rosalind

Sept. 2002

Re: "Traditional" school 2-3 mornings a week
You may have already rejected it, but I recommend Ducks' Nest in Berkeley. It is open 5 days, and has an extended day for parents who need it, but many parents send their children only 3 days a week, from 9-1. They have programs from 9-1, 9-3 and FT. The minimum is 3 days per week. My daughter, who goes 4 days a week, has thrived there. They have wonderful indoor and outdoor spaces, a large garden, chickens and ducks. And, for an extra fee, they offer French and Spanish!

While it is a developmental (play-based) preschool, the kids learn a great deal. At 3, my daughter could write her name, knew all the letters, was beginning to sound out words. Children are allowed to begin at age 2, and do not have to be potty-trained. Cloth diapers are required, and the school will provide them if you don't use cloth.

I don't imagine you will find a non-coop school that is ONLY open from 9-1 on 2-3 mornings a week -- the economics wouldn't work. There is also a Ducks' Nest in Piedmont, which I'm sure is great too, but I haven't visited it. Julie

June 2002

Re: Preschools with good playgrounds
My daughter attends Duck's Nest preschool on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland, which comes very close to meeting all of your playground requirements. The school has a large and lovely outdoor space, with a nice wooden play structure and swings over bark chips, a paved area where kids can ride trikes, a nice garden that the children help tend, a large covered sandbox, a covered deck with a nice bench for quiet times, and tables in shaded areas for eating lunch and doing arts and crafts. The play area is completely enclosed by a 6-foot wood fence and fronts a quiet street next to Mountain View Cemetary (which the kids call ''The Meadow'' and which is a frequent destination for afternoon walks). There's even a rabbit and a chicken in the yard, whom the kids help feed and care for. The school is also one of the few true preschools that has a program for 2-year-olds (with a wonderful teacher, whom my now 3-year-old still adores and ''visits'' frequently). The only thing I'm not totally sure about is ''unrestricted'' access to the yard. The kids do spend a LOT of time out there, but I think that may be during designated times in the morning; the afternoon is much looser. Still, the school seems quite accomodating of individual needs, so I'm sure that if unrestricted outside time was a requirement, they would work with you on that (I'm pretty sure there's always at least one teacher outside at any given time.) Good luck! Leah

Duck's Nest in Oakland (at the top of Piedmont Avenue) has a great outside play area. In fact, that was the deciding factor for me when choosing a preschool for my two children. They have swings and a trapeze bar, a large wooden play structure, a concrete area for bike and scooter riding, a garden with covered gazebo, covered wooden porch, and covered sand play area. The children play outside year round and the teachers are good about sunscreen and drinking water. (There's a water cooler and cups outside.) The fences are high so the area is private and the school is on a one-way street that is only busy during the drop off and pick up times at Duck's Nest. The children spend a lot of time outside, although I'm not sure a child could spend the ENTIRE day outside due to other fun activities going on inside as well. The children usually eat lunch inside as well, so they can sit on chairs at a table. This might be what you're looking for. It's definitely the best outside set up of any preschool I looked at (and I looked at a lot!) Good luck with your search!
March 2002

Our son attends Duck's Nest on 4th street, and he loves it. He has been there 3 years, in three classes, and each year the experience has been a good one. For us, it seemed that the teachers and the cirruculum were just right or his stage of development: kind, sweet, teachers the first year when he was quite young, more structure when he was older. My son also had some real issues at first with transitions, and could be quite unruly. The school worked with us on helping him through that time, and in a really wonderful, caring, nonjudgemental way. I highly recommend Duck's Nest. happy DN family

My son has attended Duck's Nest for 2 years and my daughter will be starting there in the fall. (She will also be 2 1/2.) I really love the community and staff at Duck's Nest and would recommend it highly. I don't know how to help you think about the cost issue other than to say that it costs money to keep good teachers and to keep a school clean and well maintained. There is also a Duck's Nest Parents' Association which raises money to fund some of the enrichment programs over and above the tuition cost. I wouldn't look to save money on child care in the early years - a good preschool experience is priceless. B. Price
Both of my daughters attend(ed) Duck's Nest on Fourth St. My two year old is there now, and she LOVES it. Thus, obviously, I love it, too. From the age of your child, it sounds like he will be in the Duckling Room. The combination of teachers in that room is absolutely wonderful! They are kind, loving, and fun. The school has a great music program, art, pottery, gardening, and so on. The parents are nice, too, which makes for a nice community. I don't know much about other preschools, but I have been very happy with the type of year that my daughter has had at the Duck's Nest. Mary
Aug 2002

The Duck's Nest on Fourth Street has an older class, called Mandarins. Call them and see if they have any openings. The teacher is wonderful, and your child will not be bored. Mary

Oct 2001

Re: preschool for 2-year-old

Both of my daughters attended (and one still attends) The Duck's Nest. They have a Duckling Room, which is for children who are two by September. They have a school in Berkeley, as well as in Piedmont. They have a wonderful morning program, and offer both part and full time care. The classes are small; for example, in my daughter's class there are on average eight or so children and three adults. I don't have the Piedmont phone number, but the Berkeley number is 527-2331. Open house is in January, I think, for September enrollment. If you want your child to attend in September, I would suggest finding out about the Open House NOW, as they fill up right away. Good Luck! Mary

I highly recommend Duck's Nest Preschool at the foot of Piedmont Avenue. My older son started there soon after he turned two and my younger son will be starting after his second birthday. It's a developmental school in the best sense, with the most wonderful teachers. We also have a great community of involved parents. Sheryl

We have had our twin girls (currently 33 months old) enrolled at the Duck's Nest preschool on 4th Street since September and we all just LOVE it. The teachers are very loving, playful, professional and sympathetic to parent's anxieties. Our classroom adjoins the one for the younger class (I think they take them as early as 20 months?) and the classes actually mingle a bit at drop off and pick up times. I've witnessed the teachers dealing very effectively and lovingly with some difficult separation issues at the beginning of the school year, and those children now seem quite happy and engaged. Personally, my girls come home with art work, or a new song or story, or some wonderful tale almost every day. We also chose this school because of the active (volunteer) Parent's Association, which has already helped us get acquainted with the parents of the children our girls are fast becoming friends with. We would all highly recommend Duck's Nest! Good luck with your choice. H. Mann

Air quality at Duck's Nest in Berkeley


Can anyone give me feedback on Duck's Nest preschool in Berkeley? I visited the site recently and liked it but I am concerned about the air quality. Apparently there is a brewery and a plastics manufacturer in the neighborhood. Darcy

If you are concerned about the air quality in the air, try contacting the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Ask whether they have any monitoring stations in the area (or where the nearest monitoring stations are) and whether there have been any days during which the air quality near those stations was unacceptable. Also, share your concern directly with the school and ask whether the school has any air quality/air monitoring information on hand. I don't think that it is necessarily the case that if the air smells bad, it is hazardous, but since the air in that area frequently does smell bad, you will feel better in the long run if you spend a little time now looking into the issue.
7th Heaven! We've had the good fortune to have had our almost 7 year old spend a few years at Duck's Nest. Our 2 year old has just recently begun attending that wonderful haven of care and creativity. What a comfort it was to return to Duck's Nest with our second child. Like coming home again,( a chosen home that is). They are wonderfully inspiring, supportive and skilled at nurturing and directing that magical mix of awe and apprehension our children bring with them that first day at school.

As parents we couldn't have been better cared for. Crisis has been intermittantly visiting our family since we became a Duck's Nest family. The Duck's Nest community as inspired by the Director Monika and her staff have been for us and especially our children, immeasurably supportive and kind. I'd recommend you check them out. Damien

We've been part of the Duck's Nest community for three years now and really LOVE IT. My son started as a Gosling (3 year old) and is now a Mandarin (5 year old) and our daughter is a Duckling (2.5). I like to think that I've been "around the duck pond" for a while. There truly is not a large turnover of staff...most teachers have been there for several years...a couple for 10 and 11. True some of the aids have left but none in the three years that we've been there. One teacher did move on last year to a director position in another school but changes happen everywhere. Here's why we like it: Our kids feel safe and we feel that they're safe. They come home full of fun stories and art projects and their clothes prove it. Through play they've learned about sharing,how to resolve conflict without guilt or blame and our older child is pretty good at writing and he's learning to read and telltime. We were drawn to the school because of off of the play based activies and the fact that the academic stuff got tossed in is a bonus we weren't looking for. The director, Monika, is very very available.....and I'm not a quiet parent. I say....go with your gut feeling. Good Luck, CorViele
I want to add to the list my daughter's preschool -- Duck's Nest, on Fourth St. nr Gilman -- which I fell in love with the moment I walked through the gate. They accept kids who are almost 2 to pre-kindergarten. The cost is somewhere between CEC and the JCC, on the high end. Right now there are 5 classes. The youngest two groups are in an old house in front they play on a deck and in a side yard. The place is beautifully kept. The older kids have rooms beneath the owner's home in the back.

My experience is mainly with the 2-2 1/2 yr. old class, where the teachers are loving and attentive, and professionals who know a lot about kids. The art projects are fun, once a week a movement/dancer teacher comes in, once a month a grandmother does a puppet show, etc.

Choosing a preschool (or any school, I imagine) IS a very personal decision. My four year old son has been at Duck's Nest for year, and he's been very happy there. As a family we've also enjoyed it, because the other parents are very congenial and there are many family program, as well as parent education programs. The physical plant, which is as Stephanie described it, really made a good impression on me. So many child care places look rundown, even if clean. Duck's Nest is very well maintained, even the playyard is cleaned daily. There are lots of trees and plants for shade and beauty, and the children do some gardening as part of the curriculum.

Highly recommended.

Regarding Duck's Nest and industrial accidents, apparently an environmental impact study was conducted I think at the urging of a neighborhood group. Any remediations recommended were supposedly done. This is all according to the Executive Director at Duck's Nest who has lived in the area for 20+ years, if my memory serves me correctly.
For anyone searching for last minute fall childcare...Duck's Nest Preschool still has several openings in their youngest "Duckling" class for 2 year olds. It is a wonderful place. My daughter goes there full time. It's at 1411 Fourth St. near Gilman. 527-0769
My three year old attends Duck's Nest in Berkeley and we couldn't be happier. We were and are impressed with the laughter and joy that fills each classroom and the attention that the teachers give the children. Each day our son brings home stories, art projects, baked goodies or new dance steps from the dance teacher.
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