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Hearts Leap Preschool (Berkeley, CA)

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > Hearts Leap Preschool (Berkeley, CA)

Hearts Leap North
  • Owner: International Child Resource Institute
  • Phone: (510) 665-4200
  • Email:
  • Neighborhood: Cedar/Spruce
  • Zip: 94704
  • License #: 013419427 (view)
  • Capacity: 45
  • Website:
  • Bilingual:
  • Ages:
Hearts Leap College Av
  • Owner: International Child Resource Institute
  • Phone: (510) 622-2602
  • Email:
  • Neighborhood: Elmwood
  • Zip: 94704
  • License #: 013416236 (view)
  • Capacity: 70
  • Website:
  • Bilingual:
  • Ages:

2010 - 2014 Recommendations

Oct 2014

RE: New to N. Berkeley, looking for preschools

Welcome to the area! I'd like to recommend Hearts Leap North in North Berkeley. This is our second year at the north campus and our 6th year at Hearts Leap (our older kids attended the campus on College Avenue). We've loved both schools. The teachers are warm, sensitive, creative, and engaged in all aspects of kids' development and wellbeing. It's Reggio-oriented, so a lot of the activities are based on what the kids are interested in--this week kids got into pretending to have an ice cream parlor, so the teachers helped them juice lemons to make popsicles, set up an ice cream parlor in the classroom with yarn ''ice cream'' and paper cones, and the kids painted a sign, those who are interested in writing wrote the flavors, etc... The school has a great combination of free play and activities like gymnastics, music, early literacy activities, and science exploration. There's tons of art. Hearts Leap North is the smaller of the two schools and we've found it to be a really nice community of families. It's a special place. happy Hearts Leap North parent

Recent info on Heart's Leap?

March 2014

Any recent information about Heart's Leap preschool? Am wondering specifically about methods, outdoor space, teacher ratio, tuition comparability with other schools in the area and schedule for a 4-year old. Thank you! anon

I have two kids attending Hearts Leap and am thrilled with the experience we've had. Families are very involved, the teachers and staff are tireless and, most important of all, my kids have loved the experience from Day 1.

The school's pedagogy is play-based and child-directed, which means that the students identify a subject that interests them and the teachers develop a curriculum around those interests. The focus shifts only when the students appear to lose interest in the subject. Last year my daughter's class explored outer space, medicine and cooking, for example. At the same time, I've been pleasantly surprised at how Hearts Leap teachers have given my daughter (4) and son (3) a basic knowledge of numbers, letters, writing, spelling, etc. My daughter's class of 4 year-olds, for example, have spent the year exploring a different letter of the alphabet each week and using an abacus to count off how many days of school have passed. She's given the freedom to learn as much as she wants to at her own pace.

For outdoor play, the kids spend an hour rotating through a sizable play area that's bifurcated for younger and older students. I've often wondered if my daughter gets bored playing in the same area day in and day out, but she's never expressed anything but excitement about her outdoor play time. There are parent-chaperoned field trips for all levels throughout the year and one-day-a-week classes in gymnastics and music. The kids do a lot of cooking, too, inside the classroom. Sometimes they have a ''Pajama Day'' or ''Stripes Day.''

As for schedule, Hearts Leap is five days a week Sept.-July (with limited slots available for 4 day-a-week schedules). Doors open at 8:30 and there are several pickup times starting at 12:30 for the 2 year-olds. Most kids, I believe, get picked up at 2:30. The final pick up is 5:00. So it really depends on the family and its particular needs. There isn't an early morning drop-off or late pickup option, which is too bad, but working parents either have a sitter to help out or juggle the schedule between them. There are a number of school holidays, which I've heard some parents (esp. working ones) complain about.

The teachers are amazing. Very attentive and energetic. I like, too, that they always speak calmly. I don't think I've ever heard one of the yell. The teacher:student ratio is about 1:6 or 1:7.

Pricing: I don't know how much I have to offer beyond our own experience. I've heard other parents describe HL as expensive, but when we set out to find a preschool for our kids the per-hour cost ended up being significantly lower than other schools we looked at (with shorter schedules, both daily and yearly).

Hope this helps! Krysten

We looked at Hearts Leap, and had a tough time deciding not to attend as we were quite impressed with their programs. I'll leave the specifics to current families, but can answer a few of your questions about comparisons between HL and other schools in the area. Yes, it is expensive, but on par with many of the private preschools in Berkeley/Oakland. We did find Hearts Leap's part-time program better priced than some of the other schools we looked at. Their yard is largely wood chips/paved with some garden boxes, and while I would love to have seen more grass/green areas, we didn't find many schools in the more urban areas of Oakland/Berkeley that offered much in the way of green space. HL does have one of the larger yards, which is nice since it means they can divide the space. Teacher ratio was on par with most other schools we looked at (1:6 for twos as required by the state and 1:7 or 1:8 as kids get older). HL had one of the more thought-out curriculum philosophies; they could clearly articulate how they went about teaching kids and why. (I am a big fan of Reggio Emilia and liked that they seemed to truly understand emergent curriculum and how to integrate it with play.) We also liked that most (all?) of their teachers are credentialed. Several were relatively new to the school; not sure if that is typical there or if there was just a cohort of teachers who hit retirement recently. The communication around the admissions process was not great compared to some of the other schools we looked at--some families had received and submitted applications in the fall, while others had been told that the first step was to come to the winter open house--but they do have a huge number of prospective families to keep track of. (The open house is also for parents only, which unfortunately the office didn't mention when giving us the info--important to know!) I did appreciate that they were very clear about their notification date (not the case at some other schools, who seem to have a rolling admissions process--so frustrating that East Bay preschools do not have consistent admissions calendars!)

We ultimately chose another school with a similar philosophy because it was in our neighborhood, but it was a tough decision and I felt extremely fortunate to be choosing between such strong options. We may well be back in the applicant pool for Bridge K in a few years! Another prospective HL parent

Insight into Hearts Leap Julia Morgan campus

Jan 2013

Greetings! I am wondering if any of you Hearts Leap parents could give me insight into how you like the Julia Morgan campus. We are hoping to send our 3 year old there next fall (if we get a spot) but I'd love to know more about your experience. Our impression is that it is lovely and warm and gives the children a nice amount of structure without being too overbearing. Is it too structured? We are trying to decide between this school and a more play-based school and wanted to get some thoughts from parents with kids there. Thanks so much. preschool mommy

Dear Preschool Mommy, We only had one year at Hearts Leap, because we came to the area when our daughter was already 4. I was skeptical, as this campus looked much different from our old preschool. But after only a few days of our daughter being in the Laurel Room, I was impressed. At first, I worried there were too many children in the classroom. But there are 3 loving, intelligent and highly capable teachers. More students meant more friendships, more fun, not more chaos and less learning. Our daughter thrived in this environment. She gained tons of confidence from having daily opportunities to ''share'' with her classmates. She learned everything she needed to be ready for kindergarten. We only wish we could have had more time at Hearts Leap. It sounds cheesy, but my heart does leap when I think about this place! We look forward to staying connected to this special school, through it's annual auction. And when we pass by the school, my daughter still shouts, ''There's my school!'' Yes, there it is!!! Missing Hearts Leap
This is our family's fourth year at Hearts Leap on College and we've been very happy with it. The teachers are warm, skilled, and good at communicating with parents. I feel like it strikes the right balance between structured activities and play. Even the structured activities feel kid-centered -- the art projects, for example, are about the kids exploring the materials. I really love the emergent curriculum, and have watched teachers support the kids as they collaborate with one another and explore their interests doing some really amazing projects. They get lots of time outside in the wonderful yard and have gymnastics, yoga, and field trips. The teacher and the director are responsive and warm and my kids have thrived there. I highly recommend it! happy Hearts Leap parent

Recent experiences with Hearts Leap on College

Feb 2012

I would love to hear from parents who have some recent experiences with Hearts Leap (on College), Little Elephant Preschool or the Model School. My husband and I are considering those schools for our little girl starting at age 2.5. Because we are considering starting her so young, I would love to hear from parents whose child began in the twos program as well as parents whose child started later. What were your experiences with the schools? Anything negative that I should keep in mind? Our daughter is kind, sweet and a bit sensitive to chaotic situations and can get overwhelmed by lots of noise or active boys running around. We are looking for a place where the teachers provide lots of love for the kids and also help foster their independence. We'd like conflicts to be resolved without scolding, lecturing, blaming, or shaming. Thank you in advance for your responses. Nervous Mom

Our daughter is in the Laurel Room (four year old room) at Heart's Leap and we have only wonderful things to say about the school. The staff is loving, spontaneous, intelligent, and well-educated in early child development. I can also say without a doubt that every teacher we have had has known our daughter well.

Our daughter has been in the school since she was two and a half and she loved the two year old room so much that she often asked to stay longer. The school generously allowed one teacher, Victoria, to advance each year with our daughter's class and so she will have had one teacher the entire time she was at the school.

We will be leaving the school when my daughter goes to kindergarten in the fall and we will be very sad to leave the excellent staff and awesome families. The sense of community at Heart's Leap is incredible. Rebecca

Oct 2010

I see recent comments Re HLNorth, plus some older ones Re original (South) Bridge-K program from 3 years ago but am wanting to find out about the regular 2-4 yr-old rooms and the outside play area. We went on tour@ HLS, found out the staff had seen some recent major turnover; we learned abt Emergent Curriculum, saw kids having fun. But we are most interested in finding out from others whether it's proved to be a good fit for really active boys--we have two, a 2 yr-old and an almost 4 yr-old and are getting ready to go up the next step, from family daycare to (expensive) pre- school placements. So we're currently @the research stage and would greatly appreciate any helpful comments Re. HLS. --future preschoolers' parents

My son goes to Heart's Leap on College and we have been very happy with the school. One of its great strengths, from our perspective, is how attuned the teachers are to the individual needs of all the kids in their classrooms. Our son's teacher did leave mid-year last year, but we were satisfied with the way the school handled the transition. Her replacement was wonderful and is back again with the same kids this year. happy HL parent

Preschool in North Oakland or surroundings?

August 2010

I'm not sure if there are still spaces, but I think our preschool fits your bill.

Heart's Leap North, housed in but not affliated with All Souls Episcopal on Cedar between Oxford and Spruce, offers 4 and 5 day programs from 8:30am to your choice of pick-up times - 12:30 (younger kids only), 2:30, 4 or 5:30. Tuition varies by pick-up time, but seems comparable to or less than other schools in the area. The school uses Reggio-Emilia/Emergent curricula, meaning the students are offered lots of choice, and the teachers bring new materials into the classroom on an ongoing basis, in accordance with the students changing interests. The days are fairly structured in terms of a dependable routine, but within that routine, there's lots of room for play. The school has 2 classrooms - one for 2s and early 3s, and one for late 3s and 4s. Some of the kids in the older room will be turning five in the fall, and other kids that were in the older class last year but aren't ready for K will be transferring to the Heart's Leap South campus, where there is a wonderful Bridge-K program.

The teachers are phenomenal - really engaged and interested in the children, really creative and committed to creating a good environment for the kids. The school offers movement classes (last year there was dance, yoga, and gymnastics), and will be offering music next year. There's also often some instruction in Spanish and ASL. The teachers also lead small group activities based on current interests, like a Super Hero Group that culminated in making costumes (including capes) and filming a Super Hero Movie starring all the kids.

The children are very friendly and loving towards each other - it's really emphasized by the teachers, and I've noticed my son's friends tend to have better social skills that some kiddos I know at other schools.

All in all, we've been very happy there. Check it out! While the school is not in regular session right now, there is a ''Summer Camp'' going on that you can visit.

Good luck! Happy to be starting our 3rd year at HLN

July 2010

For families navigating the world of Berkeley preschools, I'd like to recommend Hearts Leap North, the 2-year-old sister campus to the Hearts Leap School at Julia Morgan Center. Our oldest son is starting his third year at Hearts Leap, and our youngest will start in the 2-year-old class in this fall. The teachers are warm, loving and very tuned in to the kids, and the Reggio-inspired ''emergent'' curriculum has really allowed our son's imagination and curiosity about the world to thrive there. Hearts Leap's approach emphasizes imaginative play, community and respect for each other. Communication with the teachers and director is open and welcoming, and the community of parents and kids there has been amazing for our son and our whole family. The rooms are warm and inviting, and the outdoor space is great with lots of green, including a garden the kids help plant and nurture. We couldn't be happier to be part of the Hearts Leap family. JW

July 2010

My son is finishing his second year at Hearts Leap North (HLN). We have been extremely happy with our experience at the school. It is a relatively new school, but I find it to be very well run and organized, with an incredible teaching staff. We have gotten to know all of the teachers (in both classrooms) and they are all top notch--very warm, loving and supportive, with their own unique personality and style. The school uses an emergent curriculum approach to learning--which follows the childrens' interests and passions, while providing some structure. This year in the 3-4 year old class (Sequoia room), the teachers have developed a number of ''interest-based'' groups for smaller groups of children to explore subjects like pretend-play, cooking, writing, science, sports, superheroes, messy/tactical play, etc. In addition, the school currently has weekly gymnastics, dance, and yoga classes (though I understand that exact lineup may change next year). The children who attend the school come from diverse backgrounds and families, and there is a wide range of personalities, energy-levels and temperament amongst the children, all of whom seem to thrive at HLN. The classrooms and outside space at HLN are fantastic and provide a very rich and stimulating learning environment for children. The teachers and the director also do a great job of communicating with parents about things that are going on in the class--there are daily summaries posted on the bulletin board outside the classroom, periodic e- mail bulletins with additional summaries and background regarding certain activities or events, and parent-teacher conferences twice a year (with additional follow up if necessary). School-provided snacks are healthy and often organic. There is a weekly pizza day on Fridays for lunch (participation is voluntary), which the school uses for fundraising purposes as well as to give parents a break from providing lunch everyday. Overall, we have been incredibly pleased with the approach, curriculum, and day- to-day management of the school. My son has grown tremendously in this environment and he looks forward to coming to school everyday.

And if that weren't enough, Hearts Leap North also fosters a strong community amongst the children and their families outside of school. The school regularly hosts parent breakfasts (generally coinciding with holidays and other special occasions like Mother's Day and Father's Day) and there are frequent birthday parties on weekends and other outside playdates/gatherings that allow families to socialize outside of school. Families also are very generous and supportive with each other--helping out with babysitting, carpooling, and/or meals when there are childcare gaps, illnesses and family additions. We moved to Berkeley (from San Francisco) shortly before starting at Hearts Leap North, and we have felt right at home in large part due to the many friends we have made through Hearts Leap North. We are very happy to be part of this wonderful community and feel fortunate to have found such a great school for our son. Happy HLN Parent

June 2010

Our son is in the 2-3 year old room at Hearts Leap Julia Morgan campus. We have only positive feedback. His teachers are fantastic- smart, nurturing and seem to understand and embrace each child's individuality. They emphasize emotional growth and work closely with the class on communication and age-appropriate conflict resolution. There is some structure to the day however within that structure the kids are pretty much able to follow their bliss. Activities offered are varied on a day-to-day basis and there is enough variety to appeal to the more ''physical'' and/or ''bookish'' child. And I've really enjoyed our parent community. Feel free to contact me for further questions. sue

Looking for recent comments - either campus

May 2010

Are there any parents out there willing to share (recent) experiences Re. either of the Hearts Leap campuses or the preschool/nursery in Alameda? I have heard from one or two parents about ICRI but their kids moved on long ago. We're looking for 2009 or '10 comments. Thank you--anonymous-- preschooler-to-be parents

Hi. Our 5 year old is just finishing her second year at Heart's Leap North. We absolutely LOVE the preschool and feel blessed to have had our daughter there for the past two years. The teachers are amazing - caring, creative, thoughtful, smart, open-minded, etc. We love the school's director, Paul. He is relaxed but at the same time totally on top of things. The classrooms are beautiful with lots of different areas for the children to play. There is a ton of art and dramatic play going on as well as science, math, letters, etc., all rolled into a play based curriculum. Our daughter has received individualized attention at Heart's Leap North - she has some sensory issues and was having a hard time at school for a while. They worked closely with us to make sure that our daughter was getting her needs met and were very willing to work with whatever therapies we were doing to help our child. I'd be happy to talk further with you via email or phone. Sheryl
My feedback is based on the Hearts Leap North campus, which is also run by ICRI. We have had many negative experiences with this school.

First, this is not a good school for active boys (or girls, for that matter). They have long meetings in the mornings in which the kids have to sit still for long periods. Much of the play is based on quiet, controlled experiences or curriculum that tends to serve (stereotypically) girls - drama, cooking, etc. All great in and of themselves, but not very friendly/open to what many preschool boys are interested in - superheros, etc. Rather than dealing realistically with the often boy interest in ''violence'' or gun play, it is shunned rather than redirected/discussed.

They are very rigid in their rules, times for parents to drop-off, etc. to the point that if your child is ''late'', they have to sit outside the classroom until the morning meeting is over. Parents can't come into the classroom to pick up their kids. They also have quirky rules around the types of shoes kids can wear. While I fully support boundaries and routines for kids, it is to the point that my free loving, tree climbing toddler became attached and obsessed with rules. Very sad.

The teaching is extremely inconsistent. At our school, two years ago, there was a fabulous director and lead teacher who left, so this past year there was a huge vacuum of experience. The director was not involved or communicative with parents. On many occasions I witnessed one teacher in particular not engaging with my daughter and other children in the classroom. This teacher would also not even say "hello" to us or other parents. Another teacher was very nice but did not have experience teaching when hired. However, an exception is the lead teacher who has been often absent this spring to help ICRI open yet another preschool (franchise). Unfortunately, I have often observed the substitute teacher that usually comes to replace this effective lead teacher, speak harshly to my and other children. She has yelled at my child repeatedly.

We have had experience with a wide range of preschools here and in another state. This is by far a very disappointing experience. Overall communication with what's happening in the classroom was quite good although staff provided poor communication to us about our child's developmental issues. Teacher/parent conferences this past year or attempts to talk to the teacher assigned to my child have been met with one word answers.

The upsides? They offer dance, gymnastics and yoga classes (the yoga teacher is particularly spectacular and wonderful). The art curriculum is overall good. My sense is that the main HL campus on College Ave. might be better and is certainly in high demand, but it pays to find out who the teachers are. anon

My child is currently attending Heart's Leap North and I truly could not imagine a kinder, more nurturing environment that the caring and supportive teachers have created for the "friends" (they all refer to each other as friends; not students, kids or hey you - just one example of their emphasis on creating community). I shopped around a lot (really a LOT) for a preschool where I could feel comfortable that my child would be well taken care of, respected and would learn to respect others as well as herself. I am impressed with the dedication that ICRI, and Hearts Leap North in particular, has on so many levels to the emotional, intellectual and psychological growth and welfare of kids.

The "friends" have learned a wonderful capacity for valuing each other, using friendly words to express their feelings and conflict is resolved in a non-punitive and respectful manner that still makes the point of a lesson learned from the interaction. Their snacks are organic, the space is wonderful and fun, and the play yard is just the right size that the teachers can have a watchful eye on everyone. Friends are taught to make choices, take responsibility, plan their time and (*gasp*) even clean up after themselves.

We have always felt very connected to the teachers and the community of families that has formed around our kids and many deep friendships have been formed through this connection. When my child became very ill, it was this community that became our core support; parents and teachers that we had known for barely a year came together for us in a way I will be forever grateful for, and taught my child and the other friends an amazing lesson in what it truly means to be part of a caring community. This has been true for any child or family that has needed community support.

This is starting to sound like a commercial, but I cannot say enough wonderful things about ICRI and Hearts Leap. It has been a joy to see my child grow and thrive in their care. Happy Mama

April 2010

Re: Cozy, fun preschool for 2-year-old
We've been very happy with Heart's Leap North, on Cedar Street between Oxford and Spruce, in Berkeley. Our son, now 3.5, started when this new campus opened in Fall 2008. The school is cozy - only two classrooms, each with 18-22 students, depending on the ages, with 3 teachers in each room. The days are very playful, fun, and exciting. The teachers are wonderful professionals, very warm, and highly skilled in encouraging the children's interests and teaching important social skills, like how to enter into play with others, and how to speak kindly to each other. The children and teachers all refer to each other as ''friends'', and it really is true. Our shy son has made wonderful friends there. The school is open 8:30am-5:30pm, but there are a variety of options for pick-up times (12:30 for 2-year-olds only, 2:30pm, 4pm, or 5:30pm), an option for 2 emergency early drop-offs a month at an additional charge, and 4 days a week is also an option. The school provides healthy snacks, and parents provide lunches. Naptime is well managed - my son who refuses naps at home still naps at school almost every day. If you have other questions, feel free to contact me. There are just a couple of spots left, in the younger classroom. Good luck with your search. daria

Interested in the Heart's Leap North preschool program

Jan 2010

We are interested in placing our will be two year old into the Heart's Leap North preschool program. Does anyone have any thoughts/reviews of the school under the new director's management? -Anon

The new director, Paul Chinn, was a lead teacher last year (the school's first year), so he's not new to the community, and he's wonderful - patient, gentle, intelligent, unflappable. The site is good - classrooms are spacious, there's some onsite parking, the play-yard is secure, the ''rainy day'' play space is beautiful and spacious. The school offers several enrichments, including dance, yoga, and gymnastics, with specialist teachers. The classroom teachers are great - very loving and involved. The teachers move with the students, so as students grow and change classrooms, the teachers stay with them, which really allows relationships to deepen. The students are wonderful with each other, which is one of my favorite things about the school. There's a real emphasis on teaching the children how to have healthy friendships based on caring and mutual respect. As you can tell, we've been very happy there. D
We've been very happy with Hearts Leap North. The main thing is that the teachers are wonderful. The facilities are also very nice (and they have use of the church social hall as an alternative for outside play on rainy days). There is frequent and various type of communication with parents, and the kids seem engaged and happy. Maybe you already know this, but in addition to the ''greatness'' of any preschool, you should think about whether the location, schedule, and cost fit your needs as well.
We enrolled our 2 year old the first year the HLN campus opened and I'm sorry to say that we had a very negative experience.

After about 3 weeks of school we received a call asking us to pick him up right away because he was acting out. We talked briefly with his teacher as it was nap time and made an appointment with the teacher and the director for the next evening. The next day we received another call to pick him up within an hour after dropping him off. At the meeting that evening we were told not to bring him back to school, that he was not "developmentally ready" for HL. They would not work with us on trying to find a solution and correct the bad behavior. They just plain gave up on a 2 year old kid who was having a hard time adjusting to school and was acting up. We had no notice before that anything was amiss and had gotten positive feedback.

3 weeks later, our son started in a different preschool with a similar teacher/student ratio, and daily schedule and activities. He's been doing great since and loves school. I can't help wonder why HL couldn't deal with him while his new school has no problems. Anonymous

2005 - 2009 Recommendations

Input on the new Heart's Leap North?

March 2009

Does anyone have input on the new Heart's Leap North preschool? Teachers, classrooms, community etc. etc. Any feedback very much appreciated! Anon

Heart's Leap North has been a wonderful school for our whole family. My son started as a 2-year-old when the school opened last fall. The teachers in the 2-year-old room (who will be the teachers in the 3-year-old room in September) are warm, caring professionals who truly love what they do. The director, Tera, who is a teacher in the older kids room, is delightful and responsive, as well. There have been many community events throughout the year for us to get to know the other families, and the families have also independently planned many events, such as inviting each other to birthday parties at the Albany YMCA or Studio Grow or our homes. The school practices emergent curriculum, which means they introduce new activities based on the naturally emerging interests of the children. The teachers are highly skilled at this - the classroom is constantly evolving with the children. New materials/stations are being added on what seems like a weekly basis. My son has learned so much, and seems to really enjoy his days there. I enjoy my time there as well - sometimes, when I pick my son up in the afternoon, it's hard for me to leave. I have come to love all his classmates and the teachers so much, that I just want to stay and hang out with them! I've heard minor complaints from some of the families that they wish the outdoor play areas were more ''dirty'' - that is, that the children had more opportunities to get into the dirt - but this hasn't bothered me, and I'm a gardener! The outdoor area seems rich and fun to me. All in all, it's a playful, warm, delightful school. Happy Heart's Leaper
Nov 2008

I'd love to hear from parents who know about Hearts Leap Preschool's new branch, Hearts Leap North in North Berkeley. How's the space? Are the teachers experienced? Appreciate any info. sally

Overall, thumbs up. Like any school, it depends on what you're looking for. Visit it.
-Emergent Curriculum
-Enrichment classes - yoga, movement and hopefully soon music
-Focus on outdoors (but see disadvantage)
-Social skills - conflict resolution is based on non-violent

-strict about when you can pick up and not pickup - because it
is a large classroom, you can't show up at any time to pick up
your kid or go into ''their'' space
-outdoor space - they're trying to improve it but not enough
-expensive - not ideal for part-time. even for full-time, on
the high end.
This year, teaching quality is high but check to see who will be teaching next year. Good luck. The preschool search is no fun! preschool'ed out mama
As members of the inaugural class at Hearts Leap North, we feel lucky to have gotten in at the beginning. It is a very strong school in terms of staff dedication, parent communication, classroom equipment and structure, and student community. After only 3 months, my son already talks about his friends and teachers at school every weekend, and has learned many important skills like sharing, cleaning up, and saying thank you. We get weekly e-mails from his teacher, and there are also daily letters posted at the sign-in/out sheet. The facility is clean, well-lit, and spacious. The playground has a wonderful sandbox and climbing structure. I agree with the previous poster that the ''dirt'' factor is somewhat lacking, and I've seen other preschools with more enchanting physical spaces, but because of the incredible staff, I'm willing to overlook minor appearances.

The previous poster had questioned whether the staff will be continuing next year - while I do not know about the older room (4 year olds next fall), the younger room will have all the same, great teachers. I also don't know how many spaces there will be - the 4-year-old room will only have space if families leave, and the 3-year-old room will have only 5 spaces for next fall (plus any attrition). All in all, we've been very happy. Good luck in your search! Leaping Heart

April 2008

Our son has been at Hearts Leap School for 18 months now. We are really happy with the devoted staff at the school and the progress he has made. They really try hard to work with the child on mastering a challenging skill. They have three teachers assigned to a class which seems to work really well. I think the program gives children a solid foundation to transition to kindergarten.Our son loves going to school everyday. I would highly recommend it! Apparently they are opening Hearts Leap North this September in North Berkeley. The school can be reached at 510 549 1422. Happy Parents

February 2006

We are looking at preschools for my 2 year old daughter. I would love any feedback about Heart's Leap School. Thanks! lg

It feels like only yesterday that I myself posted for feedback about Hearts Leap. Now my child has been there for almost three years, and I'm dreading the day when she graduates and goes off to kindergarten. The short answer is, yes, it's a wonderful school. The teachers are incredibly loving and creative, and I've been very happy with everything about my child's experience. I was specifically looking for a play-based school for my spirited child, and she has grown socially, intellectually, and emotionally with the support of her amazing teachers. I should also add that I've seen very shy, reserved children do very well at HL, since the staff really approach each child on his or her own terms. I believe it has become more difficult to get a spot in the years we have been there, so if you can get in, I highly recommend coming to HL.
super happy HL parent
April 2005

I have heard nothing but great things about these preschool programs (Gay Austin vs Ducks Nest (Brkly) vs Hearts Leap) and am not sure how to go about comparing them. Is anyone familiar enough with these three programs to be able to identify their relative strengths/weaknesses? I am looking for a program for a two year old. Thank you.

I don't know about the other schools, but Heart's Leap is currently VERY competitive to get into for 2-year-olds. We live nearby and liked the school a lot. We applied this year for our 2-year-old daughter and there were about 40 applicants for eight openings (there were a lot of siblings this year, who automatically get in). We had to bring our daughter in for ''observed play'' and fill out a questionairre about her, plus sit through what felt like an personal interview with the director and assistant director. No other school that we applied to had such an onerous process. Your question regarding Heart's Leap isn't ''should'' you go there, but ''could'' you. It's hard to get in (although I have heard that the older classes are less competitive). Heart's Leap Reject

2004 & Earlier

March 2004

Any current parents of Heart's Leap kids out there, who want to tell us what you think about the place? Most of the extant reviews are from before the change in ownership. Contact me directly if you want. Thanks-- Heidi

Hi, I'll reply to the list for this one in case other parents have questions about Heart's Leap, but I'll include my email if you have specific questions and want to contact me directly. My daughter is in the 2's program at Heart's Leap, and we have been incredibly happy with the program. My highest priority for a preschool was warm, caring teachers with a philosophy towards play-based learning, discipline, and social interactions that matched my own. I could not be more satisfied with our choice of Heart's Leap, because the teachers are loving, patient, creative, and amazing with the kids. The children are always engaged in great activities and mine comes home with wonderful stories about how she has spent her day. The program has been a great match for my determined, strong-willed, social kid, and I really appreciate the ability of the teachers to encourage kids to 'use words' and develop conflict resolution skills. My sister has occasionally dropped my daughter off at school, and she always comments that all the teachers at the school know my daughter's name and greet her in the halls. It has been an exceptional place for us, and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. Please contact me at the email address below if I can tell you anything else. kmm

Hearts Leap Bridge K Program

Jan 2009

We are considering an extra year of preschool for our 4 1/2 yr. old son. He has speech and fine motor delays w/ senory related issues. We are considering the bridge K program at Hearts Leap. The reviews on the network are mostly older and we were wondering if anyone could chime in on their current experience with the porgram. We did have a brief 'tour'. But the school does not allow parents to observe at any other time. We are wondering about the curiculum. quality of the teaching, small classroom - really anything you'd like to share would be helpful. Melissa

My son is in the Hearts Leap Bridge-K this year and we absolutely adore it. The program and teachers are just amazing. Nancy, Jeannde, and Gretchen are very attuned to the needs and readiness of each child and do an incredible job creating an enriching, diverse, and fun curriculum. However, if you are thinking about the bridge-k for your son for this coming fall, it's too late--the school has already completed its enrollment process for 2009-2010.
My daughter attended the Hearts Leap Bridge K (or Oak Room as we know it) and is now in 2nd grade. I know the teachers are still the same because we often stop by for visits! She (and we) loved the year she spent there--the group was small, the teachers were amazing, and it was the perfect transition from preschool to Kindergarten. By the time she got to Kindergarten she knew exactly how things were going to ''work'' and was fully prepared for the big changes. It was well worth the ''extra'' year for us--she is now doing extremely well in her school and continues to have the great confidence she first developed in the Oak Room. Happy Hearts Leap Alum
I posted a response about this earlier in the week, but I found out yesterday that the Bridge-K at Hearts Leap actually does still have some openings for next year, and they are specifically hoping for boys. Holly
Dec 2007

My son attended the Bridge K program (Oak Room) at Hearts Leap School last year and we fell in love with the school. The teachers are warm and attentive; the community is strong, supportive, and welcoming; and the administrator (Ellie) is responsive, organized, and diligent. The school is really out-of-the-way for us since live in Upper Rockridge. After visiting other schools, however, I couldn't imagine sending my younger one anywhere else. Since she started in September, my daughter's language skills have exploded, her social skills have grown significantly, and her love of music, dance and yoga (yes, yoga!), have been nurtured. I feel very lucky to be part of the Hearts Leap Community. Happy Parent

May 2007

I asked for feedback on Heart's Leap's Bridge K program a couple months ago, and didn't hear back from anyone currently in it or with a recently graduated child. I'd love some updated comments from what's archived on BPN. Any thoughts on pluses and minuses for a late-fall-birthday boy would be great. My understanding is that the management of the school was recently taken over by ICRI. How has that changed things for the good or better? Thanks for any thoughts and info you have . . . Holly

My daughter attended the Hearts Leap Bridge-K program last year. She has a late October birthday and we elected to keep her at Hearts Leap for an extra year even though she did in many ways appear ready for kindergarten. We have never regreted it--the teachers were just fabulous and to this day I miss HLS very much. The community of children and parents in the Oak Room (as it is known at Hearts Leap) is strong and is very much fostered by the teachers and administration. The ''curriculum'' is creative and challenging and keeps them well engaged through the year. It also prepares them thoroughly for the first year of elementary school. So much so that all three HLS graduates at my daughter's school are now in an accelerated math program! The school was taken over by ICRI several years ago and they have brought a good sense of organization and vision to the school after a difficult beginning. We were very pleased with everyone we met over our three years at Hearts Leap. My son went to a different preschool and while I would say that too was an oustanding program, Hearts Leap has a unique and remarakble approach to early childhood education. Good luck with your choice. saskia
My daughter isn't in the Bridge K program, but she is finishing up her third year at Heart's Leap. From all I know from parents of Bridge-K kids, the program is first-rate and the kids are very happy. The school is terrific in general--you couldn't find a more dedicated and nurturing group of teachers, and the parent community is pretty cool as well. No complaints either about the new management which took over in 2003, the year before our kid entered the school. heidi
My daughter is currently in the Hearts Leap Bridge K program and this year has been wonderful for her. She loves school and has grown tremendously socially, emotionally and academically. The two teachers are fabulous with the children. They are very experienced, love kids and create a warm and inviting classroom that kids thrive in. The program is very rich, full of field trips, library trips, yoga, and cooking. A lot of creative artwork is done in the class, the teachers play music, the children sing, and right now the class is practicing a play they will perform soon. I've found the staff and the administration to be excellent. I don't know how things were before Fall '06 but the school is well managed currently. Jennifer
Our son is currently in the Heart's Leap Bridge-K program and we love it. It is a small, cozy, wonderful place for someone who needs one more year of pre-school. The community is amazing (not just in the Bridge-K classroom, but throughout the school). The teachers are warm, patient, and really know their stuff. I'm not familiar with the past administration, but the current Director (Ellie) is excellent. Good luck! Polly
March 2007

Does anyone have recent feedback on the Heart's Leap Bridge K program? My son currently attends another preschool, which we love, but if I decide to wait a year on kindergarten (he has a late September birthday), I'd like to find a new environment for him for that ''extra'' year. If you have specific feedback about teachers, play space, and classroom activities, I'd love to hear it. My son is quite bright but is somewhat shy and slow to warm to new situations, so if you can comment on teachers' ability to handle this kind of kid, that would be great too. Plus, what is the current tuition like and how much does it tend to go up each year? Thanks very much for sharing! Holly

My daughter used to go to Hearts Leap. Although she did not go into the Bridge K program, the few families I talked to were very, very happy with it. I also know a family who had their child there last year and whose daughter is now in K. They, too, were very happy with it. I don't know if the teachers are the same, but they were in very good standing with the HL community. One of them, I believe, was an interim director for a while. They really seemed together and to care very much for the children. This was true of all of the HL teachers, in my opinion. k12mcc
Re: Pre-K Progams for December Birthday (Oct 2005)
HeartsLeap on College Ave ( at the Julia Morgan Center) has a true pre K program (they call it bridge K). It is designed for kids who are just a bit too young for kindergarten but ready to move on from pre school. The class is 12-13 kids and two teachers. sara
Jan 2004

Does anyone have experience with a fairly new program at Heart's Leap for kids that just miss the age cut off for public school kindergarten? I think they call it their transition program or developmental kindergarten program. Thank you! Parent

In response to the question about the ''Bridge K'' program at Hearts Leap: Our son was not in the program, but the two teachers who created it (and continue to teach it) were my son's teachers for three years at Hearts Leap, and they are superb. I have been in that classroom several times this year (we have a daughter in the ''2s'' class there), and it seems like a wonderful space, where the kids are getting kindergarten-level educational input in a softer, pre-school environment. if it was age-appropriate for one of my kids, I would do it in a heartbeat (or is it Hearts Beat?) aj
I currently have a son in the Heart's Leap Bridge-K program, for kids of kindergarten age, but not going to kindergarten for any of a number of reasons.

Frankly, the program has not been all I had hoped. One of the things I'm least happy about is the physical facility. The classroom is small, and far from the play-yard. And the play-yard itself is very small for an active bunch of 5 yr olds... no room to play ball or run. I knew this in advance, but decided to ignore it. I think it is a problem for my son.

I'm somewhat disappointed with the classroom teachers. My son and a friend of his have been having some interpersonal problems with another child, and the communication between the classroom teachers and the parents has been too little, too late, and somewhat critical of us. I can go into more detail off the list.

Nevertheless, I still think it was a good decision to wait a year for kindergarten. The school offers a good selection of enrichment programs, like movement, Spanish, and frequent field trips. I consider these a necessity, given the meager facility of the school. Lynn

My son has been enrolled in the Bridge K program at Hearts Leap this year and is thriving. He has benefitted from the small class size of 12 students and from the nurturing and stimulating classroom activities.The program is a true bridge between preschool and kindergarten and gives those students who need the extra time, for intellectual, emotional or social reasons, the opportunity to develop the confidence needed to enter kindergarten. The program offers a rich curriculum supplemented by twice weekly Spanish classes, a music and movement class, monthly trips to Lawrence Hall of Science for classes, a partner program in dramatic arts with the Julia Morgan Center right next door, as well as field trips to Ardenwood, the Oakland Museum, Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory. The class is led by two very experienced teachers with backgrounds in both early childhood and elementary education. Hearts Leap will be holding an Open House on Saturday January 31st, with applications available for next year.
A Happy Hearts Leap Parent


August 2003

We are contemplating sending our very active 3 year old son to Hearts Leap Preschool. We are concerned that the outdoor area might be too small and juvenile for our child who loves large slides and climbing structures. We liked the teachers, the student teacher ratio and the indoor space. I am also concerned that the program might be too unstructured for him. He would be in after school program until 5:30 on most days and we don't know if only a few kids stay. The last posting was in the fall 2002. Does anyone have recent experience who could answer my questions? Thanks

Heart's Leap is a great place for the kids who will be happy there. My best friend taught there and told tales of many joy- filled days. You should ''trust your antenna'', as my mother told me when I was looking for daycare 20 years ago. I haven't regretted following her advice because daycare was the most powerful formative experience my child had outside of her relationship to me. If you feel doubts, keep looking. Go back to Heart's Leap again. Maybe your child can spend a few hours there and you can observe. Go to other places your friends recommend. This is a big decision, worth a lot of research. You won't be comfortable for a minute if you don't trust that your child is in the right place. Linda
My active 5 year old son is beginning his third year at Heart's Leap and has found that the play ground and nearby Willard Park satisfy his need for movement and activities. The teachers and the school have been a terrific fit for our family and we look forward to sending his 2 year old sister there next year. happy heartsleap parent
Your posting really resonated with me...we had a very active 3 yr old boy in their program last year. H.L. has a very impressive and diverse program, which in many ways is unbeatable. They offer dance/movement, music, theatre arts, and creative art. My son loved it. However, I believe the class room environment was too unstructured in many ways, which brought about huge behavioral issues at home. The teachers were observant, responsive and quick to introduce new things to the program that would engage my son(and other active boys in the class) like more nature, science and math activities. Overall, I was very impressed with H.L. despite some of my frustrations. Your welcome to email me. maya
I have 3 VERY active kids at Hearts Leap right now and they're in the full time program from 8-5:30 5 days a week. We have really loved the program overall and our kids have really thrived there. My son is 4.5 yrs and extremely athletic, and the teachers have been great at devising activities in the play yard that really wear the kids out - they dig long trenches in the sand and fill them with water to make rivers, climb, jump, play frisbee, soccer, etc. We also have twin girls there who are 2.5 years and are very happy and doing wonderfully.

You mentioned that you're concerned about the lack of structure but that's not something I've felt about the program and I always tend to lean towards more structure. The classes have a pretty clear schedule of activities (reading, circle time, outdoor play, creative play indoors, snack time, nap time, etc.) When you look at the whole schedule for the entire day it ends up being quite a lot. The afternoon program doesn't have as many set activities because it just gets really exhausting for the kids who are there all day long. I know my kids are pretty tired by the end of the day. Feel free to send me an email if you have any more questions. Cameron

Re: Preschool for a spirited child (Jan. 2003)
Your daughter sounds a lot like three of my daughter's best friends at Heart's Leap. These are not my children, but I've seen them up close for three years and have been impressed with how the teachers have both encouraged these girls to be who they are and helped them learn limits. As you mention, the program at Heart's Leap is great. The new owners (they've been there about a year) are organized. The teachers are experienced and nurturing and they see each child for who they are. When we were choosing a preschool, we had Heart's Leap and Duck's Nest (two blocks from *our* house) as the options. I was attracted to Duck's Nest partly for the sign language, by the way. At Heart's Leap, though, my daughter has loved movement, yoga, Spanish, and arts enrichment. We're very happy to have been part of Heart's Leap -- especially so in this last year, when the school community has been extraordinary. I recommend Heart's Leap very highly. Happy Heart's Leap Parent


October 2002

I must recommend(highly) Chris and Carlotta at Hearts Leap school (2638 College and Derby in the Julia Morgan Center). They made my son feel very special, loved and cared for everyday with lots of hugs, a calm voice and caring hands. Call Eli the director for openings at 549-1422. Maya

I can heartily and happily recommend Hearts Leap presechool. My 3 yr old son is there and I've seen him learn and blossom wonderfully. There have been a lot of changes there this year - new ownership, some staff turnover (only in his class), but the head teacher in his class has provided real stability for the kids as well as a stimulating, play-based, gently-structured environment. The building is beautiful - the 3 upstairs classrooms have high high ceilings and wood floors, the yard is good (if a little shady)- and the new folks running the school (International Childrens Resource Institute: are great. I'm happy to share more specifics if you want to email me. Jill
Wanted to add to my enthusiastic posting of several months ago since there has been a recent change of ownership at the school (located in the Julia Morgan building on College Ave). Hearts Leap is now owned and run by the International Child Resource Institute ( The new owners are WONDERFUL, and very well organized. The program will run year-round starting in July, and includes the option of an afternoon program full of great activities. If you are interested, call soon (510-549-1422) as I understand spaces are filling quickly. Also, if you have specific questions, don't hesitate to email me. Sooz
July 2002

Re: Preschools that use the Reggio Emilia approach
You might want to talk to Ellie (director) or Jackie (teacher) at Hearts Leap Preschool on College in Berkeley. They are not fully Reggio Emilia, but they incorporate a lot of the Reggio Emilia practices into their program. Jackie has lots of great ideas and is very excited about the Reggio program. Sara

March 2002

I would like any feedback about Heart's Leap preschool in the Julia Morgan theater building, especially people who currently have kids there. I know the school just went through a big transition and I'd like to hear an inside report on how things are going. I'm thinking of putting my 2-year-old there starting in September (he'll be 2y9mos). He'd be in the 3-year-old room with Chris. I want to find a school where he can stay till kindergarten, so I'm interested in the classes for older kids too. THANKS. Looking Before Leaping

Heart's Leap has indeed gone through a big transition, and the results have all been good. The teachers at Heart's Leap have always been terrific--in the past, they were the reason to choose the school. They were and are creative, committed, and always alert to the children's best interests. Now the new administration is backing that up with stable management, fiscal responsibility, and an eye on the future. The teachers seem happier than in the past, the children have new opportunities for enrichment, and the afterschool program offers many more age-appropriate activities than it ever did. We're only sorry that our child will be ''graduating'' at a time when the school appears to be becoming golden. A Heart's Leap Parent
Feb. 2002

We are considering Giggles (Oakland) and Heart's Leap (Berkeley) preschools for our child. There is some information listed in the archives, but Heart's Leap recently changed ownership and I only found one comment on Giggles. Any recent experiences that you can share, either positive or negative, regarding either school would be greatly appreciated. Anonymous replies okay. Laurie I can heartily and happily recommend Hearts Leap presechool. My 3 yr old son is there and I've seen him learn and blossom wonderfully. There have been a lot of changes there this year - new ownership, some staff turnover (only in his class), but the head teacher in his class has provided real stability for the kids as well as a stimulating, play-based, gently-structured environment. The building is beautiful - the 3 upstairs classrooms have high high ceilings and wood floors, the yard is good (if a little shady)- and the new folks running the school (International Childrens Resource Institute: are great. I'm happy to share more specifics if you want to email me. Jill


Oct 2001

To the parent seeking a preschool for her 2-yr.-old next fall: check out Hearts Leap School, in the Julia Morgan Center on College Avenue in Berkeley. They have a "2's" class for kids who are 2 by Sept. 1 (actually, this year, there are two 2's classes--one for older 2's and one for younger 2's). Potty training is not a requirement. Pam 2001

Admittedly, the school appears to be a bit organizationally challenged ... but amidst the flurry of paperwork and at times less-then-ideal planning is a warm, receptive, stimulating, and loving environment. My son LOVES going to school and comes home every day singing a new song, telling favorite passages or phrases from a new book, excited about in-class projects, eager to see his friends, etc, etc. The teachers are extremely attentive, and give me lots of feedback /anecdotes about my son's time spent there. Overall, I'd say we're really very happy with the school, and also with the other families we've met. Sooz

The new posting about Hearts Leap prompted me to write, especially since I know many parents are making decisions about where their children will be in preschool next year. I was not happy with my child's experience there and opted for another preschool after a year.

Though I say this with some hesitation, I could not recommend Heartsleap. I think there are several problems there. The director has many good ideas, but I don't think they are that well carried out. There is a lot of disorganization. The building is not ideally set up--entry and exit through the one cluttered and narrow hallway always made me nervous about how they would evacuate in any emergency.

But most telling, many of the warmest and most imaginative teachers have recently left. I want my kids to be cuddled and played with. The teachers I saw in action were responsible and competent but not particularly warm. Of course, the children and families I encountered there were very nice. Perhaps others will want to share a different perspective. Anon

I too had a very bad experience with Heartleep PreSchool. We were not admitted although I called a year before I wanted my son to go (September 2000) at that time I was told that they did not maintain a waiting list and that I should attend a parent visitation session in January 2001. I attended the session, filled out an application on the spot, paid my application fee and waited. I was given a date that I would hear by, I let that date pass and then called. I was given the run around, but finally spoke to someone who told me that we were not selected and that we were very far down the list though she wouldn't tell me how far down. I finally spoke to the director who was rude and contradictory. She told me that we hadn't gotten in because there were people who had been on the list since birth, when I questioned this since I had been told that they did not maintain a list and I wasn't even given an application until January she became defensive and couldn't really respond or answer my questions. I was then told that I would receive a letter asking if I would like to remain on the waiting list (that was supposed to happen in February) well I'm still waiting. My overall impression was of disorganization, murky admission guidelines and a crowded space. Needless to say we will be attending another school.


On Hearts Leap . . . I have two sons, ages 4 (almost) and 6. My six year old went to Hearts Leap for two and one half years and my 4 year old is in his second year there. Hearts Leap offers an incredible program for preschoolers as well as pre-kindergartners and the community of families there is icing on the cake! The enrichment programs are wonderful, and the emerging curriculum produces a dynamic learning environment that the kids really get into, ponder and explore. I think my older son's experience was better than my younger son's -- a combination of a number of things, teachers, class size, his temperment, etc. I believe Lois Cotrell is teaching kindergarten next year. If so, you are in luck--she is fantastic. If you want more information, send me your phone number and I will call you.

Our daughter goes there now, and will likely be going to the kindergarten next year. We switched from another school (see previous posting) and are *very* happy. Pros: very involved parents, very good teachers, resource-rich school with lots of great things to do, nice back yard, nice way they've set up the afternoon care to involve a mixed-age grouping with several teachers to make it feel like a real community with a number of different adults and kids who know and care about your kid. Cons: Not a lot of African-Americans or latinos, not a lot of class diversity, although there is some, also it's pretty big for a preschool, it feels like a real *school* so it is a little harder for me to think about sending our 2-year-old there.


My daughter went to Hearts Leap for two years, when she was between 3 and 5 (the two years before she started kindergarten). She is now eight so it's been several years since she went to Hearts Leap.

She started preschool at Ducks Nest down on 4th St. because Hearts Leap was full the first year we applied. But her second year of preschool, we were offered a place at Hearts Leap and gladly took it.

I thought the program at Hearts Leap was absolutely wonderful. I feel that the director, Judy Jones, really knows her stuff when it comes to children. She hires excellent staff and creates wonderful physical environments for the children. My daughter started at the Talbot St. site, which was a house. It was wonderful, and though we were disappointed by the move to the Julia Morgan Center, it turned out that Judy was so creative in using the space there (at the JMC), that she turned large rooms with high ceilings into lots of cozy little child-sized areas.

Last year I saw one of the teachers, Linda, who was there the year my daughter was 3. She was one of my favorite teachers (I think she's in the 2's room now). Kathryn, my daughter, just loved her, and seeing Linda brought back all of those warm feelings that I had for her and for Hearts Leap.

The one sort of down side of the school was that the business end of the school was not Judy's strong point. Parents who were looking at the school were often frustrated because she didn't return their phone calls in a timely matter, and for awhile she had no office help. I don't know whether she has improved her operation on that score.

I am to this day, still impressed by Judy's "vision" for the school. Though vision is an overused word these days, I have come to realize the value of the director having a "vision" for his/her school and being able to implement it. Judy has that vision and at least when we were there implemented it though the curriculum, physical space, and staff that she hired.

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