Diverse Preschools

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Seeking small, diverse preschool for 3yo

    (5 replies)

    I am looking for a play-based preschool for an active 3-yr old boy in the Albany/Berkeley/El Cerrito/Oakland area.

    Ideally this preschool would:

    1.  have a student body of kids from diverse economic, racial, ethnic, family structure backgrounds

    2.  have no more than 24 kiddos

    3.  have indoor and outdoor play and lots of freedom to move between the two

    4.  have a curriculum supporting independence, inclusion, kindness, and empathy

    Is there such a place that checks all or at least most of these boxes?

    This description is Woolly Mammoth Preschool to a T! Our daughter loves WM and it checks all the boxes. 

    We've had a good experience with Little Elephant Too! in Berkeley -- seems to check all your boxes. We chose it specifically because we wanted a smaller school environment for our little one. There's a little less than 20 kids, mixed age, and the bigger ones help the little ones. There's both the great indoor classroom with a lot of interesting Montessori toys and a large outdoor space. Many parents come from outside the United States and several have come into the classroom to share traditions and stories from their home countries. We're grateful to have been part of the community for two years, since our kiddo was 2.5. And he loves it!

    Here is my quasi-regular plug for the home-based daycare/preschool we sent our kids to: Sunflowers Daycare in Rockridge. They also run Orkidz in Albany, which is bigger. Good outdoor space, great activities (weekly yoga, music, nature walks, etc), excellent homemade food, and very diverse group of kids with nice parents. The family who runs it takes it VERY seriously and really want the best for the kids. We are finally leaving after having been there for almost four years! A bunch of kids are leaving for TK at the end of summer so they will likely have a few spots (only 12 kids total).

    We are VERY happy at Monteverde, in South Berkeley that checks most of your boxes. I think there are more than 24 kids, but not all the kids are there all days. They have a play based curriculum with anti-racist/anti-bias built in. They are also great with helping children figure out socio-emotional learning. My child has become so much more empathetic and aware of others since she joined less than a year ago. The space is wonderful, and children have free reign to figure out where they want to go and how they want to play. And the teachers are absolutely incredible. They are so warm and welcoming! And also great at facilitating the million little arguments that happen between toddlers :)  

    We have been very happy with Child Education Center in Berkeley (https://www.childeducationcenter.org/). They have a diverse student body, and, while they have more than 24 kids total, class sizes are small. Our 2 1/2-year-old son is in a class with 8-10. It is largely child-led and they spend a ton of time outside - both on their grounds and also on neighborhood walks twice a week. There is art, yoga, gardening, etc. Our active son has thrived and learned so much, and we see the results at home with his increasing independence, kindness, and unprompted empathy. I am happy to answer any questions you might have as you consider what is best for you and your family.

  • Diverse daycare or preschool near Albany

    (3 replies)

    Our daughter is 21 months old, and we need full time care beginning in August.  She won't be two until late September, so it's looking like we may need to find a daycare rather than a preschool, but we're open to both.  Our daughter is Black/biracial, so we are specifically looking for a daycare or preschool where she would have Black peers and teachers.  I have seen other similar questions posed on BPN, but they seem to focus only on preschools and not daycares, so I thought I would ask more specifically.  We're in Albany and are open to Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, or possibly Richmond depending on how far away.  We would love any recommendations, and even better if you happen to know of somewhere that actually has a space available for a just-under-two year old.

    As an aside, we are also open to joining a nanny share nearby for the time being until we find a great fit for a preschool/daycare.  If anyone has a 2-ish year old and is opening to sharing their nanny or starting a nanny share, feel free to send a message.  My partner works from home and is thrilled for the LO and I to be out of the house, so we would really prefer not to host a nanny share.

    Thanks for any recs and leads!

    Hi there,

    When we were looking for daycare for our daughter I found a really great place in Point Richmond called the Point Playhouse. The owner is a black woman. I found her really easy to chat with and was highly considering sending my daughter. We ended up going elsewhere because we weren't ready to commit to a daycare given our unpredictable work schedules at the time. I've linked the website. Good luck in your search! https://www.thepointplayhouse.com/


    We were in the same boat with our daughter and she started at The Good Earth School up in Kensington in February. Our friends daughter who is her best friend, has started a month before and absolutely loved it. They have an 18 month program as well as a 2's program and up until kindergarten. Its an outdoor play-based school run by a biracial couple and a very diverse staff of teachers: latino, black, etc. We have loved it and our daughter had a very smooth transition from being in a nanny share to full time at TGES. They have had a waiting list and are full but will be expanding and may have space in August. Gail and Alan are amazing and if you call to get more info and schedule a tour, they will answer all of your questions and explain their philosophy. 

    Wishing you luck!

    My daughter is Black biracial and will be starting with Willow Tree in North Oakland next month. It might be too far from you but is run by two amazing Black women and I’m pretty sure they have an opening. 

  • Hello BPN! We're looking for a preschool for Sept 2021 for our daughter. We would love to stay in South, Central, North, or West Berkeley. Our daughter is very outgoing and curious, so we think she'll adapt to most schools well. She's biracial (Black/Asian), and we'd love to find an inclusive and diverse preschool. We'd especially love for our daughter to have Black peers and teachers. Does anyone have recommendations?

    We've spoken to a few schools (the Berkeley School, Hearts Leap South, Little Elephant too) and have a few others on our radar (Aquatic Park, New School), and we'd love to hear from current parents (or parents of recent alums) about their experience. 


    My two girls (3 and 5) are at Little Elephant too. Happy to chat if you have questions, but generally we are really loving the program and staff, and our girls are thriving. Our family is white, fwiw.

    One school that you might want to add to your list is American International Montessori, if you're interested in either Chinese or Japanese language immersion (and Montessori, obviously). As you might expect, its student & teacher population is majority Asian. However there are no Black teachers and few (if any) Black students, which I can completely understand you seeking out. We do have a gender-diverse child at the preschool and have really appreciated the support we've seen from the teachers & school (and larger school community) on this type of diversity - so I'd give them general high marks for an inclusive atmosphere.

    My son attends the Nia House on 9th street. It’s a truly wonderful school with excellent teachers and staff. It’s a Montessori program, and my son has really flourished there. Of all the preschools I toured for my son, it was the most diverse. Good luck with your search!

    Step One School in North Berkeley is phenomenal. The teachers are pros and they have a robust social justice curriculum. They have both Black and Latina teachers. Between my two children, we spent five years there and the teachers and staff feel like family. There’s a wonderful outdoor space in addition to great classrooms. My children’s teachers sang and played piano and guitar with the kids every day. I cannnot recommend the school highly enough. 

    I recommend that you add Monteverde Preschool to your list. It has a diverse teaching staff, serves diverse families, and employs an anti-bias curriculum. It is such a joyful, unique, special place, and they build community in such purposeful, equitable ways. My kids are now in grades 3 and 6, but I still think of (and miss) Monteverde and its fabulous teachers very often. They are geniuses at communicating with the little ones, facilitating their confidence and autonomy but also fostering friendships and a sense of togetherness and helping kids grow into empathetic, stellar human beings. I can't recommend it highly enough.

    Montessori Family School’s Berkeley campus has been great for us. The pods right now are teeny- about 5-6 kids in each pod. There is a lot of individualized attention, good autonomy for our son, and lots of folks from different backgrounds. I believe that one of the teachers identifies as a white woman, one as a black man, one as an Asian/Latina woman, and I am not sure about the fourth. Hope that helps! 

    We're at Hearts Leap (we have a 3-year-old), and we've been very pleased with our experience. There are not many (any?) black children, and there is one black teacher (she is wonderful!). Having said that, they have made a commitment to incorporating anti-bias and anti-racism into their curriculum. I hope this helps. 

    My son went to Aquatic Park School - he is also Black and Asian. His class had two preschool teachers, one of whom was African American and one was Chinese American. He also had a number of mixed race friends there, mostly half Black and half White, as well as some half Asian and half White. He really enjoyed his time at APS, as there was a diverse group of teachers, lots of outside space to play, and an emphasis on learning through play and socio-emotional development. I highly recommend it.

    Hello, I saw your post about  looking for a preschool that is inclusive and diverse.  I highly recommend you check out The Berkeley School. Our daughter is growing up in a trilingual family, my husband is German American, I am Turkish and our daughter is born in Berkeley. It was very important for us to send her to not only a school that understood and practiced diversity, but also for all of us to be a part of a diverse community that valued community service. From the moment we entered the early childhood education center's garden, 5 years ago, we realized this was a community that practiced its mission and values: "Ignite Curious Minds, Awaken Generous Hearts, Engage A Changing World" is the school's mission, and I wished that the rest of the education system was like this. I am a design educator, and founded a school my self. I highly recommend The Berkeley School's approach to education, to creativity and to social learning.  If you have more questions, happy to help more. 

    Hi Penny! My daughter (also biracial) is at Montessori Family School, in El Cerrito. She's in her third year now (1st grade) and was at the El Cerrito campus for her first two years of KT but the school also has a preschool campus in Berkeley, which is great! Because she is so energetic and outgoing, we were drawn to the learning-based model of Montessori with added structure - and that has worked out really well for her! Hope that's helpful!

    Just wanted to put a plug in for CEC (child education center), which is in central Berkeley. The kids love it and we have been with them for a couple years. The teachers and administration are a blend of asian, indian/pakistan, white, Mexican, south american. The kids that attend reflect that diversity as well, although I would say that asian, white, and indian/pakistani children are probably more predominant. Many different holidays are celebrated in the classrooms. It's a lot of fun and competitively priced. Check it out!

    I also want to put in a plug for Cedar Creek Montessori School right next to the North Berkeley BART.  It's a diverse, welcoming community.  We were torn between sending our daughters to Cedar  Creek, the New School, and the JCC on Walnut Street because we live nearby and wanted to be able to walk to drop-offs and pick-ups.  Each of three seemed wonderful for different reasons, and it seems like you can't go wrong with many of the options in our area--a fortunate "problem" to have! 

    Our toddler is at Mustard Seed Preschool on Hopkins.  There are all types of families from different ethnic backgrounds there, including international ones!

    They take COVID-precautions super seriously.  We love MSP!  It’s the perfect fit for us.  The teachers there are so loving and stay there long term (newest teachers are there for 5 years already) which was really important to us.  We didn’t want our son to have to deal with teachers cycling in and out - we wanted a stable presence in his time in preschool.   They take kids as young as 1.5 years old.  

    MSP is a Christian preschool but most of the families are secular.  They are play-based and focused on a child’s holistic development (not just academic redefines but emotional and social development is just as emphasized).  Happy to answer more questions!

  • We enrolled our child in preschool this past January. We have an active kid, so we prioritized a school with a lot of free play and a lot of outdoor time. We noted when we visited that the teachers and students were nearly all white (our family is white as well), but we decided that the benefits of the school for our particular kid outweighed the homogeneity. At the time, we felt like we could make sure they interacted with lots of others from diverse backgrounds on playdates, at playgrounds, in activities around the Bay Area & trips to other cities, etc. School would be just one part of their life.

    Fast-forward a few months and we're back at the same school, but with none of those other outlets available. It now feels like the white community we chose is the only one we have access to, and I'm feeling increasingly cringy and ashamed about that choice — my kid growing up in an all-white environment does not reflect my values. I also haven't seen any evidence that the school is engaging or grappling with this issue, even in light of the protests over the spring and summer and the subsequent reckoning and self-reflection many organizations have begun. I've been actively trying to do this reflection myself, which is part of why I'm writing now.

    What should we do? Should we move our kid to another school, disruptive and challenging as that might be? Should we press school administrators about why the program seems so segregated, and push for them to make changes that will make it more welcoming and accessible? Should we just wait it out and redouble our efforts to make new friends and build diverse community after COVID finally passes? I want to make a choice that pushes all of us to do better, and I'm not afraid to feel some discomfort in service of that goal. 

    If you want to switch, could try Grand Lake Montessori in Oakland.  We went there years ago and at that time the teachers were diverse (as in majority minority, I think, if I remember right).  Large play yard, but expensive at the time.

    I don’t know if this is helpful, but as the parent of older kids, I can say that preschool is a very short period in kids’ lives. It seems like everything at the time because it’s your child’s first real school.  But it passes quickly.  If the school is a good fit otherwise, you could keep things stable for your child right now (so valuable in these crazy times!) but take what you learned about prioritizing diversity and apply it to your choice of elementary school.  Elementary school 1) lasts longer, 2) is more likely to be the source of long-lasting friendships, and 3) is remembered more clearly.  If you choose a diverse K-12 environment, I’m not sure the white preschool experience will have all that much effect on your child’s long-term values and attitudes. 

    I'm a white, heterosexual (but unmarried) mom. I moved my child out of a majority-white preschool and into a preschool that was diverse in all senses and also employed an anti-bias curriculum, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I worried about the disruption of switching schools, but that disruption was very, very brief. And the benefits were so worth it. I also subsequently learned that, developmentally, preschool age is when kids really start to tune in to visible differences and perceived hierarchies among those around them, so it is the perfect time to proactively address race, gender, family structure and all kinds of differences. If you don't address it, they will draw their own conclusions at that age anyway. So it is valuable for your child to be in an environment where they will be mindful during those years.

    (My kids wound up at Monteverde Preschool in Berkeley. I cannot overstate how fabulous they are all around but particularly in this arena.)

    My kids are older now (grades 6 and 3), and I have spent the last 7 years engaged in processes around equity and inclusion at their OUSD schools. If you're considering asking your current preschool to grapple with this, I say that's great. But I would not expect it to materially change the experience your child has. Given the pace of change around race and equity in schools, my guess is that you would be doing work that *might* benefit future students at that school but not your own child. That is definitely worthwhile, but if your goal is to impact your child's upbringing right now, then you need to make an immediate change.

    Also, if you decide to stay where you are for now, maybe you could consider being more purposeful in your choice of an elementary school? Now is a great time to educate yourself on the politics and history of school integration and prepare for your upcoming choices about kindergarten. The Oakland chapter of Integrated Schools Network is a great place to start for white parents who want to support integration and choose integrated schools for their kids.

    Perhaps you could engage with the administrators or other parents you've come to know at the school and begin a conversatiion that acknowleges the initial observation you've made, and importance of your school representing the larger community you're a part of.

    You might discuss the richness this brings to children's lives. Interacting with teachers of different ages, genders, cultures, races, etc is crucial. And I would venture to say that parents of color may be hesitant to send their kids to a school where not a single teacher looks like them. In that case I'd say encouraging a diversified staff might help build a more diversified student body.

    Our preschool has a diverse staff and a fairly diverse parent/student body, and is actively engaging in coversations around bias and racism. There's a Black Lives Matter poster up in their window and they have been extremely open to having conversations around approaching conversations around things like gender as the kids started to call out "boy things" vs "girl things"...all in an age appropriate fashion. There will always be improvements that can be made, but I feel grateful that our school will engage so willingly with parents around these topics.

    Feel free to message if you'd like to chat more about the topic.

    I think you should wait it out. She needs stability right now with everything going on in the world. She is so young. She has time to absorb your values. 

    Hi, I so appreciate this POV on this forum of supposedly progressive folks who sometimes seem all about me-and-mine. I too, had started my (white) child in a Montessori preschool, following in footsteps of my brother whose kids were enrolled there in past years. But it dawned on me it was all-white, and economically not diverse at all. There was a certain snobbiness towards certain schools when discussion of kindergarten began. That's when I knew we were done. My son is now at a wonderful, diverse school run by a Black family, with kids of all backgrounds, and we are much happier overall. There is a sort of uptight attitude I find at institutions that cater to all-white families, and without sounding crazy I do think it's part of white supremacy culture. I recommend checking out Diamond Little People Academy. They have two locations. Awesome teachers, family run.

    Even without the pandemic, my recommendation would be to leave your child there. As adults we have interacted with hundreds, even thousands of people in our long-lived lives, but for kids that age, they've only known and implicitly trusted a few people in their little lives. Pulling them out of there is way more disruptive to them than we can imagine as an adult who would just quit a job or quit a club. Unless this kid is really not in a safe and respectful environment, leave them there. You can explore all kinds of fabulous, diverse options for elementary school much more easily and keeping things in their life stable and secure for them right now will pay off in the end. I really recommend leaving them there - it's a wonderful plan to expose them to diversity, but don't do it to ease yourself, do it when it's developmentally time for the change.

    Why not expand your social circles and develop authentic connections with families from diverse communities. Sure the current COVID crisis we are experiencing poses difficulties to meeting people but it can be done. COVID is not going anyway any time soon and waiting to have your child become a more culturally aware human being is more sad to me than your personal feelings of shame. I comend your awareness though. How you can effect change is sharing your culture and other ethnicities culture with your children at home, as well as, inquiring how your preschool can attract families from diverse backgrounds and incomes to your prteschool. As far as moving your child to another preschool I cannot give my opinion on that. I will say as a Black parent when my child was younger I remember feeling very uncomfortable by white parents at playgrounds who were fine to have their children play with my child and other children of color but rarely communicated with us beyond social greetings. Our chldren are not diversity props. We are not here to make you feel better. So if you do move your child, or stay at your preschool, look to build authentic relationships and connections for your child and yourself with people from different cultural communities.  We can tell the difference.   

    We had a similar issue when we sent our kid to daycare for the first time. When we toured we noticed it wasn't very diverse, but especially as a mixed race family, for some reason we hoped the class they were admitting us to would be better. No luck, of course. We enrolled because we thought it would work for us in all the other ways we needed, but I always felt weird about it - the east bay has so much diversity that it felt like surely these preschools with more demand than they could accommodate could make a better showing on that front. The teachers were more racially diverse, and some of the outside folks who stopped in from time to time to do storytime were too, but they were outsiders to the class, not a friend, a peer, not someone they played with and got to know. I hope you stay and push the administrators on this. We need to have more of these conversations, and I'm glad to see that you're willing to engage on it.

    Most kids don't really remember much from these years, but I definitely see your point. You could always look for a specialty school or one that prioritizes cultural and racial diversity. Plus there are a bunch of really great books out there that you can use during COVID to help educate your child!

  • Hello!

    My family and I are moving back to Berkeley and I'm a little overwhelmed with preschool options. I'm looking at schools that prioritize diversity with students and support it with a culturally competent curriculum. (that has good structure, not just free play) Also, I really want  a preschool that has diversity amongst its teachers. Any recommendations? 

    Thank you!

    Step One School in Berkeley has a diverse community.  They stress inclusion and compassion, no matter what type of household you come from.  I've found the staff, teacher and parents to be open minded and supportive, and their own staff reflect a diversity of gender, ethnicity and age.  Fortunately, I think you'll be able to find many preschools in Berkeley that value and promote diversity.  Time to begin touring school!  :D

    New House Day School on Hopkins is great in this respect, and in pretty much every respect. Mabel Perez, the director, can answer any questions you have about how they manifest and teach diversity. You can tour the school with your child and see how it feels to you both. We love it and miss it (2cd and K now).

    Both of my children went to preschools of Berkeley USD. There are 3 of them (King, Franklin, Hopkins). They are both affordable, diverse, sensitive and attentive. Because they are part of the USD, they know and carry responsibility to prepare children for the Berkeley USD schools. Actually they are called CDC-childhood development center- for some legal reason...

    DEFINITELY check into The Berkeley School Early Childhood Center on Francisco. Not only do they have a commitment to diversity, their program is founded in civic engagement. https://www.theberkeleyschool.org/about/

    New School and St John’s both in Berkeley- we have experience with both. Prob others too. 

    They might be full or running a wait list, but if you are North Berkeley you should look at The Good Earth School in Kensington. http://thegoodearthschool.com/  It is extremely diverse, not just in terms of the teachers, director, and students- but as a priority of the curriculum. For example- right now they are doing unit on Women's History, and my daughter comes home and tells me about Mae Jemison (the astronaut), Selena (the Tejano singer), Coretta Scott King, and Malala Yousafzai (among others). It's located on the grounds of the Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Church but is not affiliated with the church. It's outdoor (as much as possible), nature-based- so my kids are out on hikes everyday and learning about their world. Plus, they include a healthy vegetarian lunch everyday, eating stuff like dal, tacos, and pasta and veggies. Most of the families are from Kensington, North Berkeley and El Cerrito.

    It has been awhile, but Rockridge Montessori was a good fit for my bi-racial grandchildren.  They are now at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland which is very diverse and has such a good school culture.

    My son went to Step One (he is now in Kindergarten) and for us it was such a wonderful experience. The staff is diverse and every single teacher prioritizes diversity, cultural competency, and the gender spectrum. There is solid emergent curriculum planning around many topics of diversity and inclusion. And my son, who is an extremely shy mixed Asian race boy, completely bonded with his teacher of color - she is to this day his favorite teacher. Each child is taught “love is love” as well as the meaning of equality, equity, and justice. If you’re moving back, I’d definitely look into Step One! 

    We absolutely love Step One School in Berkeley!! Our family is mixed race and we feel so happy about the diversity our kids get from both the students and staff. We love that our kids have had men, women and all different races and religions surrounding them. They even have a few Spanish speaking teachers and our kids have learned some basic  Spanish. Step One is structured, but a play based preschool. They have a curriculum, but the kids  often steer where that might go. We are finishing our 5 and final year there in Aug. I can’t imagine not having Step one in our lives. It trully is a magical place! We have recommended it to many friends and family.  Good luck and feel free to ask my any other questions you might have!

    Sounds like you are talking about Monteverde school in Berkeley. Its where my youngest goes in the Elmwood district. It’s a super diverse school and practices a non-bias curriculum. It’s also a lovely space with lots of art and creativity. Check it out :)

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Full day, diverse preschool

August 2010

Hi BPN! My 2.5yr old is currently in preschool but i'm ready to find another one for her. I feel like her current school is too too play based. I don't believe she is learning all that she should/could be learning. However the plus is that she loves the kids and teachers and the tuition is affordable for me. so where can i go? I want her to be happy, yet i want to make sure she is learning and prepared for kindergarten (i know its a few years away) My other issue is my daughter is mixed (black & mexican) and i'm having a hard time finding a school with a diverse atmospher. lastly i work full time so i will also need a program from 7 - 5;30/6pm. Lindsay

We love the diversity of families and teachers at Rising Star Montessori School in Alameda. You can look at their website: http://www.risingstarschool.org/. The Cottage Campus near Webster Street (and downtown Oakland) is great for the younger students. The main campus on High Street (closer to Fruitvale BART) also has preschool classes, but usually for older kids because they need to be fully potty trained there. - appreciating diversity

First of all, I want to say that I don't think that a pre- school can be too play-based for a 2.5 year old. I suggest you read this article about the benefits of play on psychological development: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=76838288.

Second, I want to throw out Lakeshore Children's Center (LCC) as a possibility. While it is definitely play-based, my daughter was right on the edge of reading by the time she started K--she knew all her letters, all their sounds, etc., etc.

Anyway, LCC is geared toward working parents. It is very diverse, with a high proportion of mixed race kids (black/white and other combinations). The teachers are black, white, hispanic, Asian and Moroccan. And it is pretty affordable. Carrie

Culturally Diverse Preschools

May 2002

I've researched fairly thoroughly the postings on the site for preschools and it appears they don't go beyond 2000. I'd like to know what experiences people have had with preschools over the last year or so. I'm looking for a place for my child that emphasizes art and movement as well as respect and cooperation. Also a site that is not small and crowded. Cultural diversity would be a big plus as well as bilingualism, but not a must. Thankyou, MB

Recommendations received:

May 2000

Can anyone recommend a pre-school with an understanding of what it means to affirm cultural identity in young children, and addresses issues of cultural diversity in deeeper and more thoughtful ways than celebration of holidays. I'm a single Jewish mom of an adopted daughter from China and am looking to enroll my daughter in a pre-school by January when she'll be 2.6. (I'm open to September 2000) We live in El Cerrito so programs in our area, Albany, Berkely, Richmond would be possible but I have yet to find anything even close. Are my expectations realistic? If I hear one more instructor respond to my concerns saying 'Well we celebrate Chinese New Year, Cino De Mayo, Chanukah.....' I think I'll scream or cry. While it is important to me that the kids in the pre-school come from diverse racial,cultural AND class backgrounds, (something that is also hard to find in these geographic areas) it is also important to me that the books, visual images, music and styles of teaching also reflect that diversity in a CENTRAL way. As a parent and an educator myself I bring this into my child's life and have seen the positive impact it has on my daughter in many ways, and would like to see this as part of her pre-school experience as well. The closest thing I know of is HEADSTART which while our economic situation is not pretty,we don't qualify for. I do see pre-school as a time for her to play, create, explore, develop and strengthen social skills and am less interested in an academic emphasis. Any recommendations/ suggestions would be much appreciated.

I am Chinese American educator and have just finished selecting a preschool for my 2 and 1/2 year old son so I recently visited the schools I will suggest. Although I did not pick either of these school, I thought they might be possible for your daughter. When I toured Step One (with its infamous long waiting list) in Berkeley, I was favorably impressed with one of the teachers in particular who had activities and images throughout her classroom of racially diverse people. Also, Step One has a small scholarship fund and likes to recruit children and families of diverse background. You seem to fit. In addition, I understand that there is a program in downtown Oakland but I don't know its name which also has instruction in Mandarin and Cantonese and there is a Cantonese English Bilingual preschool in Oakland Chinatown, probably too much of a schlep for you. While I know it is difficult to pick the perfect preschool program, I would encourage you to pick a school or perhaps other enrichment that would allow your daughter to be exposed to or learn some Mandarin Chinese if you do not speak the language yourself for the simple reason that language and culture or so inextricably tied. Logically, your daughter will have better access to her country and culture of origin later in life when she may have more questions and issues with cultural identity if she has some facility with the language. Kudos to you for considering such an important issue.

I'm not sure how much this preschool provides an understanding of cultural identity, but the school has a very diverse staff from many different nationalities and also has several men working there. Try New School of Berkeley , 548-9165. I totally love New School.

I recommend Cedar Creek Montessori School on Sacramento Street at Cedar. (see Cedar Creek Montessori School page for the rest of this review.)

I'd recommend you check into Via Nova . When looking for pre-schools I found Via Nova, located on MLK in Berkeley, to have a real understanding, appreciation of and participation in diversity. Ages 2 to 5. Minimum 3 full days.

Have you looked into Children's Community Center on Walnut Street in Berkeley? I don't have a child there, but I did my dissertation research with their children a few years ago, and I remember the teachers talking about something they called a "diversity curriculum." It's a parent co-op, so if that appeals to you, you might want to look into it.