Duck's Nest Preschool Berkeley

Community Subscriber

Berkeley, CA

To see Department of Social Services records on this facility, click on its DSS Facility License # below.

DSS Facility License #: 
Ducks Nest, Inc.
510 527-2331
berkeleyenrollment [at]
W. Berkeley on 4th St.
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Chinese, English, Spanish
Ages Served: 
24 months - 72 months
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
8:00am - 5:30pm
Additional Services & Features: 
Part-time available, Pre-K program, Year-round, Sibling discount, Snacks provided, Potty training support

Parent Q&A

Duck's Nest Berkeley Environment Quality? Jan 29, 2020 (1 responses below)
Berkeley School or Duck's Nest for 2.11 yr old? Feb 17, 2017 (3 responses below)
Duck's Nest Berkeley Jan 18, 2017 (2 responses below)
  • Has anyone had issues with the physical environment at the Duck's Nest Berkeley location?  We went to tour and the school was absolutely fantastic, but it's in a very industrial area.  I'm concerned about the smoke from the wood shop next door for our toddler who has mild respiratory issues.  There also seems to be a lot of background noise from the brewery across the street.  Has this been a concern for anyone else?  Thanks!

    My daughter is in her second year at Duck’s Nest. We haven’t noticed any air quality issues from the neighboring businesses. During the fire seasons, when air quality was a major issue, the administration was communicative about their plans to keep children inside as needed and to even close the school if they felt they couldn’t ensure good air quality inside (older building). 

    the bigger noise concern I had was the train that blasts its horn when approaching Gilman, several times a day. But it doesn’t seem to be an issue. Once inside the classrooms Ive never notice the train or industrial sounds. My daughter naps way better there than at home, so it’s apparently  not disturbing them. 

  • My LO will be a month shy of 3 at the Sept 1 cutoff used by Ducks nest. We're sure our energetic, articulate boy will be happy at either, but would love input or comparison of the two. Specifically, how the mixed age classes at TBS are for the younger ones vs the more traditional separation by age. Also your experience at DN (Berkeley) starting in the 2s room. TY

    We have two sons at Duck's Nest and our youngest is in the 2 year old (duckling) classroom.  Duck's Nest has exceeded our expectations. The teachers are amazing and their creativity endless.  There is tons of outside play and exploration and beautiful grounds.  Despite being a larger school, it is a very nurturing and a real community.  The teachers know all of the kids and the kids all know each other.  Although the kids are broken into age based class room, twice a day they have all age play.  I love the combination.  There is plenty of time for developmentally exciting exploration, but also time to learn from both younger and older kids.

    The two year old room is the largest room, yet it never feels chaotic.  And the teachers are great guides.  At the start of school, my two year old had a really hard time adjusting. Now he is a confident guy, who puts his lunch in his cubby, pushes me out the door and starts to play.  Because the two year old room is the biggest, there are kids who just turned 2 and kids who are almost three.  Yet the whole class seems engaged and happy.  Also, most of the two year old teachers have been at the school forever, they are amazing.  The ratio is great and the school brings in some extra help (the garden teacher, the language teacher, admin staff ) for extra support.

    The biggest problem I have found in Berkeley is there are too many good options.  I am sure you can't go wrong with either school.

    Good luck!

    Duck's Nest Parent x2

    Good luck on your decision. We have been a happy TBS family for the past five years at both the Early Childhood Center (ECC) and The K-8 Campus. From the moment I set foot onto the campus it was wonderful. We have two girls (3 and 8) that have been at the ECC. They literally jump out of the car every morning and can't wait to get to school. The staff and teachers are kind, responsive and attentive to everything. The mixed age classes were one of the draws for us. It really helps give the older children the opportunity to help support and guide the younger ones. The teachers do a great job of mixing the students but also challenging the older ones. We loved it and saw it as a huge bonus. We also continued onto the K-8 program and have been very happy with the decision. 

    Our daughter attended DN Berkeley for two wonderful years and then we chose TBS for K (and beyond), so I have some perspective on both schools, and we are very happy with our choices for each. Our 2 year old son will be entering preschool next fall, and decided to send him to DN and then follow his sister to TBS for K. We looked closely at TBS' ECC program and knew we could not go wrong. A few practical things helped sway us toward DN, besides our prior stellar experience with the teachers and staff...DN runs a full year program, while ECC runs on the school year with a summer camp add-on to the annual tuition cost. Also, DN's hours go until 5:30, whereas ECC ends at 3 PM with aftercare as an additional cost. Parking and access is easier from I-80 for DN than ECC. In terms of the feel of each place, my totally biased sense is that DN's sole focus on the Reggio philosophy brings a level of spontaneity and exuberance that I didn't sense at ECC when we visited; it is more grounded more in the Montessori approach. For instance, I didn't think that our boy would be able or willing to sit for 20 minutes of circle time at ECC, which they have 2x/day (I think). The open yard at DN was intimidating at first to us, but our daughter LOVED it, and the teachers are incredibly attentive and intervene immediately and skillfully when inevitable conflicts arise on the playground. The little ones are mostly from the bigger kids, but the older classrooms do get some mixed age time on the playground, and our very social daughter knew all the teachers and several kids in the older classes--though it's certainly not as much as ECC's model. I actually prefer the age groupings at DN over the mixed ages, and our daughter's first friendships forged there continue to be meaningful ties even as the girls went separate ways for K. So, you can't go wrong, for sure, with either choice. Go to each place and listen to your gut when you walk onto each campus. That's how we first fell in love with Duck's Nest. You can feel the magic when you set foot through the gate.

  • Duck's Nest Berkeley

    (2 replies)

    We are considering Duck's Nest in West Berkeley for preschool for our son. They don't give you a ton of time to make a decision, so I wanted to crowd source some opinions from BPN. It seems like there might have been some issues a few years back, so I wanted to get the opinions of parents who currently have their children there or have children that recently moved on to Kindergarten. Are you happy with your decision to go there? What makes the program great/special/unique? Were there any problem areas or things you wish they had done better? And if your child is now in kindergarten, were they well prepared? Is the communication with the teachers/staff good? Thank you in advance!!

    RE: Duck's Nest Berkeley ()

    We LOVE Duck's Nest Berkeley! I couldn't be more happy there. My sons both went to Duck's Nest Oakland last year, before we moved to Berkeley, and it was perfectly nice, but Berkeley really is tops -- the teachers are so loving, kind, compassionate and creative; the outdoor spaces are great; and I just love all of the play-based emergent curriculum in my son's 3-4 year old class. Communication is easy, the administration are very warm and accessible, and they have nice family events fairly frequently (holiday parties, etc.). They also have a low-key but thoughtful approach to social justice curriculum; for example, on Inauguration Day they planted an olive tree, sang peace songs, had kids do portraits experimenting with mixing skin colors with paint, celebrated diversity, etc. The gardening program is a great extra, although I think it will take place onsite next year. Overall, I really can't think of one negative (other than cost, but that's true for all preschools pretty much!)  I'm a huge fan, and will be sad when my son moves on from there; I feel like he (and all the kids) are really known, appreciated and cared for by their teachers, who are sensitive to individual needs and personalities. On that note, my older son started Kindergarten in BUSD this year, and I think Duck's Nest prepared him nicely. 

    RE: Duck's Nest Berkeley ()

    My son was in Duck's Nest from the time he was three years old until he was almost six years old and started Kindergarten. He's an active boy and it was the perfect environment - play based with a strong focus on social/emotional well being. They also have great Reggio style - child based projects going on in each classroom and have a strong parent community. It's a large busy school - for us it was the the right fit. They also have some really wonderful teachers. We like our elementary school, but we really miss Duck's Nest. It was a really special place for us.

Parent Reviews

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Don't forget about Duck's Nest Berkeley, which is in West Berkeley on 4th street (between Gilman and Cedar). It's a wonderful school, has been in Berkeley for 40(+)? years, and is very diverse. They've split the school up into more classes, so as to have smaller cohorts for Covid restrictions. My 3 year old is in a stable class of 9 kids with 2 teachers, one of whom is Black. The class itself is a mix of white, Asian, Indian/Pakistani and Bi-racial kids. We are very comfortable with all the Covid policies and precautions and feel safe sending our son there. The physical space is amazing, both in their classroom and out on the expansive yards (plural). We also have experience at one of the other Ducks Nest campuses in Oakland (41st Street, if North Oakland isn't too far for you) which is similarly diverse and an excellent preschool in many ways. 

RE: Which Preschool? ()

Our daughter goes to Duck’s Nest and I just can’t tell you enough how great the school is. From the teachers to the amenities and the projects the kids do - everything is top notch. They also implemented Anjiplay structures on their playground which is an internationally recognized philosophy and approach to early learning. Our daughter thrives there and loves going to school. 

RE: Which Preschool? ()

I couldn' t be happier with Duck's Nest Berkeley. i was a bit nervous as my child was one of the youngest ones in the Duckling class this year. But within a few weeks she was loving it. She absolutely loves her teachers. The transition from being home with mom will challenging where ever you end up, but the teachers at Duck's Nest did an amazing job making the transition as smooth as possible for us. 

I highly recommend Duck's Nest Preschool on 4th Street in Berkeley (just off Gilman), for all the reasons you list and then some. We knew as soon as we entered the gate that we had found 'the one.' Our son is currently enrolled and our older daughter attended for two years. We have been very, very happy there--kids and grown-ups both!

I recommend Duck's Nest on 4th street.  I have a recent graduate and a son returning for his second year. They place kids by age group but spend a good chunk (a couple of hours in the morning and afternoon) on their amazing yard for all age play.  They had an offsite garden, lost the lease and are creating a new garden on site.  And there are Chickens!  We have been thrilled with the curriculum and the warmth and creativity of the teachers.  Both are boys have thrived there.  Good Luck with your search!

We just learned that Ducks Nest (which has amazing outdoor space and gardens) has a couple of openings for next year. Won't last long though. 

Check out Duck's Nest's Berkeley campus. The yard is phenomenal, as is the rest of their program, facility, and staff. We're about to send our second child there, and are thrilled to bits.

I love, love, love Duck's Nest.  It's hard to find words that can come close to describing how much love, appreciation, and deep gratitude I have for this school.  I am the type of parent who researches everything and I visited about 10 different preschools in Berkeley (and had a spreadsheet with well over 30!).  We chose Duck's Nest and I feel really lucky we did.  There was another school we liked, but we chose Duck's Nest because the administration was very responsive and helpful with my millions of questions and also offered us extremely generous financial aid.  I was really crazy and wanted my kids to be in a particular classroom with older kids because I thought they'd learn more.  There wasn't space, but the administration said if space opened, we could switch.  Now I LOVE our classroom and our teachers and feel so lucky we didn't switch!  In retrospect, I see I was being crazy and I really appreciate that the administration did their best to cater to my irrational whims, but didn't bend over backwards in response to a crazy parent, me!

I also have gotten to know many of the other teachers and they are all amazing!  I am not exaggeratingl.  My daughter is starting at DN next fall and I would be happy with any of the teachers at DN!  Since our kids have been in school there, they have become such awesome little people.  They are kind and empowered little explorers who are nurtured, but not coddled.  They have made good friends and they love their teachers.  I love the other parents, teachers, administration, and kids.  I love watching the kids playing when I pick up - they are all normal, energetic kids, but I also witness these amazing moments of kindness or conflict management that are 100% the result of the amazing, intentional teachers at DN. 

The parent community is really great.  The parent association is active, but low key.  No time is wasted - every meeting has a purpose.  Most parents work, but there are lots of ways to feel involved.  I thought I might feel out of place because we receive financial aid, but I have never felt like I am not valued or draining school resources (those are my own issues to work out).  The parent association is very intentional about making sure events are accessible to everyone.  I could go on and on. 

One more thing to add - based on a review below, I really wanted my kids to be in the puddle duck room, but having been in the wood duck room, I have realized that every classroom is amazing.  You'll think the one you're in is amazing too.  I am not one to exaggerate when it comes to teacher quality, but I would really be comfortable and happy with any teacher I've met at DN.  They are a different breed - they are magical people with endless patience and energy for nurturing little imaginations and growing the best little people.  They should get paid a gazillion dollars a year.

Sending my kids to Duck's Nest is one of the best decisions I have made as a parent.  I wish they would consider opening a K-12 Duck's Nest charter school!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Updated feedback on Berkeley campus

Dec 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommend. 

Duck's Nest mama

Duck's Nest Berkeley vs Aquatic Park School

Aug 2014

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

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

My children were accepted at both APS and Ducks Nest. I was impressed with both schools but chose Ducks Nest as each class is in a self contained classroom which felt contained and not over-stimulating.

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

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

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

July 2013

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

Duck's Nest vs. Other preschools

Feb 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept 2011

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

Sept 2010

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


Foreign Language Program at Duck's Nest

May 2010

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

Duck's Nest offers both Spanish and French, but these programs are optional. There is an additional cost, and the children leave their classroom to go to another room for the instruction. A former DN parent.

Our son has thrived at Duck's Nest. One of his amazing teachers is from France and taught the kids how to sing a French lullaby and make crepes. The formal lanuage program at Duck's Nest includes classess in Spanish and French taught twice a week by the school's language teacher. While the classes are good, I think the schools real stength is in its diverse teaching staff, who naturally teach the kids about different lanauges and cultures. Happy DN parent

I have a child enrolled at Ducks Nest West Berkeley. Foreign language costs an extra $40 or 45 dollars per month for an hour a week. While this is a great preschool for many reasons, I can't say that language has been a strength at Ducks Nest for our child; more likely it's been their weakest link.

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

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