Hearts Leap SouthCommunity Subscriber
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Hearts Leap. They are a play-based school that is Very focused on social and emotional development. I think they have a waiting list but you can ask about their various locations. (We are at the Julia Morgan Theater in Elmwood).
Hearts Leap is a preschool that has a very loving, attachment-focused approach to caregiving. Could be a good option!
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.
Hearts Leap Preschool on College just north of Elmwood — lots of professors’ kids attend. There is an infant/toddler program too.
Hearts Leap in the Elmwood! For my family, this has been the ideal preschool. They give the kids lots of outdoor time in their amazing yard and my son always happily came home with dirt-covered pants.
The outside space is a laboratory of discovery with a big sand pit, shovels, trucks, tires, ropes, balance beams, climbing structure, playhouse, all surrounded by redwood trees and planter boxes where the children garden. Sometimes the ballet school opens their big windows which border the play yard and the children can watch the dancers and listen to the accompanying piano.
Not only is the physical space of a Julia Morgan-designed building beautiful, the classrooms are thoughtfully laid out. Every day brings a new adventure at Hearts Leap where children can choose between an amazing variety of art, tactile, or building projects, play in the imaginary play area or create their own fun in another area.
It feels so good to come through the doors – one instantly feels the warmth of community, the love for children, and an environment that nurtures exploration and creativity. The curriculum is child-led, with projects often continuing for weeks as interests evolve and take new directions.
The director has a gift of hiring teachers who all have advanced degrees in child education and are compassionate, engaged, and genuinely enjoy working with children. There is a real sense of teamwork between all the teachers, not just within each classroom, and despite the size of the school, every teacher seems to really know each child.
Adding to the qualities which make this preschool unique, there are many excellent enrichment extras including dance and soccer classes every week, visits to the Berkeley Playhouse, dramatic storytelling by Mr. Michael from the Berkeley Public Library, and visits from the Marine Mammal Center, as well as the Vivarium.
Sending both of our children to Hearts Leap over the past four years, we have always been filled with confidence knowing that their social, emotional, and developmental needs were being supported and that they were happily thriving in this special place. And they've just opened an infant program!
Hearts Leap in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood has a fantastic, woodsy outdoor area with lots of space for digging and running around. Our active son loves the Hearts Leap yard and would probably spend his entire day outside if given the chance (and they give them a lot of outdoor time!). The play structure is great for climbing, there are also monkey bars, a "house" structure, a tree swing, a vegetable garden, lots of shovels, hoops, balls, trucks, and other toys to play with imaginatively. This is a very special school (the inside too!) - highly recommended.
This is a very special school where children are encouraged to explore, create, and learn in a nurturing and compassionate environment.
Our daughter was in the incredible Bridge-K Program/ Oak Room last year and we have been thrilled to send our 2-year-old son to Hearts Leap this year where he is thriving. Our daughter was at a different preschool for her first two years and we wish that we had found HL sooner.
All of the teachers in this enchanting school are top-notch – they genuinely love the kids and their jobs, and have diverse interests ranging from the arts, nature, travel, music, athletics, meditation, etc. and have advanced degrees in child education. The teachers, Director, and office staff are truly lovely people to see each day and are totally engaged and accessible. The teachers have direct contact with parents (unlike our previous preschool) and send a weekly email about what the children have been doing and where the children’s curiosities have guided them. Teachers regularly add photos of the kids-in-action to the class blog as well as hanging the children’s artwork and printed photos with captions and quotes in the hallways.
Hearts Leap School benefits from sharing the beautiful Julia Morgan Center for the Arts building with Berkeley Playhouse and the Berkeley Ballet Theater. In the afternoons, the windows of the dance studios are often open to the playground allowing the children to watch the dancers practice with live piano accompanying. In the winter, the children are taken to a dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker. Every week throughout the year, HL uses the dance studios for dance classes with a fantastic teacher from Shawl Anderson as well as for gymnastics classes (these are included in HL tuition!).
My kids especially love the whimsical and woodsy outdoor play areas (with a separate play structure area for the youngest class). Music, cooking, and gardening are also regular activities at HL. And children are encouraged to “check out” books from Hearts Leap’s extensive book collection.
For older preschoolers, the Bridge-K program is a dream. Its intimate class size of 12 children and 2 teachers creates an environment of communal closeness and deep respect for each child’s unique personality. Some other things that make the Bridge program special include many field trips throughout the year (ie: SF Symphony, Chabot Space Center, and several to Lawrence Hall of Sciences), weekly cooking projects and Spanish, weekly walks to the library and frequent private story times with a children’s librarian. When our daughter (now in kindergarten) goes to HL to pick up her little brother, she gets a dreamy look in her eyes and says how she wishes she still went to school at Hearts Leap.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
This is a very special school where children are encouraged to explore, create,
and learn in a nurturing and compassionate environment.
Our daughter was in the incredible Bridge-K Program/ Oak Room last year and we
have been thrilled to send our 2-year-old son to Hearts Leap this year where he
is thriving. Our daughter was at a different preschool for her first two years
and we wish that we had found HL sooner.
All of the teachers in this enchanting school are top-notch they genuinely
love the kids and their jobs, and have diverse interests ranging from the arts,
nature, travel, music, athletics, meditation, etc. and all have advanced
degrees in child education. The teachers, Director, and office staff are truly
lovely people to see each day and are totally engaged and accessible. The
teachers have direct contact with parents (unlike our previous preschool) and
send a weekly email about what the children have been doing and where the
childrens curiosities have lead them. Teachers regularly add photos of the
kids-in-action to the class blog as well as hanging the childrens artwork and
printed photos with captions and quotes in the hallways.
Hearts Leap School benefits from sharing the beautiful Julia Morgan Center for
the Arts building with Berkeley Playhouse and the Berkeley Ballet Theater. In
the afternoons, the windows of the dance studios are often open to the
playground allowing the children to watch the dancers practice with live piano
accompanying. In the winter, the children are taken to a dress rehearsal of the
Nutcracker. Every week throughout the year, HL uses the dance studios for dance
classes with a fantastic teacher from Shawl Anderson as well as for gymnastics
classes (these are included in HL tuition!).
My kids especially love the whimsical and woodsy outdoor play areas (with a
separate play structure for the youngest class). Music, cooking, and gardening
are also regular activities at HL. And children are encouraged to check out
books from Hearts Leaps extensive book collection.
For older preschoolers, the Bridge-K program is a dream. Its intimate class
size of 12 children and 2 teachers creates an environment of communal closeness
and deep respect for each childs unique personality. Some other things that
make the Bridge program special include many field trips throughout the year
(ie: SF Symphony, Chabot Space & Science Center, and several to Lawrence Hall
of Sciences), weekly cooking projects and Spanish, weekly walks to the library
and frequent private story times with a childrens librarian.
Recent info on Heart's Leap?
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
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
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
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 [email protected] 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
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
Hearts Leap Bridge K Program
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
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 communication
- 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 dirt...
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: icri.org) 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 (www.icrichild.org). 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
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
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
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: icri.org) are great. I'm happy to share more specifics if you want to email me. Jill
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.