Hearts Leap North

Community Subscriber

Berkeley, CA

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

DSS Facility License #: 
International Child Resource Institute
(510) 665-4200
heartsleapnorth [at] gmail.com
N. Berkeley, 2220 Cedar St.
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
American Sign Language, English, Spanish, Swedish
Ages Served: 
24 months - 72 months
Monthly Cost: 
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
8:00am - 5:30pm
Additional Services & Features: 
Pre-K program, Snacks provided, Organic options, Vegetarian options, Potty training support
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Q&A

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  • Hearts Leap North experience

    (1 reply)

    Can anyone share their experience at Hearts Leap North? Considering sending my high energy, active son there. He is currently 21 months and we're looking for a fall 2021 start.

    All the reviews here are a few years old.

    We’ve been at Hearts Leap North for the last 1.5 years and we couldn’t be happier. Our daughter has grown and learned so much. The teachers go above and beyond, and I find the communication with parents to be especially impressive. This year in particular theyve done so much to make each day feel special.

  • Berkeley School or Hearts' Leap North?

    (10 replies)

    Preschool question. Better to start as a two year old at Hearts' Leap North or a three year old at the Berkeley School? We like the Berkeley School better - it has a larger and nicer playground, above-ground classrooms with natural light (Hearts' Leap is in a church basement), and one of the teachers speaks my first language which I would like my son to practice during the day. But the Berkeley school only starts students as three years olds and they must be potty trained. Hearts' Leap North has a two year old class and will assist with potty training. During the school tour it was clear my son was ready - he instantly started mingling with the kids and playing with all the toys.  I changed schools a lot as a kid so I'm not inclined to start him at one and then switch him later, though maybe I'm being too cautious there.  They're both equally convenient and similarly priced. Any insights would be much appreciated.  Thanks!

    Our daughter attended Hearts Leap North for 2 years (starting at 2.75 y.o. until she began TK in BUSD) and we couldn't be happier about our decision to send her there. The awesome, intelligent, engaged, loving teachers are the main reason, but the space and location are also lovely. Sure, there isn't a huge garden, but they make great use of the small outdoor spaces with lots of art and nature-based projects. The playground is a perfect size for the number of kids, and boy do they have it mastered by the time they graduate! Upstairs, there is a huge church hall and kitchen for rainy days, gatherings, and gym classes. They often took short walks around the block and learned all about native plants. And I found the classrooms to have plenty of natural light. Perhaps you visited on a rainy day? As to the potty-training aspect, I really don't think we could've gotten it done so quickly without the tremendous help of the teachers—they were gentle and encouraging. Combine that with the subtle peer pressure and voila! I take issue with these preschools that require kids to be potty trained first, as it puts too much pressure on kids and parents, leading to relapses and other problems. I could go on and on about our beloved HLN! Feel free to contact me if you have other questions.

    I have two boys, one at TBS and the other at HLN. Both schools are great options. My older son spent two years at HLN and we switched him to TBS to take advantage of their transitional kindergarten program. He is thriving there, but honestly he would have been great continuing on at HLN as well. Our younger son is in his first year at HLN. The HLN teachers are phenomenal. I can't say enough good things about how involved, caring, and dedicated they are. The classrooms and outdoor space may not be as fancy/expansive as TBS, but this doesn't hold the kids back in any way. We plan to keep our younger son there through to kindergarten.TBS is a much bigger, more expansive community since it goes through 8th grade. HLN is a more intimate, cozy community. You can't go wrong with either option.

    I think if your son is ready you should definitely go to HLN. Both my kids went through this school, my daughter is there now. The Juniper room teachers are as good as it gets. They are nurturing, loving, intelligent and amazing with the kids. My kids have been so happy at HLN. I think kids this little are not so bothered by switching schools, maybe it gets harder later on? SO if you do a year at HLN and then switch its not the end of the world. My kids were also SO ready to begin school and I feel like waiting would have been a disservice to them. I understand the appeal of the bigger space at TBS, however the love and sweetness of HLN will have you feeling like you made a good decision I am sure!!

     I am the mom of a 2.5 year old son who attends Heartsleap North (HLN). My husband and I did on site visits at both campuses and really liked both programs for their emergent theory and also the enthusiasm and warmth of the teachers/admin. We were accepted into the HLN program, which was our second choice ONLY because of geography (Heartsleap South is about 10 minutes closer to our home). Our son was 2.0 when he started in September and and seemed like just a wee guy - we were worried how he would transition from 1:1 family member care to a "school" setting. Both of us work full time and I have a commute into SF, so time is precious. We have come to realize that we made a GREAT choice despite the longer commute to school! Our son went through the transition with loving care from the three teachers and support from the program director. In fact, they also provided much love and guidance for us parents as WE also had a big transition to go through (worry, guilt, etc). I cannot stress how much we lucked out on getting a full time M-F spot at this program. The parent community at this campus is very tight and there are opportunities to be a part of it if one so desires. I want to put in a good word for HLN as there wasn't much info re: opinion when I was looking for it. We could have chosen a closer and more economical program, but are really happy where we are and feel the value is there. We get daily written (short 2 liner) reports about something significant that happened during the day tailored to our child, a general short written report on class activities for the day and nap/potty logs in addition to weekly newsletters from the teachers. The kids have a general daily routine, but it is flexible and changes with activities of the season and parent-involved activities. Our son has started to show interest in potty training and the teachers have helped us to start getting ready for training by suggesting the next steps. They are all so supportive in their suggestions and not demanding as we felt some of the Montessori preschools we looked at seemed to be (with regard to potty training). I hope this helps to tip the scale for someone reading this. HLN is a great program to be in (child and parents both!). 

    We're finishing our 6th year at Hearts' Leap North, with both kids starting at 2 years old and staying there until 5 or 5.5. I wasn't sure about it holding the kids' interest for 3 years, but it absolutely has. They have wonderful teachers who are constantly finding and developing the kids' interest. The classroom space is half-below ground, but the windows are full-sized and it's never felt subterranean to me. They do such a lovely job rotating play stations and wall displays (tons of art and documentation of kids' discussions or activities); it's hard to imagine a more inviting space. The play yard is not large, but I've realized the play equipment is really built to grow with the kids; my kids were thrilled when they learned to climb high and now they have an entire higher level to play on. The teachers also make excellent use of a few small dirt patches both for gardening and as mud hole play areas. 

    All that said, the most important factor to your decision is how much you like your current child care situation. Do you see your child being happy there until age 3? Is it more affordable than preschool? It's hard to guess at age 1.5 what your child will need at 2.5, but I do know a couple of moms who wished they had switched to preschool closer to 2 than 3 since the child (and mom, in one case) had outgrown baby-mom time. My kids were ready at 2, and Hearts' Leap was as wonderfully nurturing with that young age as they are stimulating to my now-5-year-old. 

    good luck.

    ...To continue what I just posted, Hearts' Leap also has a lovely parent/family community that the school actively encourages with potluck breakfasts throughout the year. We continue to benefit from this (carpools, playdates, family dinners, babysitting swaps) and being there the full 3 years for both of our kids really helped with that. Transitioning the child between schools may or may not be an issue, depending on the child, but it seems to me that adult relationships take quite awhile to develop in our busy world.

    Forgot to mention that HLN offers soccer and music lessons weekly. Our son gets both as he is 5 days/week. 

    We could not be happier with Hearts Leap North and our son is in his 2nd year of this phenomenal program.  He and we have now experienced both classrooms.  What truly sets Hearts Leap North apart is the highly-skilled and completely engaged teaching staff plus the lovely and amazing director Gretchen Stitzel.  Each and every one of the 6 teachers and Gretchen demonstrate warmth, love, fun and sheer dedication to growing young hearts and minds every day.  They are all excellent communicators with the parents and (of course) the children.  I truly get the sense that they are helping to make the world a better place with their focus on social-emotional learning and the way they embrace divergent thinking along with their anti-bias curriculum.  I remember being worried about the church basement being too dark or claustrophobic but after talking it over with lots of folks, I realized this was my (adult) concern and that the children are perfectly happy in the space (and I am, too, now!)  In fact, both classrooms get a good amount of sunlight and the playground is always bright.  The visual environment of each classroom is a wonderful balance of calm and creative - full of art and nature and science and sensory experiences and all manor of things that spark young imaginations.  It never feels too busy or crowded in any way, and the materials the teachers choose are always as simple as possible and aesthetically appealing.  The books in the classrooms are always great and always changing.

    Sending our son to Hearts Leap North for preschool was one of the best decisions we could have made as a family.  It is truly our son's home-away-from-home.

    I want to add to my previous post that the Juniper Room teachers (the 2s and 3s classroom) made potty-training an absolute breeze for us.

    You may want to ask an early childhood educator, preschool director or child psychologist about how detrimental -if at all- it would be to move your child from one school to another.  Although we haven't experienced this firsthand in our family, we have many friends whose children switched preschools at age 3 and 4 and all of them seemed to handle the transition with great ease.  Made our friends think the switch is far more difficult for the parents than the child!

    We are a happy TBS family and would not change our decision for anything. I believe that the pre-school starts taking children at 2.7 as long as they are potty trained. Our older daughter started at TBS at the Early Childhood Center and we all fell in love instantly. The head of school Kathy is so caring and attentive to everyone's needs. We have been in the Eugenia classroom and the educators are creative, talented and thoughtful not to mention caring too. Our younger daughter started at the ECC this year and literally leaps out of the car everyday. The community is wonderful as well, we have met so many great families and it really feels like an extended network of support. We also looked at TBS because it also offered a K-8 program and we knew that was something we were going to need. Hope you are happy with any decision you make. We love ours with TBS! 

Parent Reviews

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If you are planning to send your child to an OUSD school, then you should definitely pursue an IEP through your school district.

I don’t have experience with a hyperlexic child, but my son who experiences autism was well-attended to at Hearts Leap North and Hearts Leap preschools. We had a wonderful experience at both campuses. My son also had (and still has) a part-time Floortime aide with him at school and she helped to educate his preschool teachers so that he could be more included when she was not there. If you can swing it financially, I highly recommend going that route. We’ve been working with Kendra Frautnick for 6 years now and she’s absolutely super and all about getting your child off the periphery and into the mix and having fun! 


Hearts Leap is a preschool that has a very loving, attachment-focused approach to caregiving. Could be a good option! 

Hello. I’d highly recommend Hearts Leap North Preschool in Berkeley, located at Cedar & Oxford. 

Excellent teachers and parent community. The school fills up quickly so do give a call to see if they have availability.

My daughter was at the school for 3yrs.

This is our third year at Hearts Leap North, and I cannot recommend HLN enough. My son was very reserved and cautious to try anything new when he first started. But with his teachers’ gentle and positive encouragement and support, his confidence grew over time, and he started to open up and try new things (including participating in group activities). He also developed his socio-emotional skills to navigate social situations and form friendships, like expressing himself with his words on how a behavior/action made him feel to finding alternatives or compromises to conflicts. I credit his tremendous growth and maturity to Gretchen (the school director) and the wonderful teachers there.

The teachers are warm, loving and highly attuned to the children’s needs and interests. I’m always impressed with their thoughtful approach. For example, knowing how hard it is for children to be in a new environment, teachers will make home visits the week before school starts to help children become familiar with them. After our home visit to transition into the Juniper Room, Gretchen remembered the book she read with my son and made sure the book was out on the first day of school, so they could reconnect and read it together again; and she made sure to wear the same shirt and jewelry that he took interest in during the visit as well. During the first few days of school, parents could stay a little longer, school days were short and gradually extended to the full day. This is just one of many examples of how sensitive and empathetic they are with the children’s needs.

They offer a Reggio/Emergent curriculum, where teachers follow the children’s interest and set up projects to explore that theme through their art and play, which can last from a week or two to a couple months. For example, children were interested in outer space last year in the Sequoia Room, so they did lots of activities, like drop stones onto a smooth flour surface to illustrate how craters are created by meteorites and asteroids on the moon’s surface. When children’s interests turned towards castles, they made a castle out of a cardboard box, with a drawbridge and moat (and learned about castle structures and their purposes); looked at art and listened to music from the medieval period; and they even had a Renaissance Fair. My son is always excited with what he learned that day. After a northern lights art project for a polar theme, he came home to tell me all about the aurora borealis: “The sun burps and hits the earth’s atmosphere to create the northern lights, and scientists call them the aurora borealis!” In another instance, when children’s interests turned to art and nature (evolved from a camping theme), they started looking at Andy Goldsworthy’s art. Children started observing patterns in nature and creating outdoor art using natural materials, while documenting them with photographs. Even when my son goes out on a hike now, he wants to pause and create some nature art “like Andy” before moving on. 

They also offer gymnastics, soccer and music classes; and they do a lot of early literacy activities for letter recognition (like bringing objects from home that start with the letter of the week) and writing. There are daily logs, weekly newsletters and an online portal for housing photographs to keep parents involved and updated on activities going on in class. Children’s exploration process, art and projects are also documented around the classroom. Many opportunities are also available to connect with families in the classroom, school or across both campuses through school picnics, seasonal gatherings (breakfasts/lunches), class play dates, and parent-hosted parties for the annual auction.

We feel so lucky that we can be part of this amazing school. -- Sabrina

We have been are hearts leap north a shot time, but we knew right away that it would be a safe and caring environment for our child. We recommend highly, it's a small setting with loving and caring teachers. The director Gretchen has is very easy to communicate with and the teachers in juniper room have been really supportive and attentive with our kiddo. The shared building is sunny & the rooms feel like home. While it is smaller that hearts leap on college ave, on plus is that there is always parking for drop off and pick up. They do gymnastics & music class weekly. I am excited to see how my child grows and develops at hearts leap north. I think she will really thrive in this emeirgent curriculum program, it gives her the change to explore and I see her being more interested in curative play at home that she was before starting hearts leap north. Best wishes - Jamie

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Feb 2015

Does anyone have recent experience with Hearts Leap North? Most of the reviews seem to be for the College Avenue campus. We are specifically considering the Sequoia classroom. We really like the school's philosophy but would love to hear from people with first-hand experience. We are looking for a school with a warm environment that encourages curiosity. thanks! Anon

Hi there, my son LOVES hearts leap north! we are in the Juniper room and the teachers are AMAZING! i hear from other parents that they are very happy with Sequoia room. In general the school is so loving and the teachers are very tuned into the kids. i am a picky person with high standards and so far hearts leap north has been a seamless and very positive experience for us. good luck! JO

Our daughter has thrived at hearts leap north for the past six months My daughter who has had a hard time participating in group activities at other preschools has become a participant due to the positive environment there. They focus on socio emotional learning at HLN and that helps create a positive, welcoming environment where joy is experienced and learning happens. They are play-based and have creative ways of teaching things like letters and numbers. We have found it a very warm, nurturing environment. Siobhan

Oct 2014

RE: New to N. Berkeley, looking for preschools

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

Preschool in North Oakland or surroundings?

August 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2010

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

July 2010

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

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

Looking for recent comments - either campus

May 2010

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

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

My feedback is based on the Hearts Leap North campus, which is also run by ICRI. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 2010

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

Interested in the Heart's Leap North preschool program

Jan 2010

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

The new director, Paul Chinn, was a lead teacher last year (the school's first year), so he's not new to the community, and he's wonderful - patient, gentle, intelligent, unflappable. The site is good - classrooms are spacious, there's some onsite parking, the play-yard is secure, the ''rainy day'' play space is beautiful and spacious. The school offers several enrichments, including dance, yoga, and gymnastics, with specialist teachers. The classroom teachers are great - very loving and involved. The teachers move with the students, so as students grow and change classrooms, the teachers stay with them, which really allows relationships to deepen. The students are wonderful with each other, which is one of my favorite things about the school. There's a real emphasis on teaching the children how to have healthy friendships based on caring and mutual respect. As you can tell, we've been very happy there. D

We've been very happy with Hearts Leap North. The main thing is that the teachers are wonderful. The facilities are also very nice (and they have use of the church social hall as an alternative for outside play on rainy days). There is frequent and various type of communication with parents, and the kids seem engaged and happy. Maybe you already know this, but in addition to the ''greatness'' of any preschool, you should think about whether the location, schedule, and cost fit your needs as well.

We enrolled our 2 year old the first year the HLN campus opened and I'm sorry to say that we had a very negative experience.

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

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

Input on the new Heart's Leap North?

March 2009

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

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