Pine Crest School

Community Subscriber

Kensington, CA

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

DSS Facility License #: 
Diana Bickham
contactpinecrest [at]
Lawson Road
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
24 months - 60 months
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
8:00am - 5:30pm
Additional Services & Features: 
Afternoon option, Part-time available, Pre-K program, Year-round, Sibling discount, Snacks provided, Vegetarian options, Special diet support, Cloth diapers accepted, Potty training support
Editors' Notes: 

Diana Bickham also owns a family daycare in El Cerrito, Willow Street Schoolhouse

About Our Program: 

Play-based, nature inspired, emergent curriculum preschool program for children ages 24 months to 6 years.

Parent Q&A

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  • I would like to hear from parents who have been at Pine Crest School in Kensington since their transition to this new location from Willow Street Schoolhouse in 2016 (  We are considering enrolling our daughter in their program and would love hear from recent and current families.

    Thank you!

    My daughter started there a few months ago right after her second birthday. We’ve all been very happy with it. I really value all the time they spend outside taking walks and playing in the large outdoor space. The concept of “emergent curriculum” was new to me but I’m mostly seeing it manifest in how they allow the kids to self direct what they want to do which ends up being lots of imaginative play and art and playing in nature. The way they communicate with the kids and teach them how to communicate is really respectful and I can see my daughter’s social and emotional growth since starting. My daughter is also very bonded with the teachers. Feel free to PM if you have more questions. 

    Our experience was not great. First, It’s a very large amount of space with a treacherous external staircase. Our kids got “promoted” young, not necessarily because they were ready but because teachers in the little kids room were slammed with a few very needy lowest age kids who required 1:1. Because my kids were on the older range, they got pushed up, because the overall functional level was quite low in the little kids class.  My kids crashed and burned when placed with 4 and even 5 year olds. There was a feeling of being intimidated and a totally hands off staff approach, and an unwillingness to communicate with us about what was going on. When my kids started getting into physical altercations and had a physical injury that was not reported, we had a meeting. We were told the standard is nonintervention and maybe 30% of conflicts that escalate will get adult assistance. My kids were not at all ready for the socioemotional challenges in being lumped in with significantly older kids ( mine were not even totally potty trained yet).  It felt like we were paying a high price for the kids to be put in that experience, what with the refusal to communicate and lack of supervision and very little intervention. We pulled them out after 2 months of escalating kid upset that spilled over into home life. And we were already preschool veterans from an older kid, so this was not about helicopter parenting.  

    Our 5 year-old son, Seamus, currently attends Pine Crest and we have been over-joyed with his experience.

    The teachers are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about child development, and provide a warm and supportive play-based environment.

    Pretty much every single day, Seamus resists leaving his playmates and the wide open grounds of the school (a very good sign IMO). He comes home with new stories, interests, and confidence built through being experimentation and figuring things out his own. His teachers keep his mind stimulated by providing new learning opportunities, including through sensory development, artistic expression and freedom to develop social skills (with perhaps some gentle coaching). The other children and parents are also wonderful, and we've felt privileged to be part of such a great community of families.

    Overall, he looks forward to attending each day and we feel he is on the right trajectory for the transition to kindergarten, while building many happy memories.

    My daughter went to both willow street and pine crest. She loves it and has thrived there. She spends a lot of time outside playing and exploring, and the staff are great. She has thrived there. 

    Our 4.5 year old daughter has attended Pine Crest since January 2017 and we feel so happy and lucky to have found such a special place for her to attend preschool. The teachers are extremely caring and attuned to the developmental and social-emotional needs of each child. The activities are varied and evolve based on student interest and discovery. Perhaps the best part is the opportunity they have by being on the beautiful property of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which they take full advantage of by going for nature walks and spending time outside every day. I am genuinely jealous of my daughter's day when I drop her off at Pine Crest; she spends her time exploring nature and her own interests and curiosities while surrounded by nurturing, creative people.

  • Hello fellow parents. We are considering enrolling our son in Pine Crest Preschool in Kensington for next Fall. Pine Crest is the new incarnation of Willow Street Schoolhouse that has operated for a long time in El Cerrito. I'm wondering if anyone has any experiences to share? It feels like a big decision and since this is Pine Crest's first official year of operation there is not a lot of history/reviews to go off of. I'm assuming that Pine Crest will be similar to Willow Street, but I'm not even 100% sure of that. I'm like to know positives and negatives if anyone cares to share! Thanks!!

    We are just starting Pinecrest this summer. Our boys love, love, love it! Danielle is a wonderful person who connects well with the kids and parents. We are very lucky to have a friend who has a doctorate in education and is a professor. We asked her for recommendations and she said Willow Street. She sent both of her kids there and became so enamored with tthe program she put  a chapter about it in a textbook she wrote! 

    We were also fortunate that Pinecrest, its sister program, opened just this year. Having twins (boys, no less) makes it harder to find places with two openings. We got very lucky and got in as the program opened!

    Pinecrest is located on the grounds of the Unitarian Church up at the top of Moeser and Terrace up in the hills. Breathtaking views and plenty of space to hike, garden and run around. It's a Reggio Emilia inspired program that balances freedom of choice and exlploration with kind, supportive boundaries and just enough structure to keep the routine and rhythms of the day consistent. 

    Two sets of thumbs up !

    We started our 4-year old son a few weeks ago and we are so so happy with the school.  He didn't talk for the whole first month at his prior preschool.  They thought he was nonverbal but it's just that he can be a little reserved at first.  And he was really not himself for the whole year that he was there -- the volume on his personality always seemed turned down there vs. how he is at home.  So we were thrilled when he took to Pine Crest immediately.  Within a day he was completely comfortable and just gave me a hug and a see you later at drop-off, happily jumping on the couch to join the other kids for morning stories.  He has been generating so much art and has been getting to lead the small summer class on daily nature walks.  Danielle has a very calm and grounding demeanor and the kids all love her.  It's my understanding that the Willow Street kids and teachers will be joining Pine Crest in September so prior reviews for Willow Street should be a good indicator of what Pine Crest will be like.  The only negative I can think of is that it's a bit of a drive up the hill but I think it's worth it to get that much space for the kids. 

Parent Reviews

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Pine Crest School in Kensington is a good choice. My children go there and it's very outdoor play-based. My children have thrived. 

Not sure if you are located near North Berkeley/Kensington, but both Pinecrest School and The Good Earth School are on 9 acres in the hills (located next to each other) and the kids are outside everyday. My kiddos went there and always came home with stories of hiking, climbing trees, finding bugs, and covered in dirt. They loved it. Note- both schools are more expensive than the other schools we toured, but we wanted the kids to be in nature. 

Pine Crest School in Kensington meets this criteria!

Hi there, my son attends Pine Crest and we like a lot of things about it — they spend a ton of time outside (nature walks every day, a great outdoor space) and are very self-directed in their play. All kids wear masks and stay within their pods, though the teachers (also masked) periodically move around to help out with the other classes. On balance the sheer amount of outdoor time has been the biggest pro, both for our particular kid and in general since Covid started. We were much more comfortable sending him back to school knowing that he'd be outdoors more than in. Feel free to DM me if you'd like to talk more!

Pine Crest School or Good Earth. Both located on Kensington/El Cerrito border (next door to each other). My kiddo goes to Pine Crest - very play-based, a lot of outdoor space and time spent outdoors.

Pine Crest School has a music teacher that comes 1-2x/week that my daughter absolutely adores. In general they are very supportive of children's interest and give access to lots of different experiences. There are some instruments in the room and they also sing a lot as well. My 3 year old often comes home singing entire songs that she learns there. It's a great school!

I think our preschool (Pine Crest) in El Cerrito might have summer openings. It’s beautiful- not quite EBWS, but lots of nature time. 

Hello, it might be a little beyond your preferred area, but The Pine Crest School in Kensington sounds like a good match:

Highly recommended, excellent teachers, lots of exploring nature outdoors and being creative.  My children have thrived with them.

Hello Hazel,

Take a look at Pine Crest in Kensington:

The teachers are fabulous and they embrace all that you mention in your post.