Back to San Francisco Preschools

Russian Hill School

2026 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

(415) 202-0525


14 parents took the survey TAKE THE SURVEY

Russian Hill School is a 30 year non profit program that utilizes a mixed-age, art-based program designed to meet the individual needs of each child. We do offer a Transitional Kindergarten program for children who miss the Kindergarten cut off dates.

Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based, Teacher-Led, Montessori, Reggio-Emilia

From the Director:

Learning Emphasis: The educational format at the Russian Hill School is a blended curriculum, designed for 'child-directed' learning. Children are allowed to choose and/or create their own activities throughout the greater portion of the school day, however this is balanced with the guidance and careful instruction of our teachers (4:1 child:teacher ratio). In such an environment, children come to accept creative independence while learning, in a social atmosphere. The enriching and highly structured environment in our preschool is set up for optimal learning, and free choice. Academic Readiness: The mixed-age Open Classroom setting can provide a highly effective atmosphere for education through child-directed activities. Learning from one another in a program which is planned to facilitate multi-skill developmental needs, children at Russian Hill School form strong cognitive and social skills in preparation for Elementary School. Reading and math readiness is achieved, primarily through play opportunities and structured unit studies encompassing art projects. Dramatic play programs and unit study approaches incorporate activities to encourage the development of individual skills.

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

  Play- based mostly teacher led not formally in curriculum conducive environment
Language       more

More Information

  • Tracing paper and other writing instruments
  • A well-stocked bookcase
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense
Time & space more

More Information

  • Calendars and clocks
  • Parquetry blocks, pegboards, and mosaic toys
  • Maps
  • Building blocks
Sci. reasoning/physical world more

More Information

  • A place for science activities such as growing plants
  • Pets for children to watch and care for
Music more

More Information

  • Musical instruments
Visual arts more

More Information

  • Materials such as paint, ink, paintbrushes, crayons, markers, chalk, paper, etc.
  • Art work on the walls
Physical activity more

More Information

  • A playground with climbing equipment
  • Bean bags, balls, and other objects that children can throw, kick, and play
  • Enough room for children to move around and play and a suitable indoor alternative to the outdoor playground on rainy days
  • Sandboxes and/or water stations for play
Other subjects taught Self Help Skills: Independence is fostered in children through exposure to continual situations which promote their response. Our open classroom format is designed to teach self-reliance by offering consistent practice with decision-making opportunities regarding the child activity and peer involvement choices. 'Learning by doing' with age similar companions and adult guidance, is the educational approach at Russian Hill School. Social Studies: Music, Art, and dramatic play opportunities are combined to promote unit studies that expand each child's knowledge of families and cultures throughout the world.

From the Director:

Learning through the Arts: A wealth of resources are available through art for maximizing the benefits to children in terms of self esteem and cognitive growth. At Russian Hill School, the art 'process' is individualized for the children's emerging skills. This means that the art experience is presented with the intention to motivate children through self mastery of tools and materials, according to their developmental readiness to learn. Throuh this emphasis on process, children build an attention span, and focus over time. This program is dedicated to the belief that creativity is nourished through the sense of personal achievement. Satisfying individual experiences are the result, and the encouragement toward further progression.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

We are a highly individualized program due to being a mixed age program. We treat each child as an individual learner, and plan curriculum according to each child's level of development. If a child needs help in a particular area (i.e., social, adaptive, fine motor, etc) we work with that child and his or her family to strategize and skill build both 1:1 and in group settings. Our assessment process is ongoing and makes it possible to maximize on development whether considered behind, excelling or different. We embrace each child's unique learning process.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

The Russian Hill School is an early childhood education program which addresses the individual, social, emotional and educational needs of children between the ages of three to six. Specific concentrations in social interaction, art, music, physical exercise and academic readiness are a tradition for this thirty year old 'cooperative learning' program. The 'mixed age' curriculum model was created around the belief that young children need balance between organized and free activity, in order to receive the maximum of mental and emotional growth. Different from most school environments, the program is specifically structured to achieve that balance. Included in the program are indoor and outdoor educational activities and free play opportunities.

Mission Statement:
 We are a program that seeks to address the whole child and individualize to his or her 'Zone' of learning needs.
 We believe in collaborative learning whereby the students and teachers are involved together in the process of development - a mutual respect as researchers in education and facilitators for each other. If children get the message early on that learning is an exciting journey that never ends and that we do it together, not in a vacuum, they will embrace the process forever. We promote the approach of 'learning by doing' with age similar companions and adult guidance.
 We believe in unit study and project development as effective curriculum methods and art as a catalyst; learning through visual arts, music, dance and dramatic play.
 We believe that creativity is a natural outgrowth from the ability to do something; and therefore we nurture skill development in children to promote the 'I can do it' response and foster independence.
 We use multi-procedures ('extended learning') and combined curricula to develop project effectiveness. This is to say that children learn to respect the time it takes to create something of worth and that attention spans and involvement in the process are enhanced through satisfying individual experiences.
 We nurture social development and believe it to be a primary focus of the pre-school agenda. As a non-profit organization we continue to refine our purpose as teachers of children and leaders in the field of art-based education. As a non-profit organization, we are able to develop more continuity in serving the children of the community and involve the families of our group in the process of education. Through grants and school growth, we will be able to expand our staff, serve a more diverse community and further develop our programs.

A Typical Day

Daily Schedule:
Morning Session (8:00am - 12:30pm). Children should arrive no later than 9:00 am. Half day morning students should be picked up no later than 12:45pm.

8:00 - 10:45 Open classroom with mixed media and Outdoor Activities. Children are free to choose activities, including educational toys, dramatic play, arts and crafts and pre-structured self-correcting learning materials as well as outside play (children are rotated for outside time 5 - 7 children at a time, each child participates daily).

10:45 - 11:15 Match-up time. Children work cooperatively in teams (usually an older child paired with a younger child) to pick up and store toys and play equipment.

11:15 - 11:45 Snack time. Children go with their partner to wash their hands before coming to the table for snack. They assist, as time permits, in arranging place mats and passing out cups, napkins and food. Preparation of snack is a frequent class activity.

11:45 - 12:30 Circle time. A combination of stories, finger-plays, songs, rhythm, dance and movement activities, group discussions and learning demonstrations make up this structured activity.

12:30 - 12:45 Transition between programs. Full time students prepare for lunch. Half-day morning students are dismissed at 12:30pm. Afternoon half-day students begin to arrive for lunch between 12:45 and 1:00pm.

Afternoon Session (1:00pm - 5:30pm). Afternoon students should arrive no later than 1:00pm for lunch and be picked up no later than 6:00pm.

12:45 - 1:15 Lunch Break. This large group social opportunity around the lunch table encourages children to practice eating etiquette while building conversational skills with peers. Children bring their own lunches daily. A choice of milk or water is provided by the school.

1:15 - 2:15 Lunch transition and Rest time. The children attend to their personal needs (bathroom; hand washing, etc) and engage in 'quiet time' on rest mats, while listening to audio stories. Children who nap, do so in a designated area.

2:15 - 2:45 Circle time. A combination of stories, finger-plays, songs, rhythm, dance and movement activities, group discussions and learning demonstrations make up this structured activity. Although similar to the format of the morning activity, themes and story selections are not repeated in the afternoon program in order to avoid redundancy for children participating in both programs.

2:45- 4:15 Open Classroom with mixed media and Outdoor Activities. Children are free to choose activities, including educational toys, dramatic play, arts and crafts and pre-structured self-correcting learning materials as well as outside play. Activities from the morning program are not repeated here, with the exception of projects that are extended over time and which have multiple steps. (Children are rotated for outside time 5 - 7 children at a time, each child participates daily).

4:15 - 4:45 Match-up time. (see morning program for description)

4:45 - 5:00 Snack time. (see morning program for description)

5:00 - 5:25 End of Day Circle Session

5:30 - 6:00 Dismissal: The children prepare to be picked up by their parents. The school day is completed at 5:30pm. Quiet stories are available for children who are waiting during this final half-hour.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

Each child is given a yearly comprehensive assessment and a subsequent parent-teacher conference. The assessment is conducted by the Director, in accordance with each teacher's feedback. This assessment covers each of the child's developmental skills/domains, and offers new learning activities to promote skill building and enhancement of social interaction. During the conference, parents review this assessment with the director very carefully. The Director offers feedback for activities and learning opportunities outside the home. In addition, parents are encouraged to ask any questions they may have, or express any priority or concerns. This applies to the conference, as well as any time a parental need arises. In addition, each child is given an evaluation 6 months prior to the comprehensive assessment and conference. Evaluations are conducted by the class room teachers and sent home to the parents. We also have a panel of 'classroom' parents who are active in the classroom and instrumental in giving other parents feedback about unit studies and curriculum. These parents also help to bridge the classroom with the community.We have a very extensive and hands on process for guiding families through the Kindergarten interview, evaluation and decision process. We disseminate information regarding the public and private elementary schools. We also have an outreach program, where we invite parents of our alumni to come in and speak to our current families about their kindergarten experiences.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Sit on the board of trustees
  • Hold social events at the school to build community
  • Fundraise
  • Are required to make donations ourselves
  • Are able to visit the school anytime we want
  • Go on field trips
  • Volunteer in the classroom
  • Receive newsletters

Modes of Communication

  • Notes
  • Phone Calls
  • Voice Mail
  • Email
  • Special Meetings
  • Two or More Regular Conferences
  • Drop-Off
  • Pick-Up
  • Regular newsletter/printed updates circulated to the whole school


Separation is Handled through:

  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Small group sessions
  • Extra staff dedicated to handle separation
  • Parents in classroom early on
  • Abbreviated schedule at start of school year

Handling Separation: From the Director

We offer an orientation day, where parents are invited to attend the first day with their children. This helps the new child to acclimate into the structure and routine with their parent present. After several weeks of enrollment, the Admissions Director meets with the teachers and the Director to get valuable feedback about the new student. The Admissions Director then does a follow-up call with the parent to discuss all the pertinent new information, and to see if the parent has any questions, cares or concerns.