Presidio Knolls School

Presidio Knolls School

San Francisco, California

Program Description

Presidio Knolls School (PKS) is an independent pr–-K through 8th grade school in San Francisco (currently serving through 6th grade, adding 7th grade in 2019, and 8th grade in 2020).

Our mission is to nurture the young heart and mind in a joyful learning environment, where the convergence of progressive education and Mandarin immersion ignites curiosity, connectedness, and engagement in the world. Our progressive pedagogy works with a child’s natural inquisitiveness and desire to be engaged with the world around them. Learning takes place in the classroom through collaborative projects and Units of Exploration designed to foster intrinsic motivation, and also in the greater world outside the classroom—from the streets of San Francisco to the mountains of China.

We combine this progressive philosophy with 80/20 immersion in preschool and elementary school and 50/50 immersion in middle school. The goal is not just to learn Chinese, but to use the language naturally and authentically as a primary medium for communication, collaboration, research, and reflection. By the end of elementary school, students are prepared at an advanced level to read and write about texts on Chinese history, literature, and society, as well as to do high-level work in science and mathematics—all in Chinese.

Almost 350 students are enrolled (2018-2019 school year), from 2.5 years old to sixth grade. Upon completion of our middle school and campus buildout, in 2020, we will be able to accomodate 500 students from preschool to 8th grade in a purpose-built facility in the heart of San Francisco.

Program Highlights

Inquiry-based Learning: Our curriculum provides students with authentic project-based learning through the lens of rich experience and meaningful work in both Mandarin Chinese and English. We continually seek new ways to challenge and inspire our students with a course of study that encourages them to ask questions, deepen their understanding, think critically, and explore what matters to them. Our specialist faculty in the arts, music, and STEAM are often integrated into classroom projects and curricular work, along with stand-alone lessons.

PKS Travels | PKS 东南西北: Our travel program is a signature of our school and is designed to help our students develop the confidence and cultural empathy necessary to be a global citizen and a successful leader. Starting in fifth grade, students make yearly trips to Asia with only PKS faculty and staff (no parents), where they can authentically use their language skills while doing field work that extends their Units of Exploration and projects. For each trip, the group settles in one place for a sustained, deliberately slow-paced experience. By eighth grade, students will have the confidence and social skills to complete a homestay.

Social–Emotional Learning: Nurturing the whole child is an important part of our progressive philosophy. In preschool, we help our students develop a positive sense of self-identity and belonging. In elementary school, we layer on meditation classes and lessons that focus on specific topics like self-control, setting and respecting boundaries, and dealing with frustration and distraction. This extends through middle school, as students go through the most intensive period of cognitive growth since the first 18 months of life.

Professional Development: Our faculty have applied, been accepted to, and are increasingly invited to present at some of the top national educational conferences, including at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Columbia Teachers College, the National Chinese Language Conference (NCLC), Progressive Educators Network, and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).


Head of School
Chris Livaccari

Director of Admissions
Andrea Banks

All Profiles

Profiles of specific early language and immersion programs.