If Mr. Rogers had a center in Hayes Valley, and in that center kids could simultaneously learn nursery rhymes in Arabic and how to be a good friend, this would be it.
Seesaw, a multi-functional and educational space for both kids and adults, resides a block away from Hayes Street, but captures the same eclectic and vibrant feeling our neighborhood emits.
With a mission of “fostering multiple intelligences and social resilience,” Sabrina Gabel started Seesaw in August 2010 with the idea of blending her background as a Doctorate in Combined Psychology (clinical, counseling and school) with working with kids in an environment that makes learning fun.
Although Sabrina does conduct counseling at the location, Seesaw mostly utilizes the space to foster friendship first, then teach unique educational lessons.
Aside from Sabrina, the staff consists of many other teachers who facilitate nearly 20 classes. The curriculum ranges from music and art to science and language. Teaching three year olds another language may sound different at first, but according to Sabrina, “one to four is the most critical time for language and we focus on very simple things.” Seesaw believes in teaching language through culture, so students learn painting in French and singing in Korean.
Not all classes are just for the kids. Parents are encouraged to join for a few, including Toddler Play-and-Learn where a parent (or parents) sits with their child and learns teacher language for working with kids who are 18-36 months. The teacher, Rebecca K. Walsh, brings her own toddler and demonstrates what she teaches and then lets parents practice afterwards.
Sabrina spent a year looking for the right location to open Seesaw. Originally eyeing a spot on Divisadero, she opted to go with Hayes Valley because of its central location in the city, as well as its proximity to the Central Expressway. “Even though we’re a little off the beaten path, it’s nice because parents don’t have to deal with the traffic and can walk a few blocks to grab some coffee while their kids are here” she added.
She was recently asked to be part of a small group of business owners who meet with Mayor Ed Lee to provide feedback from the business owner perspective. While Seesaw is a sole proprietorship, she wishes she could have a branch that’s non-profit. She said “I’d like to have art or summer programs so we could be more of a part of the local community.”
When asked what she hopes to get out of this experience, she said “I just want to share what I know and practically apply it; that makes it purposeful.”
If you have kids or are interested in learning more about Seesaw, stop by their location at 600A Octavia anytime or check out their classes for March. When you see what they’re learning, the Mr. Rogers in you may want to put on your cardigan and slippers and stay awhile.
Update (3/15): Sabrina also runs a private practice at this location, conducting therapy, parent consultations and assessments.