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Early Explorers

Preschool at the Santa Barbara Zoo

Early Explorers Preschool

This play-based, early education preschool located in Santa Barbara, CA focuses on teaching through rich outdoor experiences and offers endless possibilities for exploration and discovery. Early Explorers is the first licensed outdoor preschool in California.


Children ages 3–5 are welcome at Early Explorers Preschool. All students must be toilet-trained.

Fill out the application form below. A non-refundable annual $150 registration fee (per student) is due when you apply. You must be a current Santa Barbara Zoo Member to attend Early Explorers Preschool.

Register now

Hours & Fees

Half Day (8:30 AM – noon)
2 days a week, $600/month
3 days a week, $700/month
5 days a week, $1250/month

Full Day (8:30 AM – 5:00 PM)
2 days a week, $900/month
3 days a week, $1250/month
5 days a week, $1650/month

More Information

“Not all classrooms have four walls.”

Steve Whewell

Parent Testimonials

Early Explorers is a wonderful outdoor preschool that provides a safe environment where each child is seen and heard. The teachers are supportive and nurturing, making learning enjoyable for all.

Early Explorers mom

Our daughter started preschool at the Zoo – her first time away from home after a year and a half of strict COVID precautions – and it was a big adjustment for her. The staff was so welcoming, attentive, caring, and hard-working from the start...our daughter always felt safe and comfortable with them and looked forward to seeing them every day at school. We loved that she has been able to be outside every day learning about the animals, the environment around her, and other vital preschool skills and social skills. We are so thankful for the most incredible director of this program and truly gifted and caring teachers. Our daughter will be moving on to transitional kindergarten this fall but we can’t wait to send her younger brother to Early Explorers!

Carrie & James

Our son was in this preschool when he was 3 and 4 years old. He started in the height of the pandemic, and all precautions were taken to keep our family safe, including a COVID response team. Our son thrived with half days in an active environment, and enjoyed daily walks around the Zoo, learning through art, and making friendships. He has learned so much about animals. As a nurse and mother, I highly recommend the Zoo outdoor preschool!"

Vanessa A.