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Santa Barbara Zoo receives license to become first outdoor preschool in state

Santa Barbara Zoo

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Santa Barbara Zoo's Early Explorers Preschool recently received its official license from the state of California, making it the state's very first licensed outdoor preschool.

"We are really proud of what we’ve created with our Early Explorers Preschool, which offers a one-of-a-kind preschool experience for children that is rich with hands-on learning, provides kinder readiness, and most importantly is at the Zoo!” said J.J. McLeod, Director of Education at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

“Children are surrounded by wildlife that they get to learn about, visit regularly, and develop a natural appreciation for their conservation. Where else do you get to hear the roar of a lion while you’re at school?"

The Santa Barbara Zoo expanded its existing outdoor education programs and launched Early Explorers Preschool over the past two years as parents navigated new challenges that stemmed from remote learning in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jennifer Zacharias, spokeswoman for the Zoo.

The Early Explorers Preschool is an early education program for children between the ages of three and five, providing "one of the most unique educational experiences available," Zacharias said.

After two successful years, it received its official license from the state.

The play-based program focuses on teaching through rich experience, giving the early explorers the opportunity to learn to have deep appreciation for the natural world through gardening, outdoor play, and exploration.

The program has a 6:1 student-teacher ratio, and students between the ages of three and five are grouped together to enhance the development of academic and social skills, Zacharias said.

Zoo walks, zoo train rides, art, and sustainability and garden education are also incorporated into the school week, she added.

Participants must be a member of the zoo to enroll, and registration for the preschool is now open. Schedule options range from full-time to part-time and more, and a t-shirt is included with registration.

For more information or to register, click here.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue is the Assignment Editor and web journalist at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Jade, click here

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