Staff Report

As parents struggle to navigate the new challenges surrounding remote learning due to coronavirus concerns, many are searching for additional resources and support for their students who will not be returning to classrooms.

In an effort to meet the growing education needs for families who are navigating a remote learning environment, the Santa Barbara Zoo is expanding its existing Outdoor Ed program to the public and has launched Early Explorers, a play-based early education program for children ages 3-5. 

The Early Explorer program focuses on teaching through experiences. Early Explorers will learn an appreciation for the natural world through gardening, outdoor play, exploration and discovery in the zoo’s 28-acre outdoor classroom.

Students are placed in mixed-age groups (with student to teacher ratio of 9:1) to enhance the development of academic and social skills. Train rides, animal encounters and art are incorporated into this outdoor childcare program.

For details and to register, visit A T-shirt is included with registration.

The Outdoor Ed program was established in 2014 and typically offered as a homeschool program. This year, the zoo is expanding Outdoor Ed by opening enrollment to traditional public school students who are interested in a one-day-a-week alternative to independent, at-home learning. It is open to all students ages 3-15.

The program’s interactive approach fulfills California standards by introducing age-specific content and developing research skills. Over each eight-week session, students explore scientific topics via recording observations, evaluating problems and developing solutions.

Students who participate in Outdoor Ed will learn in small groups and will be placed by age. Outdoor Ed will be held exclusively outside in designated zones away from the public and will be following all health and safety guidelines to ensure the safety of students and teachers.

While the zoo’s first session is full, registration is now open for the second session, which runs Nov. 9 to Jan. 22. For details and registration, visit