All Zoo summer programs are canceled for 2020. 

Summer program refund notifications have been sent out.  Please call (314) 646-4544, option #6, with any refund questions.  As a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, our Education Registrars are working limited hours.  Your patience is greatly appreciated during this time.

The Zoo is NOW OPEN. Reservations are required to visit. Review the Zoo’s reopening guidelines and make a reservation. 


2020-2021 School Year



  • To nurture children and their families in a learning environment grounded in a healthy connection to the natural world.
  • To foster creativity, collaboration and critical thinking through child directed learning.
  • To address the needs of the whole child and help each individual reach their full potential.


The application deadline has passed for the 2020-2021 school year. Feel free to complete the Request More Information form below to be added to the wait list. We will then contact you if there are any openings.

  1. To apply, please complete the online application, and submit it with your $25 application fee.

  2. There is a $25 non-refundable application fee. Please call (314) 646-4544 for information.
  3. Interviews of parents or primary caregivers are required for admission and will be set by appointment for qualified applicants.
  4. Acceptance notifications are emailed.
  5. Placement is confirmed and $250 non-refundable deposit is due.

Based on the applications and interviews, 36 students will be selected — 18 in each age group.

Guiding Principles

  • Like the forest and nature-based preschool movements, we believe that nature is the best possible classroom for children. The preschool takes full advantage of the Zoo's 90-acre campus, and the beautiful park surrounding it. Research tells us that children show improvements in social, emotional, and cognitive well-being when they spend time exploring the outdoors.

    We spend at least 50 percent of our time outside each and every day, and not just for “recess.” The 4- and 5-year-old class spends all day outside on Forest Fridays exploring the various habitats around the park. All areas of the curriculum benefit from fresh air — from practicing our observation skills with the prairie dogs, to writing poetry inspired by the paddlefish. Our indoor classroom space was designed using biophilic principles and sustainably sourced materials to reflect the natural world all around us.

  • A unique aspect of a preschool at the Zoo, is that it is integrated into a community that cares deeply about animals and their futures. Students will learn to think of themselves as scientists and as part of a scientific community. They will develop relationships with Zoo staff and use them as resources in their projects. Likewise, the children will have an amazing diversity of animals to study and observe. These unique relationships and experiences will lay the foundation for becoming scientifically and environmentally literate citizens in the future.

  • Our teacher teams are there to support the children as they learn and discover. Teachers create and prepare the learning environment intentionally, to inspire exploration — then the children direct the exploration. This allows children to construct their own knowledge, with the guidance from their teachers, creating a more meaningful learning experience. In the classroom, children explore various centers, such as literacy, science, or art. Teachers are observing, documenting students’ work, spending one-on-one time with students, or leading small group activities.

    Project Construct, described above, is one of only four early childhood curriculums approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE.

  • Children will be members of a community of fellow students and teachers that work and learn together. They will learn the value of collaboration and how to support their fellow members in a positive way. They will also learn to view mistakes as learning opportunities, and to communicate honestly with one another. Each member will be treated with respect and given time to reflect on his or her own learning journey.

  • The children will also select topics as a group — researching and working as a team to create a project based on their learning. These are long-term projects that take an in-depth look at the subject at hand. Projects like this encourage collaboration, allow children to highlight their own unique talents and abilities, and incorporate all of the state Early Learning Standards.

    Project based learning and the Reggio Emilia approach, as described above, are considered best practices in early childhood education today.

School Schedule

The preschool operates on a traditional school year schedule, September to May, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each school day. 

The 3- to 4-year-old class meets on Tuesday and Thursday, and the 4- and 5-year-old class meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Full day option: students will bring their own lunch; rest time will be provided.


The Zoo's early childhood team has a combined 73 years of experience in early childhood and environmental education. Each team member also has a minimum of a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related science degree. The Zoo's program exceeds the required staff to child ratios of 1:6, allowing for more individualized time with each child.

Fee Structure

  • Two-day program (Tuesday and Thursday)

    Half day (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) $400 per month
    Full day (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) $800 per month

    Students must turn 3 AND be able to use the restroom independently by September 1 of the school year you are applying for.

  • Three-day program (Monday, Wednesday and Friday)

    Half day (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) $600 per month
    Full day (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) $1200 per month

  • Financial aid application MUST be complete at the time of application to be considered. 

    Online financial aid application form (form available beginning January 2, 2020)

    To make this program available to families with a range of incomes, the Zoo offers sliding scale tuition rates. Financial aid applications are processed by an independent agency, and need is assessed based on that information. Tuition discounts will range from 10 to 75 percent of full tuition based on need. Full tuition assistance is not available at this time. 

Request More Information

For more information, call (314) 646-4544 or fill out the form below.