2021-2022 School Year

Saint Louis Zoo Preschool for the 2020-2021 school year is a nature-based, child-directed and individualized learning in a safe, virtual space. Our preschool program focuses on nurturing young children and their families through nature safely in this time of change and challenge.

During a year where there is already so much to consider, this opportunity provides families with a passionate group of educators committed to reaching every child where they are, and helping them to reach their full potential, while also supporting their family and community. We have researched our options, and spent the last five months immersed in digital learning, preparing for this exciting new adventure. Like many of life's adventures, this may not have been what you planned, but magical and amazing things can still come from it. We hope that you will join us!

The Saint Louis Zoo Virtual Preschool Experience

The safest option available for the Saint Louis Zoo Preschool right now is to connect with children and families virtually and in small groups in outdoor settings. We provide high quality, individualized educational experiences designed to nurture physical, social, emotional and academic growth.

The purposefully crafted virtual preschool experience includes individualized weekly curriculum, virtual small groups, virtual one-on-one teacher time, and plenty of opportunities for parents and families to connect with each other and with their preschool teachers.

  • All areas of the curriculum are informed by the natural world. We use nature to nurture our students and their families during these challenging times. Including having students do regular outdoor activities, and collect natural materials to use in our virtual classroom. This might include using acorns to practice observation skills, dandelions to journal, leaves as math manipulatives and more. Research shows that not only being in nature, but also having natural materials around us, has physical and psychological health benefits. Sustainably sourced and authentic natural materials from our physical classroom will also to be loaned out to families for use in the virtual classroom.

    We believe that nature is the best possible classroom for children. Research tells us that children show improvements in social, emotional, and cognitive well-being when they spend time in and with nature. During this time, we do not believe that young children should be expected to attempt to socially distance from each other. Therefore, we will be providing guided nature exploration meets ups with our educators and individual families every other month.

  • A unique aspect of a Zoo preschool, 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. Virtual Friday field trips will bring keepers, penguins, special animal enrichment, and more, right into your living room, for the whole family.

  • 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 guidance from their teachers, creating a more meaningful learning experience. 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 to explore as small groups — researching and working as a team to create projects 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. Rather than teaching skills in isolation.

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

What’s Included in the Program

  • Small group Zoom meetings with one teacher and six students
  • One-on-one Zoom meetings with students and teachers
  • One-on-one Zoom meetings with parents and teachers
  • Virtual field trips for families to the Zoo or other nature spaces
  • Guided in-person nature experiences for families
  • Weekly individualized curriculum
  • Family events
  • Back-to-school kits, including journals, magnifiers and more
  • Monthly classroom material check-outs
  • Quarterly parent learning opportunities (child development, educational support, etc.)
  • Virtual Parent Lounge
  • Student Showcases
  • Exclusive, virtual behind-the-scenes Zoo experiences

See sample program for Monday, Wednesday, Friday program.

See sample program for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday program.

See preschool at-home curriculum component information.

What the program is NOT

  • Our program does not include packets of busy work, developmentally inappropriate “worksheets,” or online learning games & videos.

What about Social Concerns?

  • Social and emotional growth is critical at this age. We will continue to focus our program on the needs of the whole child, with a strong focus on social and emotional skills, including coping with challenges, like those facing us all today. We guarantee that social skills like collaboration, cooperation and turn-taking will be a natural part of having preschoolers in a virtual classroom, just as they are in a traditional one.

What about all the screen time?

  • We firmly believe that technology should be used sparingly with preschool age children and only as a tool for learning. Guided discussions and child-directed activities with authentic materials will still be at the heart of or programming.

Teaching Team

The Zoo's early childhood team has a combined 98 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 offers a student-teacher ratio of one teacher for every six students, which exceeds the state of Missouri's minimum requirement, allowing for more individualized time with each child. 

  • Early childhood expertise
  • Environmental education expertise
  • Nature-based learning expertise
  • Child development expertise
  • Emphasis in equity and inclusion, marine biology, art and more

Tuition & School Schedule

We are offering this program at a 25% reduced tuition (prices listed below include this reduction), because of the challenging economic times. Our professional educators provide even more teaching hours per student than our onsite preschool. The preschool operates on a traditional school year schedule, September to May.  Apply at link below.

  • Ages 3-4

    • $300 per month
    • The 3- to 4-year-old class meets on Tuesday and Thursday and Friday.
  • Ages 4-5

    • $450 per month
    • The 4- and 5-year-old class meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.


1. To apply and pay the application fee of $25, please fill out the online application below.

Online Application

2. You will be contacted to schedule a Zoom or socially distanced outdoor interview

3. Once accepted a $250 deposit and the first month's tuition is due

Request More Information

For more information, call (314) 646-4544 or fill out the form at the end of this page.

Financial Aid

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 50 percent of full tuition based on need. Full tuition assistance is not available at this time.

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

Online Financial Aid Application Form


  • 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.

Guiding Principles

Request Form

For more information, please fill out the form and someone from our preschool will contact you.