San Antonio's Will Smith Zoo School to become largest nature-based preschool in country

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

The San Antonio Zoo's new Will Smith Zoo School campus for preschoolers will open in January, making it the largest nature-based preschool in the country.

Rather than the typical humdrum of indoor lessons, the Will Smith Zoo School aims to keep children outdoors for more than half of the day "engaging in a naturally rich play environment." The newly renovated campus conveniently sits on the perimeter of the SA Zoo, allowing children to visit the zoo daily.

Curriculum is focused on zoo animals and plants, fostering a love for wildlife at an early age.

The SA Zoo purchased the 2-acre campus at 103 Tuleta Drive -- once home to the Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children and KIPP Academy -- and renovated it to serve as a large, nature-based educational space for children.

"We’re teaching them ways they can help conserve, help recycle, do all those things that can help nature and the animals in the environment," according to a release. "In the long run, we are teaching them to conserve our planet."

The newly renovated building will have 10 classrooms, a 20-foot-tall outdoor butterfly house, a garden to raise food to feed both kids and zoo animals, a special discovery pond and an interactive child-sized birdhouse.

The campus will also feature outdoor play areas intended to "challenge and develop students’ physical, mental and cooperative skills."

There are currently 50 children enrolled in the zoo’s preschool program, but the new campus will allow the school to gradually grow to educate up to 200 children. 

Pricing starts at $350 a month for the 3-day program and goes up to $750 a month for the 5-day program.

More information on the Will Smith Zoo School can be found on the SA Zoo's website.

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