Early Explorers Preschool

The Zoo’s 28-acre outdoor “classroom” offers endless possibilities for exploration and discovery.

This play-based, early education program focuses on teaching through rich experiences. Early Explorers will learn to have a deep appreciation for the natural world through gardening, outdoor play, and exploration. With a student-teacher ratio of 9:1, students are grouped together ages 3-5 to enhance the development of both academic and social skills. Zoo walks, sustainability and garden education, art, and Zoo Train rides are incorporated into the week. You must be a Santa Barbara Zoo Member to enroll in Early Explorers.


Half Day (8:30 AM – noon) options:
2 days a week, $360/month
3 days a week, $525/month
5 days a week, $800/month

Full Day (8:30 AM – 5:00 PM) options:
2 days a week, $630/month
3 days a week, $945/month
5 days a week, $1350/month

Age Requirements
Ages 3–5 are welcome. All students must be toilet-trained.

Fill out the application form below. A non-refundable annual $150 registration fee (per student) is due upon registration.

Apply now


  • Early Explorers will be exclusively outside, with shaded areas, in a designated zone away from the public
  • Educators will each have a sanitation kit to wash all surfaces before and after use as well as sanitize students’ hands as necessary
  • No early drop-off or late pick-up options to minimize cross-contact with additional staff
  • 6-foot markers will be put on the ground to suggest a safe distance
  • Students are required to wear a mask at all times except when eating or drinking
  • All staff will wear masks and follow state guidelines
  • Students will stay in assigned groups all day/week with the same instructor

Meet the Team

Cindy Post

Program Director

I began my career 28 years ago teaching children about animals and their environments while working for L.A. Zoo Camp then continued my passion of working with children and helping them grow and learn while working in the Child Development Program in the Saugus Union School District.

I hold my Child Development Site Supervisor permit and have served as a Site Supervisor/Director of preschool and TK-6th grade childcare for 15 years. I am excited to achieve my lifelong goals and dreams by working at the Zoo.

I believe children learn about the world around them through play and meaningful experiences and am excited to lay the foundations of growth, learning, and compassion for others and the world we live in with our students.

On my days off, I enjoy spending time with my family. We love to go geocaching, have family game nights, and go on adventures. My husband and I enjoy hiking and riding our bikes along the beach.

Favorite Animals: African elephant, sea turtle, and butterflies

Welles Crowther


I grew up in Glendale and am currently working on an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education at Santa Barbara City College. In high school, I spent most of my free time working as an assistant director at a children's theater program and as a junior camp counselor. Those experiences showed me how rewarding it was to work with young children and motivated me to find a career in education.

I love working with children because I’m inspired to think more creatively and look at the world through twenty different lenses a day, asking questions that I never would've thought of before. Watching kids’ understanding of themselves and others evolve over time is always amazing and I'm excited to see how the Zoo environment enhances their learning experience and mine.

When I'm not working or in school, I love to cook, paint with my roommates, and spend time with my cat, Jinxy, and my hamster, Paula (separately, of course!).

Favorite animals: bears and octopi

Mairin McNerney

Assistant Teacher

I grew up in San Luis Obispo County and I’m currently pursuing a degree in Film and Media studies at UCSB. Throughout high school, I worked as a preschool teacher and classroom director in an incredible program where I was able to take courses in early childhood education and apply that knowledge in a classroom setting.

Working with children has been one of the most rewarding and inspiring jobs I have ever taken on. I constantly learn from them as I watch them grow and interact with people and world around them. I feel so lucky to play such a huge role in their development and help mold them into the world-changers they will someday become.

When I’m not at the Zoo, I’m surfing, skateboarding, listening to music, or tending to my beloved monarch caterpillars! I’m also passionate about photography, and hope to one day combine my love for the outdoors and photography and work for National Geographic!

Favorite animals: polar bears

Amelia Mulder


I recently graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a B.A. in Liberal Studies (emphasis in Elementary Education). I have always known that teaching was my passion. In high school, our child development class operated a student-run preschool program, and I knew that I had found the career I wanted to pursue. I’ve worked in a variety of learning environments, from being a teacher’s aide in conventional preschool and elementary school classrooms to doing more exploratory and outdoor education in summer camps.

My passions in teaching are outdoor and environmental education. Young children are little scientists: they question, explore, and are curious about the world. Their love for learning makes it easy to love teaching. The Santa Barbara Zoo is the perfect environment for me to continue my path in outdoor education and share my love for science and animals with young students. Outside of the Zoo, I love to ride my horse, hike, and relax on the beach.

Favorite animals: whale sharks, humpback whales, and capybaras

Seth Tinkle


I grew up on the “other coast” in Portland Maine and graduated from Vassar College with a degree in sociology. I have worked in education my whole career, starting in Human Resources at the NYC Department of Education before transitioning into working directly with students.

For the past 2 1/2 years, I worked with some incredible students at a Montessori day school in Brooklyn. As an assistant and then lead teacher in kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms, I formed a strong bond with my students, which is one of my favorite parts of teaching. I am so excited to be working at the Zoo to nurture a love of learning through inquiry and play in the most engaging learning environment possible.

My partner and I moved to Santa Barbara last summer and are spending lots of time outdoors—hiking, biking, beaching, and playing with our new dog, Mitzi, who looks a little bit like an otter mixed with a fox.

Favorite animals: otters and foxes

Linden Warner


I grew up in Seattle and graduated from Western Washington University in 2018 with a BAE in Early Childhood Special Education. I recently moved to CA with my significant other, and spent the last five years at a small childcare center where I worked every position from teacher assistant to lead teacher to program supervisor, and truly treasure the memories I made with those children!

I absolutely adore working with children under the age of five, as I feel like you really get to help mold them into little people and help build the foundation that will keep them going for the rest of their lives. While they may not remember their teachers, they will always remember the lessons they learned with us!

I love to write, play video games, and watch professional soccer. I also spend a lot of time on the beach hunting for sea glass and boogie boarding!

Favorite animals: wolf and island fox