Early Explorers

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. Animal encounters, sustainability and garden education, art, and Zoo Train rides are incorporated into the week.

register now

October 5 – January 1 and January 5 – May 28, 2021

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

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


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

Full Day (8:30 AM – 2:30 PM) options:
2 days a week, $540/month FULL
3 days a week, $810/month

Drop-in* (based on availability) options:
Full Day $60/day
Half Day $40/day

*Must be a registered student for drop-in days

If you’d like to sign up for a waiting list for any session listed as FULL, please email Parthenopi Milos, Early Explorers Director.


  • 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 when outside the “Early Explorer zone” or where 6-ft. distancing is not possible
  • All staff will wear masks and follow state guidelines
  • Students will stay in assigned groups all day/week with the same instructor

Meet the Teachers

Parthenopi Milios

Program Director

I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies focusing in environmental education and a minor in Math and Science Education. I've spent the past seven years combining my passion for wildlife with my joy for teaching and inspiring young people, and I'm happy I get to continue to do that here at the Santa Barbara Zoo!

My teaching experience ranges from traditional learning environments as a classroom assistant and preschool student teacher, to more wild environments like science museums, zoos, and summer camp programs. Before coming to Santa Barbara, I worked as an educator in several other zoos, including the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Oakland Zoo. My work experience is what inspired me in my academic pursuits.

When I'm not spending time at the Zoo, I enjoy rollerblading, bouldering, and taking care of my pet gecko Queen Elizardbeth.
Favorite animals: secretary bird, condors and other vultures

Maddie Burke


I was born and raised in Ventura and graduated from UCSB in 2020. Before I graduated, I spent most of my life working with kids and have loved every minute of it. Both my grandmother and my mother were teachers and watching them enjoy it and inspired me to follow in their footsteps.

I found my real passion for teaching while working with preschoolers because they are inquisitive and kind and get so excited when learning new things. I’m so excited to work at the Santa Barbara Zoo where I can combine my love of learning new things about animals and share that with the kids. Before working at the Zoo, I worked as a preschool assistant at the Montecito YMCA and at the Ventura YMCA as an after-school educator.

When I am not at the Zoo I love to roller skate, hang out with my cat, Bootsie, and read.
Favorite animals: great white shark and Fennec fox

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