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.

ALL Early Explorer sessions are currently full.  For the waitlist, please sign up below.

Session 1: January 5 – May 28
Session 2: June 7  – August 27
Session 3: September 7 – December 17

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
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


  • 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

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

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