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Preschool Pride

Welcome to Preschool Pride at Henry Vilas Zoo! Like a lion pride that cares for a group of cubs, we are excited to spend some time with you and your little one! We have significantly reduced the price and created a three-session program so your child can feel more connected to our staff and the other children in the group. We’ve also shifted the focus of the program to be more in line with current understandings with early childhood education.

For questions, please email us at or call 608-843-4213.

September Sessions

Session 1: Thursdays, September 13 – 27, 9:00 – 10:15am
Session 2: Thursdays, September 13 – 27, 10:30 – 11:45am
Session 3: Saturdays, September 8 – 22, 9:00 – 10:15am

Members: $24 for the whole session
Non-Members: $30 for the whole session

Week 1: “Animal ABCs”: Learn your animal ABC’s at the zoo!
Week 2: “Prairie Pals”: Discover the animals that live in the prairie!
Week 3: “Birds”: Let’s help the zookeepers out with some of our water birds! We’ll learn about birds and then go see what we can do to help them!

October – November Sessions

Session 4: Thursdays, October 4 – 18, 9:00 – 10:15am
Session 5: Thursdays, October 4 – 18, 10:30 – 11:45am
Session 6: Saturdays (mini-session only meets for two weeks – cost is $16 members/$20 non-members) October 13 – 20, 9:00 – 10:15am

Members: $24 for the whole session
Non-Members: $30 for the whole session

Week 1: “1, 2, 3… Count with Me!” Counting is fun at the zoo!
Week 2: “Forest Friends”: Discover animals that live in the forest.
Week 3: “Hard and Soft”: Let’s compare animals that are hard and soft and feel them for ourselves!

Session 7: Thursdays, October 25 – November 8, 10:00 – 11:15am

Members: $24 for the whole session
Non-Members: $30 for the whole session

Week 1: “Long Winter’s Nap”: Explore what animals do as winter comes!
Week 2: “In the Snow”: Learn about snow and how it affects the animals at the zoo.
Week 3: “Winter Warm-Up”: Let’s warm up in the aviary and see what happens in the rainforest! We’ll also help the keepers feed the birds.

What’s new with Preschool Pride this year?

We’ve kept the best of our old Preschool Pride programs, but we’ve changed many aspects to help you enjoy an even better experience!

  • We lowered the price so our programs are more accessible
  • We bundled our program into a three-session package
  • We shifted our educational approach to help children learn better. Read more about our education approach below
  • We no longer meet an animal during each session, but during the last session, children will step into the shoes of a zookeeper and pitch in with keeper chores, getting to feed or help care for an animal. This also gives children an up-close view of one of our exhibit animals
  • We added fifteen minutes to our sessions and will provide a peanut-free snack
  • We have new toys to help engage your children as they explore the natural world

What is your educational approach for Preschool Pride?

As we’ve come more in line with current research on early childhood education, we’ve made our programs more child-centered and play-based. That means:

  • We acknowledge that in early childhood, the empathy children feel for animals is best nurtured through play
  • Children learn the most when they have options when it comes to activities they want to participate in
  • We recognize the importance of imaginary play in young children
  • We encourage you to follow your child’s lead and join in the child-directed play
  • We emphasize building on children’s curiosity and listening to their questions about nature. Sharing information in this context helps children make sense of the world and helps them feel ownership over their new discoveries

What will we do during Preschool Pride sessions?

Here is what a typical session looks like:

  • Children are welcomed to the class with introductions, expectations, a song, and a thematic story
  • Free play: Children have time to explore our animal-themed toys and sensory table in the Animal Health Center, observe the primates on exhibit through the classroom window, or make an animal-themed craft project
  • We provide a peanut-free snack
  • Group exploration of the zoo: We’ll explore a part of the zoo together that relates to our theme for the day. Knowledgeable zoo staff lead this tour and share the inside stories of our individual animals
  • Zookeeper chores: During the last session, we put on our imaginary zookeeper hats and step into a real animal enclosure to help keepers prepare the animal’s home for the day

How big are your classes?

Our classes have a limit of 8 children. One adult can bring up to two siblings. We offer a discount for siblings and for zoo members.

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