outdoor learning environment for preschoolers
Schools Will Smith Zoo School of
Project Info

Will Smith Zoo School

San Antonio, TX

The San Antonio Zoo School is the largest nature based pre-school in the country. To expand its educational mission, the Zoo developed a new on-site preschool facility and adjacent grounds to  accommodate up to 160 students ages 3 to 5. The design includes renovation of an existing 20,000 sq. ft. building while new classroom environments support a nature-based curriculum with nearly half of the teaching spaces integrated into the surrounding landscape. Blurring the division between indoor and outdoor, the building leverages the environment as another “teacher” by reinforcing students’ connection to the natural environment. The school has a direct connection to the greater teaching environment of the Zoo and helps reinforce the Zoo’s conservation mission for future generations. In addition, zoological exhibits are tightly integrated with the new building and landscape, seamlessly blending play, learning and adventure. 



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It teaches kids how to respect nature by respecting nature. It retreats every time it sees a tree — and then it scales back in just one volume. And the other volume keeps on going further down, and they start playing. It’s like a dance with the trees.
Paola Calzada
Texas Society of Architects Awards Juror









Project Size
Conditioned: 20,000 sq. ft.

Photographer: Andrea Calo and Dror Baldinger