Preschool programs


Winter in the Woods - 2022/23

This winter, register your 3 and 4 year olds for Winter in the Woods. If you bring the warm, dry clothing, we’ll supply the hours of outdoor exploration, fun, and hands-on learning in John Ball Park’s wooded hillside and natural spaces.

Members – $30/class   Non-Members – $35/class

About the Program

For young children, play is the natural and primary method of learning about themselves, other people, and the world around them. Snow can be the best toy a child will ever know. And we believe there is no such thing as an, “indoor kid.” When kids are dressed appropriately for the weather, their natural learning style emerges and we see active, happy, creative kids who, when allowed the opportunity, will have an awesome time outdoors for an hour or more! Even when the wind blows and snow piles up, children who are wearing warm, dry layers can play and play! Each week has a theme but each day is a new exploration so you are welcome to sign your explorer up for more than one session in a week!


Program Themes

Themes we may be exploring may vary from the schedule. These experiences will be largely based on the unpredictable, teachable moments that occur in nature with young children. With this in mind, please know that if you sign your child up for a specific date based on the theme that week, it is entirely possible that the actual content may change based on the real-life experiences the kids are having outside! Stories, activities, and animal encounters may be more centered on the theme.


Registration for Winter in the Woods will open November 29 at 12pm


Meet the Teacher: Tahlia Hoogerland

Tahlia is a certified teacher with two degrees in Early Childhood Development and 20 years’ teaching experience. She has been an instructor here at John Ball Zoo since 2017, primarily teaching Sprouts and Winter in the Woods classes and facilitating Travel Zoos and Wild Encounters for school groups. Additionally, Tahlia has designed and facilitated outdoor education experiences with elementary school age children since 2009.

Please direct questions to or 616-336-4302

Sprouts - Fall 2022

Join us for Animals Just Like Me! Each week the Sprouts will explore the Zoo and Park as they learn about animals that are just like them. Class time will include exposure to quality fiction and non-fiction texts, exploration of biofacts, and an up-close, hands-on animal encounter. Please join us for 1 class, a few classes, or the whole series. Please note that Thursday and Friday’s classes of the same week will be identical. We recommend choosing the day of the week that works best for you but do not recommend doing both days.

**IMPORTANT – if you did NOT receive a confirmation packet via a registration confirmation please call 616-336-4302 to confirm you are in fact registered. 

We highly recommend using a desktop to register.





Summer Zoo Camp has been enjoyed by campers for over 25 summers!

Preschool Programs are for our youngest zoo enthusiasts. These classes are designed for the child only and offer a fun, enriching learning environment where 3 and 4-year-olds can explore the animal world. Class sizes are strictly limited to provide a safe and fun learning environment. Student to teacher ratios are 5:1. **All children must be completely self-sufficient in the bathroom. Diapers and pull-ups are not permitted.