Schools at the Zoo

Schools at the Zoo

Robert B. Daugherty Education Center's Schools at the Zoo

The Robert B. Daugherty Education Center is home to year-round programming and provides educational space to more than 9,000 student visitors annually.

Little Lions Preschool



Little Lions Preschool and Pre-K believes that all children are filled with powerful potential that blossoms at an early age. Our program nurtures children's potential and inherent need to explore and discover. We provide a rich learning environment and a Zoo full of acres, adventures and animals.

Research tells us that long-lasting bonds have a positive impact on a child's first early learning experiences. It is our mission to make those early learning experiences authentic and meaningful. We support our students with opportunities for meaningful experiences and in-depth, child-led studies.

Join Our Pride

We are currently taking applications for the 2018-2019 school year!


Program Options

We know that choosing the right program for your child and family is one of the most important decisions you will make.


We know that choosing the right program for your child and family is one of the most important decisions you will make. The Zoo offers half-day sessions for children who are three and four years of age.

  • Morning session from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
  • Afternoon session from 1 - 4 p.m.


The Zoo also offers a full-day Pre-K program for children ages four to five from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Children applying for full-day program must be four years old on or before July 30.

Zoo Kindergarten

Zoo Kindergarten is a partnership with the Zoo's adopt-a-school, Bancroft Elementary. Zoo Kindergarten allows students to be immersed in their learning environment. With the opening of the Education Center, located next to Children's Adventure Trails, the Zoo was able to host an additional kindergarten classroom.


Zoo Academy Middle School

The Middle School Zoo Academy is a unique partnership between the Zoo and Omaha Public Schools’ King Science and Technology Magnet. This academy offers a learning opportunity that is not available in a traditional middle school setting.

Middle School Zoo Academy students attend Zoology and Zoo Architecture classes at the Zoo two to three times per week. With the entire Zoo as their classroom, students engage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and project-based lessons, providing them with real-world learning opportunities unlike any other.      



Zoo Academy High School


The mission of Zoo Academy is to provide students with knowledge and career explorations relating to life sciences through authentic STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) experiences at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Zoo Academy is an excellent model of forming successful collaborations between an informal science education organization and school districts. 


Zoo Academy started in 1996 as a simple partnership between Omaha’s Zoo & Aquarium and Omaha Public Schools (OPS).  This partnership was established through an agreement to share resources.  The school district provided a full-time biology teacher to teach zoology on zoo grounds and the Zoo provided classroom space and access to professionals for the zoology course.  The Zoo and OPS began to see how the collaboration developed the skills students needed to become successful in STEM career pathways. 

In 2009, Omaha’s Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha Public Schools, and Papillion LaVista Community Schools formed a partnership to develop a full day Zoo Academy program.  Together the Zoo and school districts developed a high school career academy model that included zoo specific curriculum, job shadowing in zoo career fields, opportunities to conduct scientific studies in conservation research labs, and the development of a student selection process.

Non-traditional Learning

This innovative high school program is an effective, non-traditional teaching model for science education, that brings together all the components of Nebraska’s College and Career Ready Standards for Science (CCR-Science).  This unique combination of the CCR-Science and student experiences establishes a rich STEM learning environment where students can make discoveries about the natural world and apply the knowledge gained to real-world situations.

The Zoo Academy concept is a combination of three major educational components: career exploration, classroom experiences, and scientific processes through research opportunities.  These three components create a new learning adventure for the teachers, students, and zoo staff daily.

The academy consists of one social studies, one math, one English, and two science teachers.  These teachers collaborate with Zoo staff to provide a rich inquiry-based classroom environment for students.  The teachers plan curriculum goals around relevant inquiry-based zoo experiences.  Utilizing the Zoo’s staff and animal collection, leads to a variety of learning enrichment opportunities for the students.


Student Benefits:   

  • Students are given the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to relevant conservation issues.

  • Students develop and master STEM skills in animal management departments. 

  • Students build a robust resume, which includes experiences conducting research to participating in animal medical procedures. 

  • Students explore a variety of STEM career paths to help inform the career they will pursue.

School District Benefits:

  • Provides rich learning environments for their students.

  • Students develop 21st century skills. 

  • Provides rigorous and relevant STEM curriculum.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Benefits:

  • The Zoo Academy program is a valuable resource for hiring future zoo employees.  Students spend nine months developing STEM skills needed to become zoo employees. 

  • Many students become summer keepers, volunteers, and interns.  Alums are returning as veterinarian interns, veterinarian technicians, animal care staff, and full-time employees in zoo STEM careers.

  • Collaboration between the Zoo and local school districts has proven to be very successful in establishing a win-win environment for all students and partners.

Zoo Afterschool Program (ZAP)

The Zoo Afterschool Program (ZAP) is sponsored by the Zoo in partnership with Omaha Public Schools and Bancroft Elementary and Castelar Elementary. The mission of the program is to provide inquiry-based STEM learning opportunities for at-risk students with limited resources that will inspire interest, ability and value for STEM in the natural world.

Click here to learn more about the program.