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WILL SMITH ZOO SCHOOL

SAN ANTONIO, TX

The Will Smith Zoo School is the nation’s largest nature-based preschool. The preschool was created by the San Antonio Zoo for 3-5 year old students to learn by using nature as an integral part of their everyday experience. Nature is used as the integrating thread, tying together the school’s philosophy, methodologies, classroom design, and outdoor spaces. The project features outdoor spaces and nature based activities to excite and engage children in exploration, wonder, and learning. As a renovation of an existing school, Rialto Studio was tasked with designing additional play areas, outdoor classrooms, structures, obstacles, and gardens while not disturbing the existing large oak trees within the site. Site grading, designing accessible pathways, and coordination of the structures, play features, and open play areas, were included in the design. Overseeing the installation and selection of specialty contractors to build the structures, sourcing materials, and providing details for anchoring the natural play elements were also provided. The outdoor learning environment has become a great model for other child care centers and the school received LEED Platinum Certification.