John Ball Zoo

Classes FAQ

What programs does the Zoo offer?

Sprout Series - This unique program for 3 and 4 year olds is offered on Fridays in the Spring and Fall months. Designed around the curiosity of the younger crowd, classes are a mix of sensory explorations. 

Kid's Night Out - A fun night for kids 4-10 years of age. No need to stress over finding a babysitter to enjoy date night, drop the kids off at the zoo and let them have a great night out as well. 

Spring Break Camp - Our always popular summer camp has expanded to include Spring Break. Kids get out into the zoo at a great time of year when animals are often most active and also have lots of opportunity to explore the park during adventure time!

Overnight Camp - Students in 3rd-8th grade have the opportunity to explore the zoo at night! Camp out near the chimpanzees and have a blast seeing what the nocturnal animals are up to at night. 

Summer Camp - Kids 3 years through going into 9th grade enjoy day camps here at the zoo. Individual classes are designed around specific topics, students enjoy zoo and park time, animal encounters, behind the scenes activities and much more. 

Winter Break Camp - New for 2017-18, we offer 1 day camps for students in Kindergarten through 5th grade during select dates of Winter Break. Kids get a unique view of the zoo as it's closed to the public and the animals as they enjoy the snow and colder temperatures. 



What will my child do in a Zoo class?

Youth classes are unique, fun, hands-on learning experiences! Each class follows its particular theme and uses a variety of age-appropriate methods to stimulate the learning process including; zoo tours, games, stories, hands-on activities, crafts, up-close animal encounters and more. Parent letters/updates are sent home first and last days of the session to keep you informed of your child's activities and special projects are often brought home many days.

Which class is right for my child?

We provide classes for children ages 3 years to those entering 9th grade, and most age groups have a variety of themes/topics of classes. Every class will be a fun and unique learning experience that utilizes the zoo setting, but we suggest you talk with you child about which class(es) s/he is most interested in and choose together.

Can my child attend programs for older/younger students?

No. Students will be strictly limited to classes for their age/grade level. Older and younger students can cause disruption to the learning process. For the benefit of all class participants, we cannot allow younger or older children to attend. Three and four year olds must be that age by the first day of class. Proof of age for ALL 3, 4 and 5-K classes MUST be provided within five days of registration, if your child is new to the program. You may email, mail, fax or deliver proof of age documentation to the Zoo Administration Office. Please do not send original documents - copies only! Accepted documents include; birth certificates, passports, baptismal certificates, signed Doctor's immunization records, etc. Call 616-336-4302 if you have any questions about proof of age requirements.  

Can my child attend if s/he is still using diapers or pull-ups?

NO. All students must be self-sufficient in the bathroom; diapers and pull-ups are not permitted.

Can you accommodate children with special needs?

John Ball Zoo will make reasonable accommodation for students with special needs to attend class. This includes but is not limited to allergies, medical conditions and social/learning needs. Receiving adequate information from guardians is crucial for our success. Any information is kept strictly confidential. Please notify us of your child's needs as far in advance as possible to allow us to best prepare a quality experience for your child. Any student who poses a saftey hazard to themselves or others will be dismissed from the program. If your child requires 1:1 supervision, you may be asked to assist in finding an assistant for him/her. Personal assistants are required to pass a background check run by John Ball Zoo.

What kind of supervision will my child have during class?

We are committed to providing a safe and nurturing learning environment that features excellent supervision. The emotional and physical well-being of each child is a responsibility we take seriously. Each class of 10 children has their own room with a qualified instructor and at least one educational aide. Kid's Night Outs also have further assistance from trained adult and teen volunteers. Class sizes are strictly limited. You can expect your child to have a safe and fun learning experience!

Can I stay with my child during class?

Due to space limitations and class design, it is best if parents/guardians separate from their child at the drop-off location. Most children, while perhaps experiencing a brief moment of anxiety, overcome their fears and participate more quickly without a parent present. If you think your child cannot remain in class without you after a few minutes, please consider waiting another year. 

Do you provide snacks?

Snacks will not be provided this year.

How can I get my child into the class s/he wants?

Enrollment is limited and classes fill quickly! John Ball Zoo Members are allowed to register for Summer camp classes one week before non-members. Members also receive a discounted class fee. We suggest you register on-line as early as possible to provide the best chance at securing a spot for you child. To register online and take advantage of early registration/member pricing, you must have a current zoo membership. Memberships may be purchased on-line at

Can I register my child for multiple classes?

Due to the popularity of the Summer Camp program, we limit registration to two - day camp sessions per child.  We ask that three year olds only register for one class. While we appreciate your enthusiasm and support of our program, we feel this allows more children a chance to participate. Many classes are repeated from year to year, allowing your child, over the course of two summers, to participate in most class offerings. Each class has the same curriculum from year to year so please plan for this when registering.  

Can I get my child on a waiting list if a class is full?

Yes. There is no charge to sign up on a waiting list and all full classes maintain one. While there is no guarantee an opening for you child will become available, we do encourage you to add your child's name. We will notify you as quickly as possible if such an opening occurs. If classes are full, you can register for a wait list online. Please be aware that our on-line system checks every six hours for full classes so if you do not immediately see a wait list available for a full class please check back later.

When will my child's registration be confirmed?

Confirmations will be processed immediately when registering online. Confirmations are emailed so please confirm email addresses are accurate and up to date in the system. 

When do classes start and end? What happens if I am late dropping-off or picking up my child?

Sprouts Series - Classes begin at 9:00am and end at 11:30am.

Kid's Night Out - Drop-off is at 5:30pm, pick-up is at 9:00pm.

Spring Break Day Camp - Drop-off is at 9:00am, pick-up is at 4:00pm.

Overnight Camps - Drop-off is at 5:30pm and pick-up is the following morning at 9:30am.

Winter Break Camp - Drop-off is at 9:00am, pick-up is at 4:00pm. 

Summer Zoo Camp

4-day AM Camps - Drop-off is at 9 am, pick-up is at 11:30am

4-day PM Camps - Drop-off is at 1:00pm, pick-up is at 3:30pm

2-Day Camps - Drop-off is at 9 am, pick-up is at 4 pm

We are unable to provide child care before, between or after classes. If you and your child arrive late and do not see someone at the drop-off area, proceed to the office in the Zoo Administration building. Missed activities will not be made up. Parents may be required to accompany their children inot the zoo to meet with their class. 

* A $10 late pick-up fee will be charged for any child not picked up within 15 minutes of class dismissal.

What if I have to cancel or change my child's registration?

In the event you must cancel, money will be refunded (less a $20 processing fee) ONLY with at least 2 weeks notice. Changes in registration must be made in writing and emailed, faxed, mailed or dropped off at the Zoo Administration Office during normal business hours (M-F, 8am-4:30pm). 

Mail: John Ball Zoo - Education, 1300 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Fax: 616-336-3907


Who do I contact if I experience any problems or have questions about registering?

Please contact the Education Department at (616) 336-4302 or email at with any questions or concerns.

What happens if the Zoo cancels a class?

In the event the zoo must cancel a class participants will receive a full refund. In the case of severe weather (i.e. blizzards or ice storms), if Grand Rapids Public Schools are closed, the zoo will cancel all classes for the day and attempt to reschedule. For Saturday classes staff will make the determination either the day before or the day of and will call all participants. Please make sure to list the best contact phone numbers on your registration form. 

Who do I contact if I have questions regarding any Education program?

Please call the Education Department at 616-336-4302 (Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm) or email


How can I register more than one child for the same class/same week?

Only a parent or legal guardian can register their child. Using online registration, you can simply select from those classes that are still available for a schedule that works for you. Please note that Non-Members wishing to attend with a Member must wait until the Non-Member registration date, typically the week after Membership registration begins.