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Education Spotlight: Cook Museum of Natural Science

Education Spotlight: Cook Museum of Natural Science

Cook Museum of Decatur, AL
children looking at an aquarium at Cook Museum in Decatur Alabama, recently awarded the #1 museum in the nation.
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The Cook Museum of Natural Science is an award-winning state-of-the-art natural science museum in downtown Decatur, AL, that opened in the summer of 2019. It’s a great place for kids of all ages to experience hands on learning about the world around us.

Cook Museum of Natural Science Details

133 4th Ave NE, Decatur, AL 35601
(256) 351-4505
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Here are a few highlights:

  • Immersive cave experience
  • Live animals, including: baby alligators, lizards, snakes, insects, jellyfish, fresh and saltwater fish, an endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and more
  • 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium
  • Forests Exhibit with a tree you can climb up through the inside of and a rope bridge you can cross to a squirrel’s nest high up in a tree
  • Hands-on interactives including a kinetic sand table, a digital seashell generator, a meteorite from outer space…and much, much more!

Tell us your organization’s story. How did it come about? What need does your business fill in the community? What makes you unique?
The Cook Museum of Natural Science provides a hands-on, immersive experience where kids can explore, interact with, and learn about nature. The Cook Museum’s roots can be traced back to 1968 when John Cook, Sr. opened his professional insect collection to the public by appointment, which at the time had been used primarily for employee training at Cook’s Pest Control. It later grew to include a wide array of mounted wildlife, touring malls throughout Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.


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In 1980, additional collections of rocks, minerals, fossils, coral, sea shells, mounted wildlife, and federally protected migratory birds were acquired, and a 5,000 square foot building was constructed to house Cook’s Natural Science Museum. From its opening in 1980 until its closing in 2016, the Museum welcomed more than 750,000 visitors . As meaningful as the Museum had been for decades, the Cook family decided it was time to reinvent the Museum as an even more engaging, exciting, and educational experience for the next generation. The new Cook Museum of Natural Science, now a non-profit 501(c)(3), held its grand opening on June 7, 2019.

What “problem” do you see in the community that you can solve for your customers?
We offer a family-friendly, fun, educational, and safe environment for people of all ages to make memories and deepen their love and knowledge of nature.

Do you have any upcoming events, programs, or specials to share with readers?
We always have a lot of fun events and programs including Fun Days, homeschooling classes, day camps, and workshops. We have ongoing events each month, so go to our calendar to see our latest events. We have programs geared towards Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts coming up. One especially cool event we’re doing right now is perfect for the child who has ever wondered what it might be like to work behind the scenes at the Cook Museum. It’s called “Herpetologist for a Day”. Children will be able to experience live animal feedings, behind the scenes tours, herpetology classes, independent workstations, and even a frog dissection! It’s always a big hit!


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What advice can you offer parents who are looking for ways to supplement their child’s educational journey?
In order to supplement your child’s education journey, it is a great idea to give experiences they may not be able to get at home or school. Those experiences can come in both structured and unstructured forms. At the Cook Museum of Natural Science, our education department offers classes all month geared toward attaining this goal in a structured way. These classes cover the Alabama and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and are loaded with STEM activities, engaging labs, and science fun.

We offer our Homeschool Classes that individual students can sign up for each month and groups can reserve a class of their choice from the Museum’s list of available topics. We also have many exciting camps that cover various science themes throughout the year. Our state-of-the-art, museum exhibits offer many opportunities to enhance the learning you are doing in school and at home in an unstructured, free-learning way and you may even catch a Science on the Spot or Live Animal Presentation to complete your tour.


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