FUN. EDUCATIONAL. MEMORABLE.
The Cook Museum of Natural Science is a state-of-the-art natural science museum opening in 2019 in downtown Decatur, AL. It will provide a hands-on, immersive experience where kids can explore, interact with, and learn about nature. Families will leave the Cook Museum feeling fulfilled by their time together and inspired by the things they saw and learned.
The museum will feature live animals (including bees, snakes, baby alligators, and turtles, and more), a life-like walk-in cave, saltwater aquariums with jellyfish and other ocean life, exhibits with mounted wildlife showcased in a natural habitat scene, exhibits showcasing rocks and minerals, space and our solar system, forests, arctic, deserts, rivers, streams, insects, and more. The museum will also offer classrooms for all ages, a family-friendly restaurant, and a retail store.
It truly will be one amazing experience for families and children of all ages!
Discover will serve as an introduction to the overall museum experience and will include live animals, amphibians, and reptiles.
Looking Up explores the Earth’s unique place in the solar system. The meteorite from the original Cook Museum will be on display.
Foundations will feature a display of minerals and gems, including pieces from the original museum. The Foundations exhibit will discuss how different conditions including weather relate to different biomes. Visitors can experiment with a hands-on Kinetic sand table highlighting North American Biomes.
In Rivers & Streams, visitors will be able to learn about the Whooping Crane’s unique connection to North Alabama. The Rivers & Streams exhibit will include a 600-gallon fresh water tank with live fish and turtles. There will be a section of a beaver lodge with sticks from a real lodge that visitors can crawl into.
In the Caves exhibit, there will be an authentically recreated cave structure based on Alabama caves. There are features and formations built into the cave structure including crawl-through spaces for children. Visitors will learn about the creatures that live in the different parts of a cave.
The Arctic/Desert exhibit will focus on the similarities and differences between the Sonoran Desert and the Alaskan Arctic. On display, there will be a snowy owl along with the golden and bald eagles from the original museum.
In the Oceans exhibit, visitors will view the amazing life of a coral reef in the 15,000-gallon salt water aquarium. A shell collection, including a number of pieces from the original museum, will be on display, and a 440-gallon aquarium will be home to the type of jellyfish known as a Moon Jelly. There will also be a smaller tank with live coral and fish.
In the Forests exhibit, visitors will learn about Alabama’s carnivorous plant, the pitcher plant, that catches insects for food. In the exhibit, dioramas will showcase the different kinds of plants and animals that make their homes in southeastern forests. On the second-floor mezzanine will be the Birds exhibit. Tucked under the mezzanine, in the Curiosity Cabin, there will be an interactive where visitors can learn more about different things found in nature by scanning a tag using an RFID label. Scanning the tag will pull up more information about the thing on a computer screen.
In Wonderful World of Insects & Little Larvae, visitors will get an up-close look at live and pinned insects in the museum’s collection and learn some amazing insect fun facts. Insect terrariums on display will include both insects that live on land and those that live in water in addition to ones that can be found around homes in Alabama. Little Larvae is a play area designed for younger children that will include a climbing structure, and other fun activities, specially designed for the museum’s youngest visitors.
The Founders Hall exhibit will show the history of the original Cook Museum from its founding until the new building’s grand opening. Visitors will be able to take a virtual walk-through of the original Cook Museum. The Tennessee Valley Diorama from the original Cook Museum will be on display in Founders Hall.
The Cook Museum’s humble 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.
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. At that time, what became known as Cook’s Natural Science Museum came into existence, and it welcomed more than 750,000 visitors from its opening in 1980 until its closing in 2015.
Mr. Cook’s inspiration and motivation for the museum came from his desire to generously serve and support his local community and region and to creatively display God’s creation. We are proud to say that the legacy started so long ago is continuing boldly into the future with the new Cook Museum of Natural Science and it is still fueled by the same vision today.
Early in their career, John and Jo Cook dedicated their lives, their family and their business to God for His honor. Operating under Biblical values and principles, they stressed basic themes of honesty, courtesy, respect, and a solid work ethic. Their corporate philosophy of providing quality customer service and a good place to work has been the foundation of the company. Cook’s attributes its success to quality service, genuine concern for all people, and ethical performance in all phases of business.
The family’s inspiration and motivation for creating the museum will be reflected on the museum history wall and will include the following Bible verse:
But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will teach you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
— (JOB 12:7-9)
It is through their leadership and love of community that the Cook family has developed the Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur, Alabama.
Research has shown that a child’s visit to a museum or other free-choice learning venue is often one of the child’s most vivid memories. When interviewed as adults, participants can describe in detail what they learned, what they saw and what they experienced on a trip to a museum. These visits become landmark memories and can lead to a lifelong interest in a topic they may have never before considered. We also know that if we can simply change a child’s perception of science and math from a negative to a positive, he or she is far more likely to choose a career in S.T.E.A.M. – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.
Education Program Goals
- Highlight the great biodiversity of Alabama and the Tennessee River Valley Region
- Promote stewardship of our environment and natural resources
- Provide high quality education programs for all ages
- Provide early childhood development experiences
- Provide programs that support Alabama State Science Requirements for visiting students
- Provide S.T.E.A.M.-based programming to promote college and career readiness in participants
- Provide professional development for teachers in nationally and state accredited science curriculums