I took my homeschoolers to the Cook Museum of Natural Science this week to see what they would have to offer Homeschooling families in Alabama. And they really have A LOT to offer!
The first thing I noticed, and am still thinking about after our visit, is how thoughtful and service oriented the entire staff and lay out of the Museum are. Even the museum map is thoughtfully created to fold up easily and fit smoothly into a purse, pocket, or diaper bag. They have a spot for toddler or younger preschool age children to play, the little larvae section, and it is so helpful with young children. They really have considered how to make this museum a pleasant experience for everyone.
We got to the museum around opening time so we got to see the turtles eating their breakfast, which my children thoroughly enjoyed. I was impressed with how hands on every exhibit was, from the very first stop there were ways little tactile learners could put their hands on something to demonstrate the ideas the being presented. Getting to hold a real meteorite from outer space was impressive, but I think my kids loved the foundations section the most. It showcases all types of rocks and had them comparing what kinds they had used in Minecraft! Then getting to build crystal formations with magnetic tiles was like Minecrafting in real life, they loved it.
The real star of the show in the Foundations room is the kinetic sand table that showcases different biomes and lets you create snow capped mountains, deserts, and even erupting volcanoes! I think my kids would have stayed at this table all day. And the guide at this table was patient and kind with every question asked.
The only way I could pry my little learners away from the Foundations room was to promise getting to climb a tree. On our way to the tree we visited a real beaver lodge, walked through a cave, and got touch a real diamond back rattle snake skin. With helpful, thoughtful guides all along the way. In the Forests and Birds room children are invited to climb a tree that is created to look like a tree in the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama! It leads to the bird exhibit that features a bridge and tree house that looks down on the forest exhibit. And it is all wheelchair accessible. No one has to miss out on the fun.
On the way out, we stopped by the museum store that offers so much more than just museum gifts. It features local goods and handmade items. And the large selection of books that cover all of the topics showcased in the exhibits would make excellent teaching tools to take home. Or to go in depth on a subject your student seemed to enjoy the most. No admission is needed to visit the museum store and check out all they have to offer.
The other little gem in the museum is the Nature’s Table Cafe. No admission is needed for this, just like the Museum Store. The cafe offers a wide selection of fresh salads, wraps, sandwiches, and smoothies. A nice selection of coffee is also available. Along with kid friendly items like uncrustables and quesadillas. All made fresh and ready to order.
I highly recommend the Cook Museum of Natural Science for a field trip for Homeschoolers. If you have older children learning a specific unit, the Cook Museum has it covered with hands on activity and helpful guides. Or if your homeschoolers are young, this will be a great hands on introduction to the study of our world and the amazing things it can do.
The Cook Museum of Natural Science even has a Facebook group specifically for teachers that homeschool parents are welcome to join! Make sure to answer the question of what “school” you teach for to be accepted. I used my cover school. If you don’t have a cover, you can just answer ‘homeschool’ and you’ll be accepted. In the group you can find info on the types of field trips they offer. Some even include use of special classrooms for your students to do age appropriate experiments! The contact info for field trips is also included in the group.
Thanks for having us, Cook Museum of Natural Science! I am sure we will be back!
Abby is a Writer, Wife and Homeschooling Mama to 3. She lives in Springville, AL with her Family.