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DECATUR, Ala. – The Cook Museum of Natural Science is an interactive and educational experience full of scaly, flying, and endangered friends.

And the museum just re-opened after being closed for four months. Museum staff says they have limited some exhibits and taken precautions to provide a safe experience.

One of the most popular exhibits, the sand table, is up and running but looks a little different.

“What you can do is create different landscapes,” said Phil Parker.

“But you’re also manipulating landscapes, you’re creating volcano’s and making rivers,” he said.

Executive Director of Cook Museum, Scott Mayo, says the way staff operate the sand table has changed.

“We’ve got gloves available, and you’ll see sprinkled throughout the museum hand sanitizer stations, two per room,” said Mayo.

During the time the museum was closed, they welcome a new family member. Kale, the sea turtle, settled into his new home in Decatur.

Kale is a Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle, listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and is on the endangered species list. He is still young and has injuries.

Kale was hooked by a recreational fisherman back in 2019 and was transported here from Virginia.

“We are able to teach people in North Alabama that Kemps Ridleys are critically endangered and how they can help. These species actually nest in right here in Alabama once in a while, so be able to see an animal here learn about them and then potentially see a nest right here in Alabama is pretty special,” said Cassie Elias, Live Animal Manager at Cook.

Experts say he still needs medical attention from time to time so he’s no longer releasable into the wild.

Another room in the museum features a beehive, it’s visible from inside the building but also allows the bees to get what they need outdoors.

“It’s a self-sustaining beehive that we don’t really do anything to. They can survive on their own, they get their pollen, nectar from outside, but it allows us to observe and watch the bees from in here, ” said Lacy Slaten, Gallery Explainer.

“It allows the public to see the bees and see how they work and produce honey and how they’re helpful to us,” she said.

With all the changes made to keep people safe — there are still new things to see and learn.

For more information about the Cook Museum of Natural Science, visit their website:

Museum Hours –

  • Monday through Friday 9 am – 5 pm
  • Saturday 9 am – 6 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm

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