For the Steven W. Baker Sea, Sand & Stars Science and Nature Center, the first three weeks of being open to the public this summer has been an overwhelming success with more than 700 people experiencing the treasure behind Orange Beach Elementary School.
Thanks to funding approved by the Orange Beach City Council, Sea, Sand, & Stars is open to the public for the third summer in a row. The nature and science center was open June 11-28 and will reopen for a three-week stretch on Monday, July 9th through Thursday, July 26th. The center will be open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Staff members offer the public a rotating schedule for guided tours, night sky presentations and IMAX-type movies in the planetarium.
When the center opened for the first time this summer on June 11th, over 100 people walked through the doors, according to Sea, Sand & Stars Director Nicole Bryant.
“We were pleasantly surprised,” Bryant said.
The facility features a 6,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, 1,500-gallon marine life touch tank, 800-foot nature boardwalk with a weather station, the planetarium, a microscope lab, a library and a gift shop.
The Sea, Sand, & Stars Science and Nature Center first opened in 2007 and has been made possible through generous contributions from Brett/Robinson Construction, the City of Orange Beach and the Baldwin County Board of Education. More than a decade ago the seeds were planted by then Orange Beach Elementary principal and center namesake, Steven Baker, for a hands-on facility for island school students to learn about the natural resources of the area.
Bryant is a teacher employed by the county at Orange Beach Elementary and is going on her seventh year running the center.
“This is my classroom,” she said. “It’s amazing. Mr. Baker was such a visionary.”
When school starts, the first two weeks of each month are reserved for Orange Beach Elementary students and the second two weeks are for other schools in the county for field trips, which fill up the first day trips can be reserved, Bryant said.
Bryant said she is grateful for the Orange Beach City Council’s funding to open the center to the public in the summer.
On a recent late June afternoon, a mother walked into the nature center with her two young daughters and one exclaimed, “Wow.” And that said it all.
In addition to the beautiful aquarium with a large variety of Gulf fish and the touch tank, the center’s 38-seat planetarium with new projector, partially funded by the city, allows visitors a real-time high-quality look through an amazing window into space - all in Orange Beach’s backyard!
The center’s microscope laboratory allows students to get a closer look at marine life. Outside, an 800-foot boardwalk leads to four large outdoor gazebo classrooms where students learn about flora and fauna. In partnership with WKRG-TV, there is also a weather station complete with measuring and monitoring technology.
Reservations are not required for the summer season opening, but are highly recommended if individuals plan on taking the guided tour or have a group of 10 or more. Walk-ins are welcome.
In February, the Orange Beach City Council approved funding, totalling $15,552, to partner with Orange Beach Elementary School to open Sea, Sand, and Stars Science and Nature Center during the summer of 2018.
For more information or to make a tour reservation, call 251-981-5690. A $5 per person minimum donation is always appreciated.
An adult must accompany and is responsible for all children (under 18 years of age) in their party.
The center is at 4900 S, Wilson Blvd., directly behind the Orange Beach Elementary School.
For a complete schedule and more information, go to www.seasandandstars.com.