SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria Natural History Museum is a gem of a place that the community can take great pride in. It's right downtown across the street from the library and city hall.
While it's been there for more than 20 years, some changes have been made recently that make it worth checking out again, even if you have been there before.
It is a small space with a lot to see inside and out. The building is a historical monument in Santa Maria. It was built in 1877.
"This is the oldest house in Santa Maria," Santa Maria Natural History Museum Board President, Tahir Masood said. "We are lucky to have this oldest place."
Upon entry, visitors can explore an exhibit of sea life native to the Central Coast. Many of the museum visitors are school children, and they love the grizzly bear that was generously donated by a local family to display.
"We do get a lot of kids coming over here and they just can not believe it," Masood said. "Their paws over there, and how big this thing is!"
Each room has a place to test your knowledge. You can try your hand at Geological Time in Santa Maria with a series of questions like ...
During the Jurassic Era the Santa Maria Valley was ... Covered With Water? Covered with forests? A Desert? I'm going to guess water.
Visitors who push the button for water will see a red light go off and a buzzer sound for the correct answer.
With water now at a premium on the Central Coast, the people who run the natural museum greatly cut back on water use in 2014 by removing turf around the building, and putting in beautiful drought tolerant landscaping that also honors the native people of the area.
"What we have put in, the original idea was to create a mechanism with the native plants that the first Indians used to use," Masood said. "They do not require a lot of water."
An outdoor mural is surrounded by a pictograph built into the ground.
"That was engaged through the cultural department of Chumash," Masood said. "The kids from 6th and 7th grade, they designed and hand painted it."
"And on the side of the museum you see the mural," Masood continued. "That mural was designed based on 1799, if you're standing in front of the Dunes, this is what you would see. It brings you back to the past."
The museum is 100 percent volunteer based, and more volunteers are always needed.
Saturday, April 25 is a great day to explore and enjoy the museum. An Earth Day celebration goes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with BBQ hot dogs and live entertainment. There is no charge.
For more information: http://www.naturalhistorysantamaria.com/