Sierra College Natural History Museum:  A Hidden Gem

Sierra College Natural History Museum: A Hidden Gem

For over fifty years, the Sierra College Natural History Museum (SCNHM) has provided inspirational scientific education to its students and the community. The Museum exists as a place where science meets wonder. This hidden gem is located right here in Placer County on the Sierra College Rocklin Campus. As a “teaching museum,” its principle mission is to advance education and research in science and sustainability while preserving exhibits and collections for future generations. In essence, it’s an open, non-traditional classroom for future scientists.

Not only does the Museum serve the District’s student population, but it also provides an incredible educational learning opportunity for future Sierra College students of all ages.

The Museum was initially established at Sierra College in the late 1960s through grant funding, with the majority of the exhibits based upon the rising theme of ecology. Accompanied by the popular fifty-seat planetarium upstairs, the Museum became the familiar home of thousands of students, teachers, and parents who came to engage, experience, and discover the natural world. Over its first eleven years, more than 150,000 people participated in lectures, demonstrations, exhibits, K-12 field trips, and classes. Since then, we’ve added supplemental natural history experiences that go “beyond the classroom” to our catalog of offerings: the Natural Trail Preserve, Desert Garden, Rock Walk, and Arboretum, along with community outreach initiatives such as Free First Saturday, and Dinosaur Day: Science Fest.

In 2017, the Museum introduced its first full-time, paid museum director to expand on the Museum’s programming and collections/exhibits, manage its operations, and assist in the national museum accreditation process.

Upon her arrival at the Natural History Museum, Director Rachael Greve noticed a lack of Museum programming being offered to the community, especially for families on weekends. She achieved success through the Museum’s most popular program, Free First Saturdays, as a vehicle to foster passion and appreciation for science through engaged families and children. On the first Saturday of every month, SCNHM hosts a huge science party and invites everyone to join Museum staff and scholars as they present a fun, open–house science workshop for kids ages 4 to 104!

When asked about the goal of the program Greve said, “Free First Saturdays allow the Museum to engage local families and youth through Science Technology Engineering Arts Math initiatives; families connecting and communicating with one another through their love of science.“

Greve also added, “ Each month has a unique S.T.E.A.M. theme complete with special activities, tours, snacks, and guest curators/presenters that encourages critical thinking and ties back to Museum exhibits and or collections.”

August’s theme, “Shock and Awe: Tesla’s Electrifying Story,” will explore the mad genius of one of the world’s greatest innovators and kids will be offered a hair-raising opportunity to examine a Van de Graaf generator! In September, budding scientists will learn about trace fossils and participate in the program, “In Their Footsteps: Trace Fossils and Tracks.” (This date is also SCNHM’s official Placer County Museum Heritage Trail stop!)

Last year, October’s programming featured the mysterious world of bats! Over 1,200 visitors attended that Free First Saturday. This year, the Museum will feature another creature that goes bump in the night at our spooktacular event “When the Sun Goes Down: Nocturnal Animals.” Who, whooo… whomever could it be?

The Museum is open from 10 am–12 pm for these events. For a list of remaining 2019 Free First Saturday Events, including “Soil Super Heroes” (November) and “An Arctic Expedition” (December), you can visit the Sierra College Natural History Museum website! Themes and dates for 2020 will be unveiled this fall!

In addition to Free First Saturday, the Museum presents a monthly Speaker Series throughout the Fall and Spring semesters. The Museum invites content experts and other scientists/scholars/leaders to offer concentrated, hour-long lectures on a wide variety of natural history topics. The Speaker Series is held on Friday evenings, once monthly while Sierra College classes are in session. There is a small fee for admission, but Museum members are free!

Are you interested in visiting the Sierra College Natural History Museum? Our regular operating hours during the Fall and Spring Semesters are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Fridays are the Museum’s dedicated K-12 field trip days. We are also open on weekends on First Free Saturdays from 10am-12pm each month.

Note: The Museum is open to the public while students are learning and testing, in classes, throughout the science building. Therefore, we ask that all visitors passionately, but quietly, explore the Museum.