The animals at the Hands-On Science Center now enjoy a much brighter and roomier space.

Last month, they were moved to the area that was previously used for the gift shop.

The animal room is home to several snakes, lizards, a tarantula and a parrot.  The room’s new location offers more light and more space for visitors to enjoy the animals and learn about them.

The newest addition is an ecosphere, which is a closed ecosystem, housing active micro-organisms, small shrimp, algae and bacteria, existing in filtered sea water.

“One of the things we have changed at the science center lately is our animal room,” said Shelby Brandt, operations manager at the center. “We used to have it in a pretty small room. We now have the gift shop more out to the public and we moved the animal room here.”

The goal was to make the animal exhibits more interactive and exciting for the children, said Brandt.

With a few exceptions, the room houses mostly cold-blooded animals.

“We have three snakes, all different species,” she said.

The exhibit includes a Columbian rainbow boa and a corn snake.

“These are our two newest (snake) additions,” Brandt said.

“We’ve also got a ball python,” Brandt said. “Her name is Jacky and we have had her for about four years.”

The science center is also home to a bearded dragon, named Spot.

“The bearded dragon is a pretty common lizard in the pet trade,” Brandt said. “If someone has a pet lizard, it’s a bearded dragon.

“They are pretty easy to care for. They originally come from Australia. They are omnivores, so they eat fruit, vegetables, insects, anything really. They are pretty chill for the most part. Bearded dragons are some of the calmest reptiles you can get as pets. They are kind of like dogs – they will sit on your lap while you watch a movie.”

The animal exhibit also includes a tarantula.

“We actually have some other invertebrates – other than the tarantula – we have Madagascar hissing cockroaches,” Brandt said. “We do races with them for the kids. We will put Madagascar hissing cock-roaches all in a bowl, and the kids would pick which one they would think would win ... Kids really like that.”

The oldest member of the animal group is a parrot.

“We also have a parrot here,” Brandt said. “Her name is Lucy. She is a yellow-naped amazon parrot. She is fairly uncommon – it’s not a pet you normally see in pet stores.”

Lucy is one of the newest residents at the science center. When Sean Amidon, executive director at the center, moved from Florida and took on the director position, he added the parrot to the exhibit.

“Lucy is probably about 60 years old now,” Brandt said. “She was adopted, so we are not sure (exactly how old she is), but she is older than most of us here.” 

Brandt invites locals to visit the center and learn about the animals.

“Kids can walk and take a look at the animals,” Brandt said. “Sometimes, if it’s a day we haven’t fed the animals, I will take them out for kids, and they can look at the animals and pet them.”

The staff at the center continuously works to improve the exhibits, said Brandt.

“We are looking for funding to improve the room and get better displays and more animals, so we can do more shows,” she said.


Visiting the center

The science center is open Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.

Admission is $6.75. Admission is free for children 2 or younger. Seniors, 65 or older, and members of the military pay $6.

An annual family membership costs $79.

For more information, call 931-455-8387 or visit

Elena Cawley may be reached via email at