Founded in 1988 as the Nature Clubhouse in Amagansett, the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (SoFo) opened its permanent location in Bridgehampton in 2005. It has since cemented itself as the place for people of all ages to learn about, and engage with, local wildlife.
Inside, visitors can ogle dozens of photo murals of forests, oceans and ponds and check out fish tanks, aquariums and terrariums. There is even an interactive marine touch tank that lets visitors touch (and, for brave souls, hold) sea stars, crabs, whelks and urchins.
“My favorite part of the museum is our marine touch tank,” says Frank Quevedo, Executive Director. “When I see kids interacting with the tank it’s very rewarding because they are interacting with marine animals and learning about how important they are to the ecology of the marine system.”
While the Museum does focus on creative and interactive exhibits, they also have in-house nature experts on hand who are excited to educate guests about the area’s nature and wildlife.
SoFo has an expansive outdoor space with several interactive exhibits, where visitors can explore the Native Butterfly Garden, which houses hundreds of butterflies. In addition to maintaining the garden, SoFo focuses on the conservation of the 60 butterfly species that flutter about the South Fork. Visitors will also find a Native Wildflower garden, a pond teeming with marine life, and the 40-acre Vineyard Fields Preserve adjacent to the museum, which opens up to the 1,100-acre Long Pond Greenbelt, with its numerous ponds, woods and wetlands ripe for exploration.
Diana Aceti, Director of Development, says, “What’s really important is the museum is educating children and their families to protect the environment. Everything they learn here, in whatever program, is with one goal in mind, and that is to preserve the environment.”
SoFo also provides dozens of educational and environmental activities for all ages, including school group programs for students from nursery school through grade 12. These programs educate students about the various plants and animals that create the natural world of the South Fork, all while providing material correlated with the New York State Common Core.
For nursery-aged children, the museum provides programs that allow them to get up close and personal with South Fork reptiles and explore the museum’s forest exhibits. For fifth- to twelfth-grade students, the museum offers tours relating to the unique ecosystems of salt marshes, along with various nature walks.
“Our mission is education,” Quevedo says. “We’re not like other organizations which buy and preserve land. We focus on the sensitivity of the natural world, and teach our visitors how to protect it.”
Head down to SoFo on Saturday, November 25, 2017, from 10 a.m.–4 p.m., for their free, family Thanksgiving Open House. Visiors will learn about binoculars and telescopes, space telescopes, and planet Earth. Children can write a note to a space alien, enjoy crafts, face painting, pose for an astronaut photo-op, visit a small demonstration solar house with its own solar car and, for a small fee, take part in the StarLab planetarium-show. “We’re co-sponsoring the day with the Montauk Observatory, and adding information about space exploration and outer space to our thinking about the natural world,” said Carol Crasson, SoFo’s Education Director. “The subject matter could not be timelier,” Crasson added, “with NASA getting ready to send humans back to the moon, SpaceX’s rocket launches and continued plans for more Mars explorations.”
SoFo is open seven days a week and offers free admission on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year. 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton. 631-537-9735, sofo.org