In 1989, Hugh Codding donated the entire Codding Museum inventory to Petaluma High School instructor Ron Head to create an innovative educational program. Ron's dream was to give high school students career and leadership skills through active participation in an environmental education program. The Petaluma Wildlife Museum facility was built in 1940 as a school bus garage. When the Museum's collection outgrew the confines of Ron's classroom portable, the Codding family helped purchase a new bus garage, freeing the old one to be used as a world-class 9000 square foot wildlife museum. Over the next few years, hundreds of volunteers from every corner of the community donated time and money to construct various dioramas representing habitats from across the world. They also built displays to house mineral collections, poaching artifacts, and the large live animal collection. Today, the Museum houses over 50 species of insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Thousands of people visit the Museum every year where dozens of high school students provide tours and animal education.
The Petaluma Wildlife & Natural Science Museum is founded on an innovative education theory: if you give high school students as much responsibility and freedom as possible, they will rise to the challenge and succeed. Each school year, the Museum hosts several high school classes, educating over 100 teens about a variety of wildlife related subjects. Students take rigorous courses in wildlife and museum management to learn about environmental education, wildlife biology, animal husbandry, public speaking, and museum operations and maintenance. Additionally, throughout the school year, student docents are responsible for animal care, museum maintenance, program development, and conducting tours.
For nearly 30 years, the Museum has hosted thousands of school classes and community groups, teaching them about biodiversity, ecosystems, wildlife, animal adaptations, and natural history. Tours are conducted by trained high school docents and are developed around California State Science Standards. Grade school tours visit exhibits representing Africa, Asia, and North and South America. Students also explore our large mineral, fossil, and forestry displays. Hundreds of taxidermied and live animals engage children and bring the science lessons alive.