top of page


In the late 1980s, the Jr. League of the Emerald Coast led by Dr. Alexis Tibbetts began a feasibility study to see if Okaloosa County could support a science museum. The response was overwhelming, and with the support of the city of Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa County School System, the University of West Florida, Okaloosa Walton Community College, local business owners, and government contractors, the plan to build a science museum in Fort Walton Beach was put into action. In 1989, the Emerald Coast Science Center opened its doors as the FOCUS (Families of Okaloosa County Understanding Science) Center. The name FOCUS emphasized the priority of the founders that the center was not just for children or adults--it was a center for families to learn about science together.


Initially the FOCUS Center was a volunteer-run organization headed by members of the Jr. League. Exhibits were made by local businesses and volunteers with an emphasis on hands-on learning. It was open to the public on the weekends and was a field trip destination for Okaloosa County students during the week. As the popularity of the FOCUS Center grew, it became apparent that the organization was becoming an entity that required more staff and more funds, so in 1992, it was decided to incorporate the FOCUS Center as a not for profit 501(c)(3) corporation. During the next 9 years, the FOCUS Center worked intimately with the Okaloosa County School System to provide lab-based activities at the center as well as at the local schools.


ECSC layout photo 2023.png

In 2001, the FOCUS Center changed its name to the Emerald Coast Science Center (ECSC) to better promote the museum as a regional science museum for Northwest Florida. Beginning in 2001, the museum expanded its operating hours and purchased professionally designed exhibits. It also began offering more on-site programs.

In 2014, ECSC purchased a building on Memorial Parkway SW and moved out of our Brooks Street location. Our facility now includes over 5,000 additional square feet of space with two classroom spaces and 4 exhibit rooms along with 2 acres of property. New Robotics exhibits were installed in 2014 and 2015. In 2017, a new exhibit featuring our local Emerald Coast ecosystems was installed in the LaFollette Family Room and a renovated Reptiles and Amphibians exhibit opened. In 2018, we were thrilled to debut a fascinating, groundbreaking new exhibit: sciPad featuring SMALLab Learning, courtesy of IMPACT100 of Northwest Florida. sciPad is an embodied learning platform that has every learner up, moving, and collaborating in an interactive environment. We are honored to be only the third museum in the country with SMALLab Learning lesson capabilities. We also opened up our Mini Makers and Experimenters Lab in 2018, geared toward preschool-aged children, with plenty of hands-on exhibits to encourage play and discover. In 2020, our Ecosystem room was redesigned with updated interactive exhibits, and several new outdoor exhibits including a Dino Dig and Boating on the Emerald Coast made their debut with expansions to both exhibits taking place in 2021. In Summer 2021, we also opened up our Fort Audubon Tree House and the STEAM Machine--a school bus outfitted into a STEAM classroom donated to us courtesy of Liza Jackson Preparatory School. We were thrilled to open our outdoor Florida Trail replica exhibit in Summer of 2022. In 2023, we acquired new space exhibits, an augmented reality sandbox, and curated a plastic pollution exhibit to provide guests with information on how to lessen their footprint during visits to our local beaches. Outdoors, we created several new exhibits: Nature's Kaleidoscope and Wild Weave, as well as a Planetary Pathway in the front of the museum for free access to discover our universe before entering the museum. We continue to regularly procure new exhibits in our gallery space as well to provide hands-on STEAM experiences that allow families to think outside the box and discover science together.


We continue to expand our exhibits and programming often, so be sure to stop by to see all the exciting things we have in store for our patrons! You can also take a virtual tour of our museum.


bottom of page