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Science, Tompkins County

Sciencenter Celebrates 30 Years

From Route 13, the slides, slopes and bridges of the Sciencenter’s outdoor Science Park spark the curiousity of about 100,000 visitors every year.

Inside, the museum is packed with interactive exhibits on everything from nano science to coral reefs. The sounds of levers, pulleys, pendulums can be heard throughout the museum.

The Sciencenter marked its 30th anniversary Mar. 2 — a celebration of educating the community about science.

The museum has come a long way since the building was constructed over Ithaca’s old sewage treatment plant in 1990. Charlie Trautmann, executive director at the Sciencenter, says the museum is now looking to expand its current programs and develop additional ones that would appeal to an older group of students.

“Now that we’ve pretty much built the site out, we’ve done all the construction that we’re going to do here for a while, we’re shifting our emphasis a bit toward educational impact,” Trautmann says. “For the next five years, how can we really increase the science education in this community and what we give to kids to help them be as successful as possible in life. In a sense, we’re using this year as an opportunity to create some new programs and to educate the public about the need for science education and how it helps kids reach their potential.”

Trautmann says the Sciencenter wants to impact elementary and middle school science education so that students have a greater appreciation for science and how it plays an active role in everyday life.

“Science as we think of it is a process for learning about the world,” he says. “It’s not a collection of facts.”

The Sciencenter has its share of quirky history. Bill Nye the Science Guy helped construct the museum’s floors. Parts of the musem’s “Reinvention Center” are built entirely out of recylcled materials, including the doors of the old JC Penny store before it closed at the Triphammer Mall. Tiled art in the museum was designed by Tom Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son, who volunteered at the Sciencenter for several years and helped design the Science Park outside.

For now, the Sciencenter plans to continue its long tradition for education, particularly when students lack the motivation to explore the sciences.

“You can do things here that the schools just can’t do,” Trautmann says. “We don’t have any curriculum; we don’t have any testing. Nobody flunks a science museum.”

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