Press Room for the Sciencenter

Sciencenter 2019 Report to the community
Published May 28, 2020

For all media inquiries, please contact:
Kelly Barclay
Public and Media Relations Manager
(607) 272-0600 ×114

2020 & 2019 PRESS RELEASES:

Sciencenter Hosts Virtual Coffee with the Director

Ithaca, New York – The Sciencenter will hold a virtual “Coffee with the Director” informal chat via Zoom on Friday, May 15th at 10 am. All community members are welcome to come talk with the Sciencenter’s Executive Director, Michelle Kortenaar.

Are you wondering how the Sciencenter animals are doing? Thinking about playing minigolf this summer? Or, wondering how the Sciencenter experience might be different when it is safe to reopen the museum? Be sure to grab some coffee and join this chat to share your questions with their Executive Director. The Sciencenter will share some of their initial considerations as they look to a future reopening and will answer attendee questions. All are welcome. Please RSVP to to receive the Zoom link.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sciencenter’s virtual events and activities, be sure to follow the Sciencenter on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest updates.

About the Sciencenter:
As a result of COVID-19, the Sciencenter is currently closed to the public. The Sciencenter’s mission is to cultivate a broad community of curious, confident, critical thinkers. The museum currently offers Monday-Friday virtual, interactive, science activities at 10:30 am, and Tuesday and Thursday virtual tours of their Animal Room at 2 pm. For membership information, details regarding Sciencenter’s COVID-19 response, and information about their current virtual programs and activities, please visit The Sciencenter is a proud member of the Discovery Trail in Ithaca.

Sciencenter Celebrates Earth Week with Virtual Activities

The Sciencenter will celebrate Earth Week, April 20-24 with a variety of virtual, Earth-themed activities.

Each morning from Monday, April 20 through, Friday, April 24, at 10:30 am, Sciencenter educators will host live Zoom activities all focused on sustainability and Earth science content. Many of these activities were developed by the National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE Net), a community of informal educators and scientists of which the Sciencenter is a part. More details about our Zoom activities, as well as links to those activities, can be found on our website.

Earth Week Zoom Activity Schedule:
• Monday: Rising Sea – Consider the effects of climate change on sea levels and landmass.
• Tuesday: My Community – Envision your ideal neighborhood!
• Wednesday: Native Species – Get acquainted with our animal neighbors in the Sciencenter’s New York Natives corner!
• Thursday: Watch & Create: Creativity for Sustainability – Turn screen time into imaginative investigation!
• Friday: Paper Mountains – Model the effects of pollution on interconnected waterways.

The Sciencenter’s Curator of Live Exhibits will also take the public through virtual tours of our Animal Room on Tuesday, April 21 and Thursday, April 23 at 2 pm. These informational, virtual, meet and greets with the Sciencenter animals will take place on the Sciencenter’s Youtube Live Stream.

In addition, the Sciencenter is excited to participate in Get Your GreenBack Tompkins’ virtual Tompkins Earth Day event. The event will be live-streamed through their Facebook page on Wednesday, April 22, from 2-6 pm, and will feature many local organizations and experts. The Sciencenter and other family-oriented activities will take place during the 4-5 pm time slot and will feature the Sciencenter live collections.

Be sure to follow the Sciencenter on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest updates about Sciencenter Earth Week virtual events, and to take advantage of the Earth-themed resources they will share throughout the week.

About the Sciencenter:
As a result of COVID-19, the Sciencenter is currently closed to the public. The Sciencenter’s mission is to cultivate a broad community of curious, confident, critical thinkers. The museum currently offers Monday-Friday virtual, interactive, science activities at 10:30 am, and Tuesday and Thursday virtual tours of their Animal Room at 2 pm. For membership information, details regarding Sciencenter’s COVID-19 response, and information about their current virtual programs and activities, please visit The Sciencenter is a proud member of the Discovery Trail in Ithaca.

Sciencenter Names New Executive Director

Ithaca, New York – The Board of Trustees of the Sciencenter announced today that after several months of careful deliberation, Dean Briere has decided not to renew his contract to serve as Executive Director of the Sciencenter. The Board selected Michelle Kortenaar, who has served the Sciencenter in various capacities since 2010, including, most recently, as Vice President of Strategic Development, to succeed Mr. Briere as Executive Director.

“We are very grateful to Dean for his many contributions to the growth and success of the Sciencenter during his tenure,” said Melinda Oakes, the Sciencenter Board Chair. “Under his leadership, the Sciencenter strengthened partnerships with key members of the community, significantly increased outreach to and access for rural communities, and created interactive programming for adults. Dean also played a critical leadership role in, among other things, the design and development of a number of new exhibits, the revitalization of the Sciencenter’s strategic plan, the renovation of the early-childhood space, and in overseeing the steady growth of the Sciencenter’s endowment. We would like to thank him for his dedication and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

“I am honored to have served the Sciencenter and the Ithaca community for the past three years,” said Briere. “And I am thrilled that the Board of Trustees has chosen Michelle to succeed me. Her background and experience in education, exhibits, guest services, and development uniquely qualify her to lead the Sciencenter forward as it cultivates a broad community of curious, confident, critical thinkers.”

The transition from Mr. Briere to Ms. Kortenaar is effective as of November 22, though Mr. Briere has agreed to serve in a consulting capacity to help ensure a smooth transition for the Sciencenter’s new leadership.

The Board stated: “We are very pleased to announce Michelle Kortenaar’s appointment as the new Executive Director of the Sciencenter. Her years of service as a member of the Sciencenter’s leadership team give her a breadth and depth of knowledge of the Sciencenter, its employees, the communities it serves, and its programs and initiatives. When coupled with her demonstrated commitment to and passion for the organization’s mission and vision, she is an ideal leader for the Sciencenter.”

“I am humbled and excited to be assuming leadership of the talented team at the Sciencenter,” said Michelle Kortenaar. “Together we will engage our community by making science accessible to all. I am grateful to Dean for his generosity and look forward to guiding the Sciencenter in new directions while continuing to build on the strategic goals developed under his able leadership.”

Michelle Kortenaar has been at the Sciencenter since 2010, serving as Director of Education, Senior Director of Engagement and Learning, and most recently as Vice President of Strategic Development. Michelle’s career has focused on providing children with opportunities to explore science through open-ended experiences and discovery. Michelle has degrees in both science and education. Michelle’s career began as a physics and biology teacher in Toronto, Canada and in West Orange, NJ. She served as chair of the math and science departments at her last school. Michelle was recruited as the founding director of a multi-department science center at a large summer camp in Milford, PA. Michelle has led the Sciencenter’s work on a number of federal grants – including the Collaborative for Early Science Learning. She is currently the Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded grant – that creates opportunities for the Sciencenter to partner with Cornell University to engage public audiences in current NSF-funded STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) research. Michelle serves on the extended leadership team of the National Informal STEM Education Network. She spearheaded the Sciencenter’s partnership with many local institutions including Tompkins County Head Start. She has published in the field and often speaks at national conferences about informal science education and national partnerships.

New veterinary exhibit to open in Sciencenter’s Curiosity Corner

ITHACA, New York – A new exhibit focused around veterinary science is opening to the public at the Sciencenter this weekend, on Saturday, June 22 at 10 am. During this grand opening, attendees can explore the new exhibit, interact with live animals, and explore our Tidepool Touch Tank.

Modeled after a real veterinarian’s office this new exhibit creates an immersive environment where children can role play as veterinarians. Children can examine real X-rays of animals, weigh stuffed animals on scales, clean stuffed animals in the grooming station, and more.

The veterinary exhibit is designed for young learners and will be located in the Sciencenter’s newly renovated Curiosity Corner. The Curiosity Corner is a vibrant, safe environment, for the Sciencenter’s youngest guests (ages four and under). The Curiosity Corner includes a newly expanded infant area, water table, air station, activity table, and more.

The veterinary exhibit was made possible thanks to grants from Triad Foundation, Tompkins County Tourism Program, and the Howland Foundation as administered by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

Our new veterinary exhibit opens to the public this weekend, Saturday, June 22, 10 am – 5 pm. This exhibition is included with regular museum admission. For more information call 607-272-0600, or visit our website at

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Sciencenter Honors Beverly J. Martin with Community Celebration

Ithaca, New York – The Sciencenter partnered with Beverly J. Martin Elementary School to honor and celebrate the legacy of educator and community leader, Beverly J. Martin. Beverly J. Martin’s work spanned four decades as a teacher and principal of Central Elementary School. She was an inspirational presence, receiving numerous national and local awards. Martin offered a home for a science activity program at Central School, which was the inspiration for what eventually became the Sciencenter.

The celebration was kicked off at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School the afternoon of Thursday, April 11th. A plaque for Martin, which would become a part of the Sciencenter’s Wall of Inspiration, was unveiled to attendees. Students also presented various science projects they worked on during the presentation, and Sciencenter educators engaged students with a liquid nitrogen demonstration.

Later during the evening of April 11th, the Sciencenter continued the celebration with a community event free and open to the public. The event was attended by community leaders, Beverly J. Martin educators, and students, as well as families from throughout the community. The night featured a special ceremony where Beverly J. Martin’s plaque was unveiled in its place on the Sciencenter’s Wall of Inspiration.

“We are so pleased to be honoring Beverly J. Martin on the Sciencenter’s Wall of Inspiration” said Dean Briere, executive director of the Sciencenter. “Her commitment to science inspired our founders, Ilma Levine and Debbie Levin, to bring the Sciencenter to life. The Sciencenter shares the values of these enterprising educators – science, community, and accessibility – key directional indicators of the Sciencenter’s new community-driven strategic framework. And through their initial efforts we have spent over 35 years exploring, connecting, and creating together!”

COVID-19 Response :

Sciencenter closed to the public

Published March 13, 2020

The Sciencenter has been closely following guidance from the CDC, New York State and Tompkins County Health Department regarding COVID-19. The health and safety of our visitors, volunteers, and staff is our utmost concern.

At this time, and due to the state of emergency declared by Tompkins County, the Sciencenter has decided that the best course of action for public health is to close to the public starting Saturday, March 14, 2020. We will continue to monitor the situation closely when making decisions about reopening.

The Sciencenter is committed to remaining a place where we all explore, connect, and create through science. During these uncertain times, your support is needed more than ever. Please consider making a donation to the Sciencenter today.
Please check our website for the latest information. If you have questions please reach out to us at

We have unfortunately decided that the Sciencenter will not hold in-person summer camp this year. While camp is an important piece of our mission, we feel we would not be able to provide the camp experiences we value while maintaining social distancing, and our top priority is to keep our staff and community members safe. We have sent out information about refunds and a new virtual Sciencenter summer camp experience to those who were already registered for summer camp. We will share more information in the coming weeks. We miss seeing you in person, and hope that we will all be able to be together safely sometime soon.

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