09/18/14 5:15pm
Long Island Science Center executive director Michelle Pelletier with another staffer Thursday. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Michelle Pelletier, executive director of the Long Island Science Center, with program coordinator Judy Isbitiren, showing off handprints of volunteers and high school student interns featured on a newly painted interior wall.

With plans to move the Long Island Science Center to a new downtown Riverhead location up in the air, the educational nonprofit is looking to make the site more inviting to families while starting to plan for a possible renovation at the current West Main Street location.  (more…)

05/24/14 10:00am
05/24/2014 10:00 AM
Long Island Aquarium Exhibit Artist Eli Fishman shows Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter one of two steel fish sculptures that mark a fish ladder at Grangebel Park. (Courtesy photo)

Long Island Aquarium Exhibit Artist Eli Fishman shows Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter one of two steel fish sculptures that mark a fish ladder at Grangebel Park. (Courtesy photo)

Two steel fish sculptures were unveiled this week at Grangebel Park in Riverhead to commemorate “World Fish Migration Day” today. The sculptures are part of a newly renovated fish ladder by Long Island Aquarium Exhibit artist Eli Fishman.  (more…)

02/15/14 5:00pm
02/15/2014 5:00 PM

Scouts from Cub Scout Pack 90 in Mount Sinai stopped by the Long Island Science Center Saturday to learn about engineering. (Tim Gannon photo)

Most lists of the top careers usually have engineering in there somewhere.

So it’s fitting that the Long Island Science Center on West Main Street in Riverhead is getting kids interested in engineering at an early age. (more…)

11/24/13 8:00am
11/24/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The entrance to Long Island Science Center on West Main Street.

I couldn’t believe 60 first-graders could stay so captivated for so long. Every kid’s eyes were glued to the center of the room, heads tilted, little mouths agape. They were spellbound. But this wasn’t “Fantasia” or a more modern Disney movie. This was science.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

Material science, of all things. This particular lesson was called States of Matter. And when it came time for the children to retreat to individual work stations for some hands-on lab work, the room and the other children around them seized to exist. They had a task to complete, after all, and that was to apply a special solution to the dozen or so pebbles waiting for them in petri dishes.

They were then told by the instructor that, in a few days, they would begin to notice crystals forming on those little rocks. Soon, they’d have their own crystal gardens. Of course, they’re still kids; delayed gratification isn’t exactly their thing. And so began the second part of the lesson, which ended with the Sachem School District students making ice cream. Ice cream!

This is the type of pure magic that goes on almost every day at the Long Island Science Center in downtown Riverhead, and for an adult like myself, who had never stepped inside the center, it was a lesson on how a properly managed and sustainable nonprofit group with a purely altruistic mission can offer a huge public benefit to children and parents alike, not to mention the local school systems.

“A lot of the elementary schools don’t have science teachers, especially with all the recent cutbacks,” said the center’s executive director, Michelle Pelletier. So the schools use the science center for “enrichment” alternatives, she said. While that’s good for business, Ms. Pelletier can’t help but feel opportunities are being missed in the schools, as the younger kids seem to be the most engaged when learning how things work. That enthusiasm is plain to see during any day at the center.

After each lesson, the students — usually on a field trip or a weekend birthday party — are invited to roam the Exploratory Enrichment Center, an interactive, educational display play area. The rules for the kids are simple, and just the opposite of what they’re told to do at home: Touch everything. (Oh, and no running.) So the children will fan out to the interactive weather station or the dino-dig, to look for fossils. They’ll check out the snakes and Madagascar hissing cockroaches or just play with the magnets or building blocks. On Saturdays, this museum side of the center is open to the public, with admission just $5 a head.

Among Ms. Pelletier’s favorite and oft-repeated quotes from the children who visit the center are:

“I didn’t know that!”

“You guys like dinosaurs too?”

“Are you a scientist?”

“I’ve never been to a museum before.”

She’s hoping to hear more of these types of adorable phrases, as the center is planning a big move from its aging West Main Street building to the vacated West Marine storefront on East Main, closer to the Long Island Aquarium. The new space is planned to be much bigger, allowing the center to remain open to the public throughout the week, even when lessons are going on in the classrooms.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more worthy — yet often overlooked — organization in the town or county. Not only does the science center offer programs for children but high school interns build most of the hands-on exhibits. Teenagers from Riverhead, Mercy and other high schools also sit on its Board of Youth Trustees, charged with keeping the exhibits fresh and, presently, improving community outreach through social media.

The museum is in contract to purchase its new space, with real estate developers in contract to buy the current museum building. When the move is complete, the new center will feature more professionally built displays, including a state-of-the-art Leonardo da Vinci exhibit currently mothballed in the science center’s storage room for lack of space. The Board of Trustees, which includes two Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists, also envisions placing an emphasis on technological breakthroughs that are happening, and have happened, right here on Long Island.

It could even be a place where Intel Science Talent Search participants show off their work, I’m told.

By far the most popular exhibit in the museum right now is the dino-dig. Ms. Pelletier said, pointing to a square table covered in sand. The kids brush the sand away to unearth planted fossils that are explained on a chart nearby.

“I would love to have a big dino-dig that the kids could step into,” she said. “But this is our space. I wish it were bigger. But we’re working on it.”

To learn more about supporting the Long Island Science Center, visit 11 West Main St. in Riverhead or lisciencecenter.org.

Michael White is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com or (631) 298-3200, ext. 152.

11/21/13 2:44pm
11/21/2013 2:44 PM

The Long Island Science Center in Riverhead is hosting a series of movie nights, beginning Friday, Dec. 6 with the showing of “Flubber Friday.”

Popcorn and water is included and the showtime runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $25 per child and $20 for members. A registration form is available on the Science Center website.

Kids will have a chance to make their own flubber while watching the movie.

06/26/13 1:45pm
06/26/2013 1:45 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A young girl using a learning tool inside the Long Island Science Center.

The Long Island Science Center announced in a press release Wednesday its plans to move to a building with three times more space than its current location in downtown Riverhead.

Director Michelle Pelletier said the museum, which has spent the past 10 years at 11 West Main Street, recently completed the paperwork to purchase a 10,000 square foot building at 101 East Main Street.

In a phone call, Ms. Pelletier said the Science Center is aiming to complete the move within a year.

“There’s always planning and renovations that have to happen,” she said. “I would love for [the move] to happen sooner because it’s an exciting thing, but it all depends.”

The new location, which overlooks the Peconic River and once housed Bohack Supermarket, Edward Archers, and West Marine, “will provide significantly more space for exhibits, allow multiple school groups to visit at the same time, add classroom space, and provide areas for exhibit storage and fabrication,” Ms. Pelletier said.

The Science Center also said it plans to open a gift shop at its new location that will specialize in educational and kid-friendly toys, science kits and experiments, books, and DVDs.

“Expanding the Science Center will contribute to the revitalization of downtown, increase tourism to the area, and promote Riverhead in a positive and constructive manner,” Ms. Pelletier said.

The Long Island Science Center entered into a contract earlier this year to sell their property at 11 West Main Street to a developer who plans to build 48 upscale apartments overlooking the Peconic River and Grangerbel Park.

The project’s owner, Simshabs X, Inc, headed by Brooklyn developer Rafi Weiss, is seeking exemptions from sales tax on materials purchased for the construction, on mortgage recording tax and on real property taxes.

The Riverhead Industrial Development Agency will hold a public hearing on the request for IDA benefits for Blue River Estates on Monday, July 8, at 5 p.m. in Town Hall.

The IDA’s uniform tax exemption policy gives tax abatements only on the increased assessment that results from the project, so that the tax amount will never decrease from what it was beforehand.

The uniform policy starts at 50 percent for the first year, and decreases by five percent per year over 10 years, at which point the property owner pays full taxes.

The abatements only apply to school, town, county and fire district taxes.

In addition, the IDA has the discretion to deviate from that policy, as it has done on several recent projects, such as Long Island Aquarium and Hyatt Place Hotel, and the Summerwind Square apartments, both of which were give 100 percent exemptions for 10 years.

Blue River Estates calls for the demolition of the existing building at 11 West Main Street and replacing it with a proposed 70,000 square foot, 48-unit building apartment building with an indoor parking facility on the ground floor. The cost of the project is estimated at $9.65 million.

With Tim Gannon.