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Monroe County funding to help RMSC expand Career Ladder program

The Rochester Museum & Science Center has been awarded funding from the Monroe County Industrial Development Corp. board to expand its Career Ladder workforce development program.

The expanded program will provide additional opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to participate and develop critical work skills that will prepare them for jobs in science, technology, arts and culture.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello was instrumental in securing the support, RMSC officials said.

The Career Ladder program was started in 2011 for high school students from the city of Rochester to develop critical work skills by providing long-term, on-the-job training in a positive and supportive environment. Since then, the program has provided work experience to more than 65 students. Students work as part of the RMSC Education Department team engaging with museum visitors, facilitating educational programming and maintaining exhibits.

“Connecting young people from underserved communities with career opportunities and helping them develop critical work skills in a supportive, positive environment helps us foster a more sustainable and healthy community,” Bello said in a statement. “The Rochester Museum and Science Center Career Ladder Program helps break down barriers to opportunity so more of our young people can explore career pathways in the STEM and arts and culture sectors. This is a win-win for all of us. I applaud the Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation Board for recognizing how important this program is and thank the Rochester Museum and Science Center for its continued support of our high school and college students and young adults.”

The funding will enable RMSC to grow the number of Career Ladder participants from throughout the community, expand the program to include college students and young adults, as well as provide additional training and diverse work experiences.

Participants also will be able to advance to higher levels of responsibility. Career Ladder will help prepare students from underserved communities for cutting edge jobs in STEM fields.

“This program opens students’ eyes to the variety of job opportunities available for them in the museum and STEM fields. Not only are they getting real-world job experience, they’re also building confidence to go out and pursue a career in these fields that are historically lacking in diversity,” said RMSC President and CEO Hillary Olson. “We’re grateful that the county sees the value of the Career Ladder program and is able to support us as we grow our program offerings to reach even more students and help them succeed.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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RMSC to celebrate local change-making women

The first in a series of five virtual events designed to celebrate local women will be held Tuesday evening.

Rochester Museum & Science Center will begin its “Meet the Changemakers” speaker series on April 6 at 7 p.m. Attendees will hear from Annette Ramos, LatinX arts curator, community connector and featured changemaker, as well as a panel of four “Latina Changemakers of Tomorrow” that include Paola LaBoy, Erika De Jesus Rodriguez, Katelyn Cruz-Plonczynski and Neyda Colon-DiMaria.

Those who attend the events will learn how these women broke barriers in their respective fields, creating innovative solutions to long-standing problems and amplifying their own voices as well as those of others that deserve to be heard.

“When looking at the women featured in this exhibit and the groundbreaking, admirable, and sometimes larger-than-life work that they’ve accomplished, it feels so inspiring,” said Allison Shultes, director of education at RMSC. “Through this speaker series, we hope to further elevate the stories of persistence and changemaking in our community. We also hope people can learn that these women are just like them and that working toward change isn’t as impossible or unattainable as it may seem.”

Other speakers in the series will include:

• Norma Holland: Wednesday, April 14, at 7 p.m.
• Aesha Ash: Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m.
• Michelle Shenandoah: Wednesday, May 5, at 7 p.m.
• Alexis Vogt: Thursday, May 13, at 7 p.m.

“This speaker series gives visitors a chance to meet, hear from, and talk to some of these amazing women whose stories are told in our exhibit. It can enhance what visitors may have already learned about women’s history in Rochester after exploring the exhibit, and can help them connect to their own inner changemaker and encourage them to inspire future generations to be changemakers,” Shultes said.

The speaker series is geared toward older children and adults, and is free with a suggested donation of $10. More information about the series is available at

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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RMSC receives Frederick Douglass collection

The Rochester Museum & Science Center has acquired a new archival collection of Frederick Douglass materials including photos, pamphlets and more. The new collection, titled “The Anne Weaver Teabeau and Roland B. Scott Jr. Collection on Frederick Douglass,” was donated to the museum by the estate of Roland Scott Jr., Douglass’ great-great-grandson.

“My husband, Roland B. Scott Jr., was invested in preserving and making available to the general public his library collection and Frederick Douglass memorabilia,” said Justine Scott, who facilitated gifting the collection to the RMSC. “After a family visit to the Rochester Museum & Science Center to view their display of the Underground Railroad and Frederick Douglass, he was inspired to donate his collection to the museum. It is hoped that this donation builds on a better understanding and appreciation of the role and contributions made by African Americans and Frederick Douglass to American life.”

Some unique objects included in the collection include:
• A framed photograph of Douglass with a letter from him
• A life insurance certificate for Douglass
• Pamphlets on Cedar Hill
• A book of Frederick Douglass Stamps and related materials
• A framed photograph of Rosetta Douglass Sprague, currently on display in “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World” exhibit
• A signed copy of “My Mother As I Recall Her,” written by Rosetta Douglass Sprague
• The death announcement for Frederick Douglass, published on Feb. 20-21, 1895
• A signed copy of John Blassingame’s “The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South”

Accepting the donation into the collections at the RMSC Museum is significant because of the collection’s focus on the Douglass family, which provides a more holistic view of Frederick Douglass beyond his life as a public figure, officials said. The collection will give researchers insights into the life and work of Douglass as well as that of other prominent Douglass family members, including the work of Anna Murray Douglass and Rosetta Douglass Sprague. In addition, it fills a gap in the RMSC library resources on general African American history.

“We are very excited to accept this historically significant gift into the collections at the RMSC. By preserving this collection and giving the general public access to the materials, we can further tell the story of Frederick Douglass and his family,” said Stephanie Ball, RMSC archivist and librarian.

The RMSC Research Library has limited hours which differ from regular Museum hours, and access to the library is by appointment only.

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Cumming Nature Center acquires the Walden Project – NY

The Rochester Museum & Science Center’s Cumming Nature Center has expanded its outdoor education offerings with the acquisition of the Walden Project – New York. The Walden Project is integrated into the suite of outdoor Forest School educational opportunities for students offered by the nature center.

The Walden Project is a full-time high school and gap-year program inspired by the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau. The program provides an interdisciplinary education in an outdoor setting with an emphasis on academic independence and freedom.

“I spent 10 years in the classroom doing my best to provide the most meaningful learning experiences I could for my students, but I always felt like there was a limit to the quality of education I could provide confined within the four walls of the classroom and bound by the rigid standards of a test-centered curriculum,” said Andy Webster, teacher and director of the Walden Project – NY. He said that the “sense of wonder and excitement” he sees on the faces of students exploring nature is part of what motivated him to bring outdoor education opportunities to local youth.

The Walden Project – NY is based on an educational model started in Vermont, also called the Walden Project. Webster brought the program to Naples in 2018 and this is the third year the program has accepted students.

The Walden Project – NY has been based at Cumming Nature Center since its inception, but the acquisition moves it into the center’s suite of programming, creating more opportunities to enhance the organization’s outdoor educational offerings.

Most significantly, officials said, the acquisition will centralize administrative functions to RMSC, which will allow instructors to focus solely on growing, developing and widening the educational impact of the Walden program.

“The nature center is a hub for so many important programs in our community,” Webster said. “Walden students can learn from craftsmen from the Heritage Make programs, biologists at the BioBlitz, art exhibits, ski lessons, trail races, school field trips and so much more. The kind of rich educational experiences we’re able to offer here just couldn’t happen in a traditional classroom.”

With the acquisition, the nature center now offers outdoor educational experiences for students of all ages.

“Outdoor education connects people to their own communities. It offers a platform to witness an intricate, changing ecosystem and ignite and indestructible sense of wonder for the world around them,” said Nathan Hayes, center director.

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Racism exhibit returns to RMSC

The “Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism” traveling exhibit has returned to its home at Rochester Museum & Science Center.

This exhibit, about the Dentzel Menagerie Carousel panel, discusses racism in the past and today, and inspires new dialogues about actions that can be taken in Rochester to work toward social justice for all, RMSC officials said. The exhibit, which is appropriate for all ages, is a continuation of an ongoing educational process in the Rochester community to create meaningful and sustained dialogue on individual, institutional and structural racism, with the goal of making concrete, measurable impacts on racism.

“It’s important to bring the ‘Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism’ exhibit into the community annual as a tribute to Minister Franklin D. Florence Sr. and others who worked hard to make its development possible,” said representatives from the Take It Down planning committee. “In addition to serving as a reminder of the fact that racism is still alive and well, it’s proof-positive of the fact that it can be impacted by way of community organizing.”

In 2016, a panel featuring racist artwork was removed from the Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park in Rochester, after being on display for 111 years. The issue generated controversy in the community. The Take It Down planning committee created the exhibit to show that pickaninny art perpetuates ongoing individual, institutional and structural racism by denying the humanity of black children

The exhibit has traveled across Rochester, making stops at the Central Church of Christ and F.I.G.H.T. Village. It now is on display alongside the museum’s “Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism … And What We Can Do to Change It” exhibit on the second floor.

The returning exhibit includes images, product packaging, knick-knacks and other objects that perpetuate individual, institutional and structural racism, and dissects the significance of them, officials noted. Community member Doug Belton Sr. loaned the objects to the museum for display with the intention of donating them to the RMSC collection.

“(This imagery) has existed a long time and a lot of it was made here in New York State. Not only was it degrading, it was a way to make money for a lot of companies, especially food and tobacco companies,” Belton said. “A lot of people think that racism and racist objects only exist down south, but it happened all over.”

By repurposing harmful, racist images as tools used for anti-racism education, Belton, the Take It Down planning committee and RMSC hope to empower visitors to recognize, question and confront racism and racist imagery they see out in the world, from grocery stores to playgrounds.

“The ultimate value of the exhibit is its immeasurable worth as an effective teaching-tool, relative to understanding the historical and ongoing existence, nature and manifestations of individual, institutional, and structural racism,” planning committee members said.

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RMSC asks community to reflect on racist media influences

Rochester Museum & Science Center is challenging the community to reflect on how racist media influences people’s lives through a new permanent exhibition.

“Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism … And What We Can Do To Change It” includes images, product packaging, knick-knacks and other objects that perpetuate individual, institutional and structural racism. (photo provided)
“Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism … And What We Can Do To Change It” includes images, product packaging, knick-knacks and other objects that perpetuate individual, institutional and structural racism. (photo provided)

“Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism … And What We Can Do To Change It” includes images, product packaging, knick-knacks and other objects that perpetuate individual, institutional and structural racism, RMSC officials said. Community member Doug Belton Sr. loaned the objects to the museum for display with the intention of donating to the museum’s collection.

“I was hopeful my collection would be helpful to others and, perhaps, even inspire people to push for better race relations,” Belton said in a statement. “It was my belief this kind of material needed to be made available to the entire community and expanded on by objective historians.”

Belton first gained interest in working with RMSC when he attended a program in connection with the “Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism” exhibit presented by the Take It Down Planning Committee in partnership with RMSC.

“I believe only by understanding history, some of which we may want to forget, are we able to continue to grow and become the best we all can be: dignified and honorable,” Belton said.

Following the American Civil War, many states and towns passed laws that legalized racial segregation and reinforced the social, economic, political, cultural and educational oppression of African Americans, RMSC officials noted. Racist images were a part of the “Jim Crow” era, and many of those images continue to play a part in American culture and influence beliefs and practices today.

“I was hopeful my collection would be helpful to others and, perhaps, even inspire people to push for better race relations,” Belton said in a statement. “It was my belief this kind of material needed to be made available to the entire community and expanded on by objective historians.” (photo provided
“I was hopeful my collection would be helpful to others and, perhaps, even inspire people to push for better race relations,” Belton said in a statement. “It was my belief this kind of material needed to be made available to the entire community and expanded on by objective historians.” (photo provided)

“Identifying and understanding a problem empowers us to address it in a meaningful way,” said Kathryn Murano Santos, senior director for collections & exhibits at RMSC. “It’s critical that we talk about racism, be truthful about our history and discuss how racism continues to manifest and oppress people of color in both obvious and subtle ways.”

Museums, Murano Santos added, are uniquely positioned to help people make those connections because they hold evidence of racism in their collections.

Presentations associated with the Take It Down Planning Committee will be held on Feb. 8 at the Central Church of Christ on South Plymouth Avenue and Feb. 22 at the FIGHT Village Community Room on Ward Street.

“I hope people who see these objects can take away an idea of how things used to be and that they have a better understanding of each other instead of demonizing one race or the other so we can all move forward,” Belton said.

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Partnership, children to showcase new trail connecting the Strong with Central Library

The Greater Rochester After-School Alliance (GRASA) on Thursday will partner with the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, Healthi Kids, the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association (GRSLA), United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. and the Children’s Agenda to host a “Lights On Afterschool” event.

The goal of the event is to showcase the value, impact and necessity of after-school programming on the community and youth.

During the afternoon event, children will participate in the Play Walk Ribbon Cutting, the Play Walk being a new downtown trail that connects the Strong National Museum of Play to Central Library and ROC the Riverway projects. The new space gives youth and families a place to play and have fun before traveling to the library.

The celebration will continue at the library with hands-on activities and demonstrations made by kids and volunteers to show what they’re learning at after-school experiences. GRASA will also join with the Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation, the Monroe County Youth Bureau, Rochester Museum & Science Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester to announce a six-month STEM education partnership, called Rochester Kids Engaging in Technology and Science (ROCKETS).

The initiative is designed to expose children to fields of study they can build a career on and build capacity for afterschool programs all over the city.

“Lights On Afterschool” is a nationwide celebration Oct. 24, expected to attract more than 300 youth and their families.

Finger Lakes Community College earns more federal support for science

Finger Lakes Community College will receive another $1.14 million from the National Science Foundation to support students learning about and pursuing careers in biotechnology.

The college previously received an NSF grant of $5.8 million for its role as home base for the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative. FLCC was tasked with developing and sharing its approach to teaching science through research.

In this new grant announced this week, FLCC is a participant in a project led by Austin Community College in Texas to develop a national network of biotech education projects.

“This latest grant is a testament to FLCC’s role as a national leader in the expansion of research opportunities for undergraduate students,” said FLCC President Robert Nye.

FLCC Professor James Hewlett, a Webster resident, launched the undergrad research initiative more than a decade ago, aiming to change how science is taught at community colleges. Research rather than planned lab exercises has proven to be more engaging to students and encourages them to go into science careers, studies have shown.

Professors from Texas and California participate in teacher training exercise in research at Finger Lakes Community College. Photo supplied.
Professors from Texas and California participate in teacher training exercise in research at Finger Lakes Community College. Photo supplied.

“If we’re teaching students to become scientists, we need to let them be scientists right from the start,” Hewlett said.

Last semester student Abigail Giddings of Walworth extracted DNA of freshwater sponges gathered across the northeastern U.S. to contribute to a database showing where each species was found. Sponge distribution can be an indicator of climate change and pollution.

“It made everything I had already learned about biology come to life,” Giddings said. She plans to go to medical school, where research will be more common. “It’s definitely more challenging than a lecture course, but I learned so much more at a deeper level.”

When FLCC started its research initiative with four other schools in 2006, about 3 percent of students went on to earn a four-year degree in science. Six years later, the rate was 13 percent. The network of participating schools has now grown to 42 institutions.

“I do think the research experience does deliver on multiple levels,” Hewlett said. “Research is inherently full of moments of failure which gives plenty of opportunity to leverage those results into opportunities to think critically and solve problems — skills highly valued by employers.”

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Avangrid donation makes day camps possible for city children

 A $10,000 grant from Avangrid Foundation, in partnership with Avangrid subsidiary Rochester Gas & Electric Corp., will pay to make some summer learning camps free at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

According to the RMSC, the grant will cover the cost of one week of Curiosity Camp for 50 children from the City of Rochester. The camps help prevent summer learning loss, an issue that plays a role in low graduation rates, such as those at many of the schools in the Rochester City School District.

Nearly 2,500 children attend camps at the museum each summer, focusing on activities such as robotics, dinosaurs, virtual reality, archaeology, animation, and space. The hands-on programs engage children ages 2 to 15 and help generate excitement in learning.

“We are thrilled to be investing in such a timely and important opportunity for young people,” said Nicole Licata Grant, director of Avangrid Foundation.  “It is exciting to be part of making a difference and contributing to the future of tomorrow’s young leaders and the workforce.”

Openings are still available for select RMSC summer Curiosity Camps, which run from June 24 to Aug. 23. Information and registration are available online or by calling (585) 697-1942.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275