Another significant milestone in SciTech’s history was in 2013 when Arlene Hawks became the Executive Director. The East Aurora High School’s iconic theater teacher made outreach and education her goals in redefining the museum’s position as a regional destination. The staff was slowly expanded and the museum began to recover connections with past partners.
When Malamud began this venture, he was miles ahead of anyone else in the field because STEM or STEAM did not exist.
As the world caught up with the dream that Malamud had, SciTech Hands On Museum saw the niche market shrink. The SciTech Academy, after five years, saw enrollment drop. In a 2017 heartfelt decision, Hawks explained that SciTech was “no longer exclusive. The SciTech board decided it was best to leave the education part to major institutions…we want to put our resources into making the museum bigger and better.”
The forecast lifted in 2010, and by 2011 SciTech was expanding again. The outdoor science park was revitalized and reopened to guests. The gift shop was revamped, wireless Internet was introduced, and plans for a STEM-based preschool were discussed.
The SciTech Discovery Preschool was only the second preschool in the country with a STEM-based curriculum. Made possible through funding from a grant by the Dunham Foundation, the preschool was focused on children’s natural curiosity. “I have never met a pre-school age child who isn’t fascinated by science,” said Cheryl Newman, the preschool’s director.
The following year, SciTech Hands On Museum celebrated its 30-year anniversary. Dozens of new and improved exhibits were installed, including ComEd’s new “Smart Energy” exhibit and Molex’s fiber optics exhibit. Comprehensive plans were developed for re-imagining the entire museum. Community members and schools were interviewed for ideas. A master plan is in the works.
“We are at a breaking point,” said Director of Operations Camilla Coller. “Because the museum has become more financially secure over the last few years, it is time for us to take that next step to be a serious contender” as a destination place for children and families.