WINCHESTER — Social distancing and school closures have caused many families to be confined at home during a very stressful time.

The Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum wants to help.

While the museum at 19 W. Cork St. is closed until at least mid-April due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, its staff is producing light-hearted yet educational videos with suggested activities for families to do together.

The content can be found at discoverymuseum.net.

“It’s a team effort,” Diane Schnoor, the museum’s associate director, said in a telephone interview Friday. “We’re having fun.”

Museum Executive Director Dawn Devine said she was involved in a similar online-learning initiative when she ran the Minnesota Children’s Museum in Rochester, Minnesota.

Just because the Discovery Museum is closed, Devine said, “Our mission still remains the same: We need to be there for families.”

The Discovery Museum promotes childhood education through play because, Devine said, “The easiest way to remember things is hands-on learning.”

Although the museum’s exhibits are currently hands-off, there are still lots of ways for children to broaden their horizons at home.

For example, Lead Museum Educator Jen Coleman created videos to teach kids about the beach, so she encouraged viewers to follow her lead and dress appropriately.

“What do you wear at the beach? Sandals, sunglasses and a bathing suit,” Coleman said. “We hide the learning in the play.”

For Schnoor’s lesson about dinosaurs, she was joined by a friend in a T. rex costume to explain what the giant reptiles ate and how big they grew.

Each video and activity also promotes motor skills, problem solving, creativity, imagination and family discussions.

“You can go through and pick which ones you want to do,” Devine said. “We’ve had a great response.”

Coleman said some families have responded by sharing videos of their own children taking part in the activities, which makes her smile because she misses interacting with kids at the museum.

All of the online videos and activities are free, and the only materials required are common household items that most parents already have on hand.

New videos and activities will be posted six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, until the Discovery Museum reopens.

“When people do return, we’ve got some wows,” Devine said.

That’s because some staff members, including Facilities Director Rick Mabe, are using the down time to give the museum a thorough cleaning and enhance many of its exhibits.

Meanwhile, Devine said, museum staffers are being encouraged to think outside of the box and come up with innovative ideas to promote education, movement and family togetherness.

“I set up an obstacle course in my backyard,” Coleman said with a chuckle about preparations for one of her upcoming videos.

The videos and activities are available at discoverymuseum.net and on the Discovery Museum’s Facebook page.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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