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How a Lancaster County museum is helping students learn and providing relief to families during the pandemic

From on-site facilitated learning to STEM storytime: The North Museum in Lancaster is giving parents a break and helping students receive an in-person education.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — Some parents say virtual learning has taken a toll on their children's education. A Lancaster County museum is trying to address the learning gap created during the pandemic.

"We talk about all these different learning styles, and now we're condensing all these styles into virtual learning, which simply does not work for every student," said Andrea Rush, CEO of the North Museum in Lancaster.

Rush says virtual learning doesn't work for every family either.

"It's really a multi-generational problem: We have parents who need to go to work that now have no avenue for their children to be schooled," explained Rush.

Take the Cavallaro family and 7-year-old Luca for example.

"It was stressful trying to juggle him in school, us being at work, so it's been really nice to have him somewhere safe," said Melissa Cavallaro, a parent.

That safe place is the North Museum where on-site facilitated learning is happening with certified teachers every day now. The Museum created several programs to help students and families at the onset of the pandemic.

The North Museum of Nature and Science is opening its doors to children whose schools offer only half-day classes or are entirely virtual. Certified teachers and highly educated facilitators will facilitate student learning as children attend virtual classes provided by their own schools.

"On the off time, we're able to provide STEM education that maps up to next gen standards," explained Rush.

Students get to hang out with dinosaurs and take in the museum's planetarium.

"Like Luca, comes with his schedule for the day with his cyber learning, and when they have brain breaks, we call them, downtime, we have the awesome museum at our disposal so we can take them to the live animal museum, the planetarium," explained Andrew Garner, Director of Strategic Partnership. "We do a nature walk outside. Yesterday, they were doing catapults, and Christmas slime, so it's educational but also fun."

"We also have a terrific program called STEM tory time but doing so virtually," explained Scott Downs, the North Museum's Development Director.

"[Stem story time] It has now reached over 26,000 children within our community, and we find it's especially beneficial for grandparents who are remote right now, especially grandparents who may be living inside assisted living, who cannot connect with their grandchildren," added Rush. "They can watch this video and participate in activities together."

For the Cavallaros, it's the comfort knowing Luca is around people, socializing and learning, and doing so safely, while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

"They're safe," explained Cavallaro. "They're following all the guidelines. We feel very safe with him being there."

"I like that I can do my work, and basically what she said," said Luca.

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