January 20, 2000

Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum

54 S. Loudoun St.

Winchester, Va.

Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.

Admission: $3; free for members.

Information: 1-540-722-2020 or on the Web.

Sitting in a gigantic footprint certainly can make learning about the dinosaur who created it more interesting.

Standing in front of a mirror a foot taller than you and about three times wider helps bring the magnitude of Hubble telescope's viewing power into perspective.

cont. from lifestyle

It's easier to understand how telephones and computer hard

drives work if you can take them apart.


That's what interactive learning is all about.

And that kind of hands-on education is what Maryland Science Center in Baltimore and Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum in Winchester, Va., are all about.

Discovery Station, still in the conceptual stages, aims to bring that kind of multisensory education to Hagerstown.

"It's a lot of fun, and it's interactive," says Gwen Fariss Newman, director of media relations at Maryland Science Center.

"It's informal learning," says Jan Kirby, director of education and programming at Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. "People learn by really doing things."

It is in these interactive arenas that children's stored energy can go completely kinetic.

Kirby has seen children work up a sweat at the apple exhibit, at which they pull buckets of plastic apples up a ramp with a crank, pour them into a bin and send it down another ramp, then unload the prized fruits into a wheelbarrow and start all over again.

The 130,000-square-foot Baltimore center, which opened June 13, 1976, offers everything from low-tech exhibits featuring cranks and pulleys to an infrared camera that detects the heat energy radiating off people's bodies and other objects.

Some fun scientific facts

- Source: Maryland Science Center

The Winchester museum, measuring 4,500 square feet, lacks the "bells and whistles" of the Baltimore center, and that's just fine with Kirby.

On display at Discovery Museum are animals native to the Shenandoah Valley, including an Eastern kingsnake and a turtle. The one exception is a Burmese python that was donated to the museum.

If children prefer to be animals rather than look at them, they can dress up as bats, ladybugs, bears and butterflies.

Dino Digs, one of the exhibits at Maryland Science Center, is full of information about dinosaurs native to Maryland. Goggle-clad aspiring paleontologists can use a small scraper and brush in a dig pit to help uncover dinosaur bones buried under rock.

A recent addition to the Winchester museum is the paleontology area, where the remains of a triceratops - a dinosaur with three horns - are being pieced back together by students and teachers from Shenandoah University with the help of volunteers. The pieces were discovered in Montana.

Some of the walls of Maryland Science Museum's Outer Space Place feature photographs of Hurricane Andrew over the Gulf of Mexico in August 1992 and of Mount Everest in November 1994. These were taken by astronauts with hand-held cameras.

The walls of Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum are adorned with murals created by local artists of all ages.

Beverly Baccala, president of Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc., hopes the Hagerstown center will offer something between the high-tech, multimedia exhibits in Baltimore and the cozy creativity in Winchester.

At the proposed site in the Tusing Warehouse, there are hopes to display various construction methods by peeling back parts of the wall of the old warehouse and of the planned new expansion. There also are plans to create a working model of a canal and to install a brick inlay in the parking lot that will allow the building to function as a sundial.

"The most important thing was the education factor," Baccala says.

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