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These local organizations are helping families stay busy and learn while social distancing
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Rows of fiction books for sale pile up in the meeting room earlier this year at the Gainesville branch of the Hall County Library System. - photo by Nick Bowman

With many staying at home and schools closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, local organizations are stepping in to provide online programming to keep families learning.

Northeast Georgia History Center

Glen Kyle, executive director of the Northeast Georgia History Center, said even as the museum is closed to the public, the goal of teaching about history remains the same.

“History is what informs us about our past and informs us about who we are, and it can teach us how we can address problems that may not be at the forefront of our mind, but a lot of these things have happened in the past,” Kyle said. “So, history is important, and we want to make sure that people still have access to that.”

In 2016, the history center received funding from the Cottrell Foundation to build a digital studio to provide educational programming to all Georgia educators for free. Since then, the studio has brought programming to thousands of students and teachers.

Now, the technology is being used to provide educational content to people across the country. The first national livestream on Tuesday, March 17, included Libba Beaucham, the history center’s director of media and communications, portraying Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. The program was viewed by almost 400 people, including many Girl Scouts and their families. 

Other programs will include a virtual tour of the museum’s exhibits, a living history program on Civil War camps and character programs with historical figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. 

The programs will be available on the history center’s Facebook and YouTube pages. 

Hall County Library System

The Hall County Library System will be posting programs, including book talks and storytimes, on its Facebook page while the libraries are closed.

The library also offers several digital resources. Hoopla has ebooks, audiobooks, music, movies, TV shows and comics. Almost 15,000 ebooks and audiobooks for children in pre-K through fourth grade are available with eReadKids. EBSCO eBooks has ebooks for downloading, while RBdigital has a variety of content including audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, newspapers and comics.

Library Director Lisa MacKinney said even Hall County residents who do not have a library card can access these digital resources. Call 770-532-3311 or email libraryhelp@hallcountylibrary.org to sign up for a temporary digital card.

Interactive Neighborhood for Kids

The Interactive Neighborhood for Kids is posting daily “play prompts” on its Facebook page with ideas to help families learn through play. Ideas have included playing beauty shop and role playing other careers.

“We always think that kids learn best through play and that they process their emotions through that as well,” Mandy Volpe, executive director of INK, said. “So right now while they may be scared because they don’t know what’s going on, maybe they don’t understand why they’re not going to school or why they can’t see their friends. … We think it’s important to continually encourage the play by giving prompts to parents.”

People can also order toys from the INK gift shop over social media or the phone and come by for curbside pickup, Volpe said.

Volpe said parents can also incorporate learning into everyday life by having children help make dinner, for example.

“Take the stress off of yourself of thinking something has to be perfect and just have them just enjoy the moment,” she said.

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