Using Collections To Engage Students

Posted on June 20, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

What makes the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s educational activities unique? Having access to such a rich collection of material culture representing the history of Maryland Jews allows us to give students hands-on opportunities for learning. Thanks to the wonderful teamwork between members of our education and collections staff and their creative approach to educational programming, we are able to provide students and teachers with opportunities to encounter and engage with authentic primary materials – including our historic synagogues, oral history interviews, photographs, documents, and artifacts – that create memorable learning experiences and reach students across the spectrum of learning styles.

Students visiting the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

The following are samples of the innovative ways in which JMM collections are integrated into educational resources:

–Archival Exploration: Teachers interested in having students conduct research into our rich collections of primary sources can make arrangements for students to visit our library where they can examine an array of primary sources on specific topics. We have several thematic programs that can be pulled for classes including Jewish involvement in the Civil War (and local rabbinic responses to slavery), neighborhood history, Jewish and African-American relations (with stations set up for students to explore issues of discrimination, stereotyping, and the Civil Rights movement), early Jewish settlement in Maryland, and Maryland Jews involved in the establishment of Israel. Students work together as a group to explore the materials at their station using a worksheet as their guide.  They often wear archival gloves so that they can handle authentic documents and photographs. At the conclusion of the program, students share what they have learned with the rest of the class.

Students participating in an archival exploration program.

Some of the materials we are able to provide access to include such impressive documents as an original copy of the Jew Bill, the 1926 legislation that gave Maryland Jews full rights as citizens of the state;

Pages from the Jew Bill.

a newspaper from 1800 with ads from Jewish merchants (as well as reward notices for runaway slaves);

American and Daily Advertiser, 1800.

and a letter written from Henrietta Szold sharing her insightful impressions from an 1909 visit to Palestine.

Handwritten letter from Henrietta Szold written to Judge Mayer Sulzberger, 1995.206..

–History Kits: In an effort to offer resources that cover the full spectrum of Maryland Jewish history beyond what is covered through exhibition and synagogue tours, we have created educational resources on key themes such as early Jewish settlement in Maryland, immigration;

Students exploring Immigrant’s Trunk photos.

the experiences of German Jewish Refugees in Baltimore (based on a 2004 exhibition);

Jewish refugee Max Knisbacher who enlisted in the US Army, with the only two surviving members of his family in Paris in 1945.

contemporary Jewish life along Park Heights Avenue; and the contributions of Maryland Jews to the establishment of Israel. Each history kit is available for teacher use in the classroom or as part of an on-site field trip. Kits contain reproductions of primary sources, lesson plans, background information, and activities such as games

Game board for Are We There Yet? from our Paving Our Way history kit that explores the experience of early Jewish settlers in Maryland.

and art projects. In an effort to make these resources widely accessible, they are available at no charge and can be downloaded from the JMM website. (To access and download JMM educational resources, check out http:///www.jewishmuseummd.org/educational-programs)

–Living History Performances: one example of the innovative way in which the JMM delivers educational content is demonstrated through our living history characters that are part of our Immigrant’s Trunk resource kit. We added the living history component after we had developed trunks exploring the lives of two actual immigrants – Ida Rehr and Saul Bernstein – who settled in Baltimore in the early 20th century. Teachers have the option of scheduling a performance in conjunction with a trunk rental whereby an actor accompanies the trunk to their classroom. As part of the performance, actors unpack the trunk and use its contents – reproductions of photographs, documents, and artifacts from our collections – to illustrate dramatic moments from their life stories.

Katherine Lyons performing as Ida Rehr.

This is among our most popular educational activity and performances are scheduled frequently for diverse audiences, not just student groups.

For more information about JMM educational programs, contact Ilene Dackman-Alon, 410-732-6400 x214 / idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org. To schedule a school program or field trip, contact Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, 410-732-6400 x229 / erosemondhoerr@jewishmuseummd.org.

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