Celebrating Students, Finding Their Stories

Posted on March 16, 2018 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes to us from Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Learning and Visitor Experience.

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are storytellers.

It’s one of the things we do best. Whether the stories of the “old neighborhood, Jonestown,” the voices of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, or one of the thousands of stories of individual Jewish Marylanders, we use story to connect our visitors and audiences to others and themselves. We also help others tell stories. We’re especially interested in helping students and families living in their own communities find and tell their stories. To make that happen, we have been developing partnerships with area schools for years.

Why do we do what we do? How does telling our stories benefit future generations?

Research has shown children who know more about their families display more confidence and are more resilient. Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist of Emory University, has conducted research that shows family stories are a critical part of adolescents’ emerging identity and well-being. Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world.  Research shows children who know their family and community stories have a strong “intergenerational self;” they know that they belong to something bigger than themselves.

In other words, stories connect the past and present to the future.

The month of March is extremely exciting for JMM storytelling. The JMM’s Education department is working on two programs in partnership with area schools and institutions: My Family Story and Morrell Park: PROJECTED. Each helps students develop their own family narrative, through a different medium. Through these partnerships, the JMM has been able to reach to a wider audience. We are a valuable education partner and resource to the larger community. Keep reading for more on both of them.


Earlier this year, area students from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Beth Israel Congregation and Bolton Street Synagogue embarked on an exploration of their own heritage with a project that goes beyond the usual family tree.

Through rigorous research and inspiring creativity, these students have produced beautiful art pieces illustrating their personal exploration into their family roots, and connections to the greater story of the Jewish People.  On March 8th, we held a special opening for My Family Story, celebrating this education initiative in partnership with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Thousands of other students from around the world are also on their own My Family Story explorations, with the best projects from each school to be entered in Beit Hatfutsot’s international competition later in June.

Over the past months, I have had the opportunity to visit students in their classrooms as they created art to represent their family stories. I loved seeing them point out specific elements to illustrate the research they have done. Their faces shone as they shared their family stories.

I invite you to come celebrate with us the creativity, hard work, and beauty represented in these student-created works of art. The My Family Story exhibition will be on display through March 25th. My Family Story here at the Museum is generously supported by the Ronnie and Alli Russel Charitable Foundation.


Baltimore City Public Schools

In addition to our partnerships with religious schools and day schools, JMM has strong partnerships with five area Baltimore City Public Schools, where we provide a more customized and intensive educational enrichment for students and teachers.

All these programs are offered at no charge to  our partner schools, thanks in part to generous education program donors like the Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation, the Maryland State Department of Education, Larry Boltansky, and many of our Museum members.

Through our partnerships, we help students become active learners for the 21st century. As a museum, one of our most critical roles is in helping students build 21st-century skills in the areas of information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.


Over the fall semester, JMM staff, with the guidance of J. Scott Fuqua (an award-winning young adult author), and Johns Hopkins University film students, have been working with the 8th grade students at Morrell Park Elementary/Middle school on a new, innovative program. Morrell Park: PROJECTED is a year-long storytelling initiative that has helped students gain insight into their personal family stories. Students learned storytelling and interviewing techniques, gaining the skills to interview family and community members. They used what they learned to tell their own stories, creating short film clips using their smartphones. The resulting films will be screened for the public as a way of celebrating the diversity, culture and roots of the Morrell Park community. Morrell Park: PROJECTED is supported by an Excellence Grant from Wells Fargo.

This project has been a transformative experience for many students.In the beginning, many students expressed a hesitancy to speak to their parents. Just a few months later, some of those same students shared that this project has enabled them to talk to family members in ways that they never had before. All of the participating students expressed an appreciation for the family members that shared personal stories of their past. The students are also rightly proud of the short films they have created, of their own learning, and of mastering a new skill on their smartphones.

You can listen to more about Morrell Park: PROJECTED over at WYPR’s “On The Record” here.

I hope you will join us on March 22 at 7:00 p.m., as these eighth graders from Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School walk the red carpet at the Jewish Museum of Maryland to celebrate the premiere of the autobiographical films they’ve created. This premiere is the first component in a two-part series, and we look forward to sharing news of the second part with you in the future.

We hope that you will visit JMM during the month of March to celebrate area students as they share their family and community stories!

 

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