Transformation & Process: From Intern to Staff, From Scavenger Hunts to Archival Activities

Posted on April 28th, 2014 by

As winterns turn to spring interns, which will soon bring us to our summer interns, it seems an appropriate time for me to reflect upon my own summer internship at the JMM, nearly two years ago. Fresh from my college graduation, I arrived at the JMM, ready to learn about museum education and to immerse myself into a meaningful project. There’s truly no better feeling than to see a museum utilizing something you worked on, whether it’s seeing your name and parts of your research within an exhibition, or seeing a school group participate in an activity that you designed.

My internship project in the summer of 2012 (which already seems like a lifetime ago!) was to create an activity pack for teachers to use in their classrooms that would make use of our own collection to teach grade school students about immigration to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For ten weeks I researched the evolution of immigration and naturalization laws, brainstormed fun activities that would make the topic interesting and relevant to young children, and chose the objects from our collection that I thought best told the story of American immigration. At the end of the summer, I had a PDF that was 45 pages long (including scanned photos of the objects and an answers sheet) of which I was very proud, but I had the sinking feeling that the link to download it from our website was going to collect layers of cyber dust.

For a few months after my internship ended, and I began working here full-time, this was true. But then Ilene Dackman-Alon started discussing the idea of re-imagining the activities that we do with students in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. Many of our visiting school groups come year after year, and a few of the teachers were asking whether we had anything besides a scavenger hunt to do. In fact, we were getting a litte bored with the scavenger hunt format as well. This is not to say that most of the teachers disliked our scavenger hunt—in fact, many of them say in their field trip evaluations that they loved the scavenger hunt and why didn’t the other exhibits have them too? But it was clear to us that there was so much more that we could be doing with the Voices exhibit.

At the same time, Ilene had been thinking hard about different ways in which we could align ourselves with the Common Core Curriculum in the public schools. One theme that is stressed in the Common Core—and is a natural connection to the JMM—is the use of primary sources. Ilene asked me to adapt one of the classroom activities that I’d created so that it tied into the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. I chose one that asked students to use close observation skills to glean information about the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. from three different naturalization certificates (the piece of paper that you get when you become a citizen). To add a personal aspect to the lesson, we decided that the activity should be preceded by an educator guiding them quickly through the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit, and then asking the students to take a couple of minutes to write down a quotation from the exhibit to which they related or felt a close connection. After sharing these verbal primary sources with the class, the students are ready to look at documentary primary sources that will teach them about history, identity and citizenship, and maybe even a little bit about bureaucracy!

Leading an Immigration Archival Activity

Leading an Immigration Archival Activity

After a few guinea-pig classes (which showed me that I needed to re-order the questions so that the simplest ones were first), we now have an Immigration Archival Activity that we use either for groups  that are starting to use primary sources in their classroom projects, or are simply too old to appreciate scavenger hunts.

Deep in thought!

Deep in thought!

Ilene helps students decipher their documents

Ilene helps students decipher their documents

abby krolikA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Using Collections To Engage Students

Posted on June 20th, 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:///

–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 / To schedule a school program or field trip, contact Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, 410-732-6400 x229 /

Posted in jewish museum of maryland