“I’m Going to Graceland”

Posted on December 25th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

Recently on Friday mornings, I find myself humming the Paul Simon tune, “Graceland.”

No, I am not thinking about Elvis Presley’s mansion in Memphis Tennessee, I am thinking of Graceland Park O’Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School, the newest school to the roster of other schools which is part of the JMM’s Museum /School Partnership program with Baltimore City Public Schools.

Graceland Park O’Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School is in East Baltimore near the Interstate 95/895 exit for the Harbor Tunnel.  The school is directly across the street from Temple Oheb Shalom Cemetery where Henrietta Szold’s parents, Rabbi Benjamin and Sophie Szold, are buried.    Built in 1950, Graceland Park O’Donnell Heights Elementary/Middle school is slated to be torn down in the coming year to make room for a new school building that is currently under construction right next to the existing school building.

There are two existing elementary middle schools in the neighborhood, Graceland Park O’Donnell Heights Middle School and Holabird Elementary Middle School that are located within 3 blocks of one another.

Both schools will be replaced with Baltimore City’s Public Schools first two “Zero-Energy” schools which will highlight future-focused and sustainable learning environments.  Each of the schools has similar academic programs but they will be organized into flexible grade group clusters that will feature shared, collaborative learning spaces and environments to accommodate different student learning styles.

Realizing the importance of giving both schools their own character, each school building will have a distinct exterior palette reflecting their school community. Each school will be equipped with student gardens, outdoor classrooms, rooftop solar labs, and vegetative roofs that further push innovation while intertwining sustainable concepts in education – staying true to their mission to nurture, engage, and empower the whole child for life-long excellence.

New School Building – Anticipated Completion 2020; Grimm & Parker Architects

The JMM is excited to include Graceland Park O’Donnell Heights to our roster of partner schools this year.  We are working with 7th grade teacher Amy Rosenkranz and her seventh graders in an education project, Graceland Park: PROJECTED where students will create their own stories of their communities and families.   This project is very similar to the pilot project, Morrell Park: PROJECTED that we did last year with 8th grade students from Morrell Park Elementary Middle School.

Once again, the project is led by young adult author, Jonathon Scott Fuqua and area graduate students who have been going to the classroom to meet with the students to discuss stories and the element of telling a story.  The students have been listening and watching different kinds of stories, from interviews and short films to understand how stories are developed. The goal of the project is that the students will tell their own personal stories using video footage from their smart phones. The students will learn editing applications for the phone and will premiere their films later in spring 2019.

Jonathon “Scott” Fuqua with 7th graders.

One of the components of the museum/school partnership is that the students get to visit the JMM.   Last week, the 7th graders visited the JMM and had a fantastic time visiting the historic synagogues and discovering the fun inside the Harry Houdini exhibit.

What does it feel like inside a milkcan?

Graceland Park 7th graders visit the JMM!

The administration at Graceland Park has been wonderful to work and one of the great benefits of establishing museum school partnership schools is that there is a shared learning between the students and teachers and the JMM’s education team throughout the year instead of the one-time museum field trip experience.  What make this project even more exciting is that these 7th graders will take their newly acquired knowledge and skills with them as 8th graders next year.  The school’s administration is hopeful that these students will become the stewards for Graceland Park O’Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School as they document, film and tell the story of the closing of the existing school building to the opening of the brand-new school facility.

The JMM is looking forward to working with the budding filmmakers and storytellers of the Graceland Park O’Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School community!

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