Last week, the JMM held its 11th Annual Summer Teachers Institute (STI) in partnership with the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Maryland State Department of Education. STI is a professional development opportunity for teachers in the area of Holocaust Education. The goal of the program is to give educators the opportunity to meet with scholars and experts who are in the trenches of teaching best practices of Holocaust education. The topic of the Holocaust is so vast, and over the years we have touched on topics of Persecution to Liberation, Rescue and Resistance and Propaganda. This year’s topic was Art and Remembrance-and teachers learned how the Arts were such an integral part of how many survived through the dark period of WWII and the reign of the Nazis.
Summer Teachers Institute 2016
We had phenomenal presenters this year at STI. Our last day of the seminar included a presentation by Bernice Steinhardt, Executive Director of Art and Remembrance, who spoke about the beautiful tapestries made by her mother Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. We heard testimony from Mrs. Golda Kalib and we had master teachers in area schools share lessons on the Holocaust they use in their own classrooms.
My favorite presentation on Wednesday was from Gail Prensky and Sarah Baumgarten, and The Jüdische Kulturbund Project. From 1933-1941, the Jewish Kulturbund (Jüdischer Kulturbund), consisting of thousands of members at its peak, performed in 42 theatres across Germany. When the Kulturbund closed, some members emigrated or went into hiding; most were sent to the camps. This is a little-known story of the power of music, resiliency of the human spirit, and will to survive. The Jüdische Kulturbund Project work with educators and music specialists to produce materials and engaging experiences for the classroom.
Gail and Sarah facilitated a very engaging session for teachers. The mood and scene that these educators set for teachers was tremendous. For more than 30 minutes, the JMM sounded like a classroom of students, engaged and having fun exploring their environment. The intention of the program was to explore issues resulting from the choice artists make everyday living under oppression. The goals of the program was to encourage discussion amongst the teachers about social and cultural history, theatre, and music- and encouraging educators to think of how the story the Jüdische Kulturbund is relevant today.
Following the session, Gail shared the video that she took of the teachers having a terrific time engaged in learning. Enjoy.
A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.
One of my favorite learning activities at this year’s Summer Teachers Institute was experiencing a lesson on the Jüdischer Kulturbund. After visiting the Holocaust Museum yesterday, I had learned a little about the Jewish cultural renewal that occurred in Germany in the face of discriminatory laws, and I was left wanting to know more. In perfect serendipity, one of today’s workshops was on exactly that. When all of Germany’s Jewish artists and performers were fired from their jobs, the Jüdischer Kulturbund formed to allow Jewish artists to continue creating, albeit within tighter restraints. We went through a practice lesson, which was designed to show kids how people use art as a form of resistance, and allow them to creatively engage in this idea. We were split up into groups, and tasked to create four pieces of art, each one with an added restriction. In order, they were: You cannot use the color red, you cannot use writing utensils, you cannot use construction paper, and you cannot portray the American flag, but you must represent the spirit of it. The activity was fun, and the wrap up questions afterward were also helpful in making the lesson more meaningful.
During my second semester at college, I taught a twice-a-week class about democracy and grassroots civic projects to middle schoolers, and lesson planning was definitely one of the most difficult parts. On the one hand, you want the students to get your Big Idea and really understand it, but on the other hand, they have to find it interesting and fun. An activity like the Jüdischer Kulturbund one I expereinced today would be the perfect blend of fun and thoughtprovoking. I could definitely see this being adapted to fit my classroom next year, and am encouraged by seeing the Maryland teachers here today share these innovative lesson plans and ideas.
Day One at Beth El Congregation
The biggest lesson I took from the Summer Teachers Institute program was the difficulty of planning Holocaust education. When dealing with such difficult and distressing subject material, it’s very difficult to stay responsive. My natural tendency when confronted with information about the holocaust is to shut down; I feel that there is so much about the holocaust ingrained in the modern Jewish sub-consciousness that I already know all the raw facts. Rather than just presenting information, the goal of holocaust education should be to illuminate the warning signs of impending tyranny and oppression, and to avoid the mistakes of the past, rather than the revel in the suffering of the past.
Holocaust survivor Goldie Szachter Kalib
During the Summer Teachers Institute, I was able to hear Holocaust survivor Goldie Szachter Kalib’s testimony about her experiences in Poland and Auschwitz as a young girl. Her powerful account demonstrated the lengths to which she and the adults around her went to keep her safe in the face of relentless Nazi cruelty. She so effectively conjured up the image of her as a Jewish child separated from her family in Nazi-occupied Poland; I will never forget her story. Hearing Mrs. Kalib speak emphasized to me that the victims and survivors of the Holocaust are all people with meaningful life stories, not just figures in photos or statistics in books.
Deborah Batiste presenting on “Echoes & Reflections”
The most mesmerizing part of STI was the combination of stories from the past and how they are being understood today. When we worked together in groups it helped me to understand what it means to be part of a community that does whatever they can to stand in solidarity. It emphasized what it truly means to be a person associated with a history people who have overcome tragedy through finding joy wherever they could. This circles back to the importance of supporting your community so that strength is built up in all the members of that community.
The Real Monuments Men
For the summer Teachers Institute program I was able to attend two days of the program, the Beth El hosted day and the JMM hosted Wednesday event. I was captivated by the events as they focused on the arts both during and after the Holocaust. I was particularly interested in the sections centering around the cinematography of the Holocaust as it happened and the fiction and non-fiction films/documentaries that emerged years after. I am interested in video and film myself so it was really interesting to learn about the effects of this cinema in the Jewish community.
For instance, I learned a majority of concentration camp footage was from Nazi propaganda, additionally allies used video footage of the camps for propaganda as well. I was also surprised to learn that the making of Holocaust themed movies has been a fairly recent endeavor. Movies I always assumed had some degree of accuracy were also debunked as well others I thought less of such as Uprising had hidden detail I wouldn’t have known about. I was also really interested to learn of one speaker’s story detailing the exploits of her father. He was one of the monetary men serving in WW2 to track hidden Nazi money and stolen art works. Her story about how she uncovered the classified documents in storage and rooted through them until she discovered the character playing George Clooney in the film Monuments Men was in fact her father. Overall it was a very interesting experience that I learned a lot from.
-O. Cade Simon
JMM Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon welcomes participants at the opening of our 2016 Summer Teachers Institute.
This week the JMM hosted the 2016 Summer Teachers’ Institute about Holocaust education. The theme this year was Holocaust Remembrance through the Arts. I attended both the first session at Beth El Synagogue and the third session at the JMM, unfortunately missing the visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. It was, above all else, a singularly moving experience to see so many teachers brought together for the purpose of learning how to better pass on the history and the story of the Holocaust in ways that students can understand and deal with meaningfully. It was also heartbreaking to hear and see so many stories of loss and grief, and knowing that even for those who survived they could never forget. Even though I don’t plan to go into education, I’ve already made plans to follow up on some of the material I learned about in these sessions and I’ll remember this week for the rest of my life.
“Skokie” and “The Wave”
During the summer teacher’s institute there was a lot of information to process. I found the section about Holocaust films especially interesting. I went to a living historian workshop during the spring and they also talked about the value of using film and T.V. to start a dialogue about history. It got me wondering about other films that could be used to tell the story of the Holocaust that might not be Holocaust films, such as “Skokie” which is good at continuing the story and showing that Nazi ideology did not die with the end of WW II, or “The Wave” which looks at a high school history experiment gone wrong to try and show students how the Nazis were able to rise to power. I feel these films would help to contextualize the Holocaust and show how its effects continued past the fact.
Spoken Work Haikus
Participants in “Music and Art: Exploring Responses to Oppression”
I’m not a teacher, and likely won’t become one, but that didn’t matter. The Summer Teachers Institute, especially the third day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, was a very enjoyable experience. My favorite part was with Gail Prensky and Sarah Baumgarten during their presentation “Music and Art: Exploring Responses to Oppression.” When I first heard about its interactive nature, I admittedly felt apprehensive. I was tired and wanted another presentation like the first, where I could sit back and enjoy. The thing is, the moment we split up into groups to begin projects, I didn’t feel tired anymore. The presenter split us into groups of five and gave us the choice of either a visual art or musical project with specific restrictions. My group contained two other interns and two younger teachers, and we decided to do the musical challenge of writing a love song without the word love. We bounced around all kinds of ideas, the interns easily joking around with the teachers. Eventually, we settled on writing haikus about the love for humanity. Because this took us so long to decide on, as we were busy jotting down synonyms to love and deciding whether we wanted this to focus on a gentlemen longing for a maiden, or a maiden longing for a gentlemen (I was outnumbered), or whether it should follow the “traditional” haiku format with allusions to nature, we were still scribbling down stanzas while watching all the other groups present (everyone was amazing). Finally, I stood up to recite the spoken word poems, with the guys standing behind me and snapping for the musical element. One of the interns encouraged everyone to snap, and soon the whole room was snapping and grinning. I won’t remember the exact words of the other presenters, no matter how engaging. This experience, however, is something I doubt I’ll forget for a long time.
Josh Headley on incorporating graphic novels into Holocaust education.
The Summer Teacher’s Institute took place on August 1st-3rd, the final day hosted by the Jewish Museum of Maryland and was most interesting for me. As an aspiring social studies teacher, the programming and speakers at STI discussed a plethora of topics that I am interested in. My favorite speaker was Josh Headley, the head of the social studies department at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.
Josh did an excellent job explaining how he has incorporated graphic novels into holocaust education. He went on to explain that by sparking his students’ interest in certain topics, he managed to inspire them to research other subjects that mattered to them. This very simple notion is often overlooked by the public school system and leads to disengaged students. Sir Ken Robinson, a renowned international educator, has said “If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance, very often. Children are natural learners.” Josh is exemplifying this concept by giving his students the tools that are necessary to further their education on their own.
The speakers and programs at STI were all beneficial to me and I look forward to using the abilities I gained as a teacher in the near future.
As a young adult, I find myself on the flipside of many events from my childhood and teenage years. When I began attending my family’s congregation in fifth grade, I fidgeted through the children’s services and, admittedly, antagonized the teen leaders with my friends. We grumbled when instructed to stand, acted too cool to play the games, and introduced ourselves with incorrect names. Of course, only a few years later, I began working as a teen leader myself …and dealt with all the younger kids intent on troublemaking for the next five years.
Now, as an education and programs intern, I’m on yet another flipside: assisting with school and camp group tours and activities. On my first day as an intern, Trillion told us to arrive early the next day to help with a school group. Since that day, we’ve worked with seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade, and K-second grade groups. While I first felt most comfortable walking with others and monitoring behavior, I just experienced the best tour yet leading the students myself. While I’ve learned to feel more comfortable with this responsibility, I’ve also learned a few other facts along the way. By combining memories of my own school trips along with my time as one I’ve the leaders, I’ve realized three things.
Exercise activity before seeing the “Beyond Chicken Soup” exhibit!
First, that quiet, seemingly disengaged kid in the corner? He or she may just need someone to personally engage with them. I know this both from my own experience as the quiet kid and from my favorite moment with a school group. We all sat in the exhibit beneath Lloyd Street Synagogue, while the instructor gave a mini-Hebrew lesson. After learning a few words, the leader told the students to turn to each other, shake hands, and say “Shabbat Shalom.” After a few seconds of awkwardness, most kids got into it, shaking hands wildly up and down while giggling “Shabbat Shalom!” One kid, however, sat further away from the others, a slight frown on his face. I went up to him and stuck out my hand for a handshake. Right away, his face split into the biggest smile and his eyes lit up, taking my hand and giving me a very professional handshake. “Shabbat Shalom,” I grinned, and he giggled it right back.
The box of goodies that turns into an archeology game.
Second, both the students and the adult leaders compromise for each other. I know from being a student that sometimes, even if you enjoy the trip’s topic or location, you’re just not in the mood on that particular day. Yet, you still sit (relatively) still, try to listen, and participate when possible. At the same time, the leaders listen to the needs of the students more than I realized. Twice now, we’ve changed the original plan based on the needs of the students, whether cutting out an activity or changing the timing of lunch when students complained of hunger. It makes me wonder what compromises my own teachers and student leaders enacted when I took these fieldtrips.
Finally, a large group of kindergarten, first, and second graders listens and plays along far better than a medium sized group of ninth graders. Whether it’s the different degrees of fear, respect, and excitement, or simply the difference in height (even many seventh graders towered over me), I would take the group of younger children any day.
All in all, these school and camp tours remain my favorite part of this internship. I love improvising to cater the exhibits to each group, seeing the students interact with each other, and hearing their guesses to my questions. Museums are for the public, so I consider it special that the education and program interns have the chance to see it engage with our museum first hand.
Blog post by Education & Programs Intern Anna Balfanz.To read more posts by and about interns clickHERE.