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JMM Insights: Letters from Lloyd Street

Posted on November 22nd, 2019 by

For this month’s edition of JMM Insights, it’s time to check into Talia’s imaginary mail bag to review some real answers to fake customers. 

Hi Lloyd Street,

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the new Scrap Yard exhibit that just opened. I’m thinking about visiting the exhibit, but I wanted to know- why is an exhibit on the scrap industry at the JMM?

~Scrappy Skeptic

Let me try to settle your doubts, Scrappy.

Our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is well worth a visit. At its core, the exhibit is about what we value and even more importantly who we value. Four years in the making, Scrap Yard combines a look at the fascinating and rarely seen process of “harvesting” the material world with the stories of the multi-generational families that made this transformation possible. In many cases the stories of the scrap industry in the US start with immigrants who needed to find work that didn’t require much money or formal education. By the 1930s, it was estimated that 90% of scrap dealers were   Jewish immigrants, who started as peddlers, and built up a prosperous and important industry. These entrepreneurs required ingenuity and perseverance to make a living from what other people had thrown away.

We’re excited to share these stories, some of them from local Maryland families, with you and all of our guests. We’re also thrilled that the exhibit is so dynamic, with film clips, drone footage, and interactives, that there is something for everyone in your family.

Scrap Yard is open now, until April 26, 2020.

~Lloyd Street

Hello Lloyd Street,

I went to last year’s Great Jewish Bake Off and I’m still dreaming about those bakes. I had such a good time and I’m looking forward to this year’s event. Do you have any info about what the bakers will be serving up this year?

~Hungry Hana

Hello Hungry,

You’ll be pleased to hear that this year, our Great Jewish Bake Off theme is cookies! From rugelach, Mandelbrot and kikel, to out-of-season hamantaschen and tayglach – cookies are treats enjoyed by Jews for centuries.  On December 15th, our “amateur” bakers will be bringing their best and most beautiful variations on the theme of holiday cookies to share with the crowd. Make sure you get your tickets early, so that you don’t miss out on any of the delicious treats!

If you’re interested in channeling your own passion for baking, we encourage you to sign up as a baker yourself. Click here for our baker’s sign up form!

~Lloyd Street

Dear Lloyd Street:

I always enjoy coming to your Museum, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new exhibit. I really like to take my time in your galleries, so that I can read everything, but last time I visited, the gallery was full of students. They seemed to be having a lot of fun, as they rushed around counting chickens and pressing down on the baler, but it made it hard for me to absorb the information. Why are there so many kids right now?

~Focused Ferdinand

Hi Focused,

It’s true, there has been an increase in the number of school groups visiting the Museum this fall. It’s all thanks to our amazing education staff and special funding, such as from the late Suzanne Cohen, which makes us more accessible for students and teachers to visit. Through this hard work and support, we’re reaching students who may be walking into a synagogue for the first time, and teaching them stories full of empathy and compassion. It’s no wonder that they’re excited when they visit, as they participate in dynamic educational programs.

When you visited you must have spotted one of these school visits. We offer many different education programs, that connect to themes of immigration, innovation, family, and history.  These programs take place in our historic synagogues, in our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit, and in our special exhibits which rotate over the year. Our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard, has also given us the opportunity to connect history and STEM, as we work with students from public, private, Jewish, and homeschools. All programs are facilitated by our excellent museum educators who help students meaningfully interact with the exhibits.

If you want to join in the fun, or you know a student who would enjoy hands-on, active learning, contact Paige Woodhouse at or (443) 873-5167. Teachers can request a visit using our online school visit form.

~Lloyd Street

Dear Lloyd Street:

I can’t believe it’s already November, and I’m thinking about the holidays coming up! I want to do something meaningful to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to figure out what to get everyone for Hanukkah! There’s so much to do, and not enough time to do it. Can you help me out?

~Stressed Shmuel

Hi Stressed,

We can support you in all your holiday needs, so no need to fret! First of all, have you checked out our Upstanders Initiative, in partnership with JVC? Jewish Volunteer Connection has always worked to connect folks to volunteer opportunities in their own neighborhood and they provide lots of levels of engagement. As part of our partnership, we’ve worked together to come up with five different opportunities relating to our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard, ranging from one-on-one tutoring, recycling old clothes, cleaning up green spaces, and more! We encourage you to take the stories from our Museum and turn them into action this holiday season.

As for Hanukkah shopping, you know we have that covered!

Our gift shop, Esther’s Place, always has beautiful Judaica, interesting books, and fun toys for kids to help you out. We even have new products that expand on our Scrap Yard exhibit’s themes of recycling. Plus, we’re participating in Museum Store Sunday on December 1st. Swing by the Museum anytime we’re open to check out all these goodies. Shopping at Esther’s Place isn’t just a great way to check off your gift list, it also helps support the Museum!

~Lloyd Street


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Stepping into the Scrap Cycle: An Elementary School Visit

Posted on November 21st, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

George Washington Elementary School’s 4th grade visited on November 6th, 2019.

When students from George Washington Elementary School were asked what they thought they might see in our Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling exhibit, they responded with examples of recyclable items, like plastic bottles and metal. They guessed that they might see a recycling plant or maybe people at work. One student shared that they might see old and worn out things that can’t be used anymore but could be made into something new.

While they listed ideas of what they might encounter, the class didn’t yet know that they would not just be seeing objects and people connected to the scrap industry; they would be actively exploring the scrap cycle.

Students working together to learn about their scrap family.

 Starting a Scrap Business

The scrap industry grew through the hard work of early 20th century immigrants. Collecting and selling scrap was an opportunity available to newcomers from Eastern and Southern Europe. Students were introduced to families that had their roots in the scrap industry. The class learned about how every member of the family had a role in the business. These family businesses would often be passed from the parents to their children.

Students trying their hand at the scrap industry.

 Collecting Scrap

In the 19th century, the only tool a scrap peddler needed was a sack to carry their haul. The weight of their sacks – filled with metal, glass, rag, or paper – mounted up fast. Scrap peddlers carried their sacks all day as they worked to make a living. Students participated in our “Pull up your Sacks” activity to see if they were as strong as a scrap peddler. As the scrap industry evolved, so did the method of transporting scrap.

At another activity, students learned about the pressure needed to create a bale of plastic bottles. Bales were compacted scrap that made transporting large quantities of scrap easier.

Taking Scrap Apart

Workers in the scrap industry had to be creative when figuring out how to take apart scrap for its parts. The value of a discarded object, like the motorcycle, is not in its wholeness but in all of its different parts. Standing around the motorcycle at the entrance of the exhibit, students identified steel, tires, and plastic as parts that make up the motorcycle.

Using a magnet to sort ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

 Sorting Scrap

Dwarfed by an enormous picture of a grappling claw next to a mountainous pile of scrap, the class looked closely at this image – the workers, the different materials, and the scale of the site – and considered how scrap yards sort their materials. Impressed by the giant machinery, one student suggested that massive magnets might do the job.

 Non-ferrous scrap, such as aluminum, copper, lead, or zinc, is metal that does not contain any iron. Ferrous scrap is metal and metal alloys that contain iron such as steel and cast iron. The iron content in ferrous materials makes it magnetic. This is an important characteristic for sorting scrap as magnets are used to sort ferrous from non-ferrous scrap. Students simulated this sorting on a much smaller scale than that seen in a modern scrap yard. They used handheld magnets to separate their mystery metals.

Using a scale to weight their scrap metal. 

 Weighing their Scrap

A scale might be the most important tool in any scrap yard. Scales are used to weigh materials and it is the material’s weight that determines its price. Once their materials had been sorted, the 4th-graders used small scales, like those used by scrap peddlers, to weigh their ferrous and non-ferrous metal.

Selling their Scrap

Students then sold their scrap materials to a company that would make something new from them, in this case, a car manufacturing company.  Using the weight of their ferrous and non-ferrous materials, students calculated the price of their scrap to determine their group’s profit. With their scrap sold to other companies, students shared products that could be made from recycled materials, including cars, plastic plates, water bottles, toys, and paper.

4th-graders from George Washington Elementary School did encounter examples of items that could be recycled in the Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling exhibit. They also saw historic photographs of what it was like to work in the scrap industry as well as drone footage of a modern scrap yard. They saw examples of people working in the scrap industry in a variety of roles. But students didn’t just see the history and technology behind the scrap industry, they stepped into the shoes of scrap workers and experienced it for themselves.

JMM designed this program for upper elementary students, you can read about the educational program tailored towards middle school students here.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Let’s Learn about “Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling”

Posted on November 11th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

“At first, I thought it was a dirty job that doesn’t pay much, but now I think it’s a good paying job that requires good business/economic skills.”

(7th grade student expressing how their view of the scrap industry has changed after seeing Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling)

23 students from Hamilton Elementary/Middle School gathered around a motorbike as we introduced them to scrap – junk, discarded material that has the potential to be recycled or reused. With JMM’s educators they considered what materials the motorbike could be scrapped for – its steel engine, plastic panels, alloy wheels, rubber tires. This was the beginning of their journey into the scrap industry.

Students start their experience of the Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling at a de-assembled motorbike.

During their visit, the 7th-graders stepped into the shoes of prominent immigrant families in the scrap business. They became the Schapiro Family, the Pinkert Family, the Hettleman Family, the Bannerman Family, and the Gershowitz Family, as they bought, processed, and sold scrap materials.

Buying and selling scrap came in the form of the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s very own original Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling Board Game. Students played in the role of the family they just learned about. Five games were conducted simultaneously with a student from each family at each board. Students represented their family and competed against the others for the different sources of scrap. Turn by turn, they made decisions about which scrap objects to purchase and which to skip – knowing that those objects might get scooped up by another family if they pass them by.

Representing their family business, students bought scrap objects for their copper, plastic, paper, and iron.

Considering what the scrapped object was made of was critical to their decision making and success. Purchasing a computer would provide plastic and copper, but no iron or paper when scrapped. Plastic bottles resulted in scrapped plastic, but no other materials. Purchasing an old train gave a family iron, paper, and copper, but no plastic.

Once students had spent all their money (or ran out of turns), family members came back together to pool their purchased objects and tally their resources. What was once a room full of loud exchanges, “I need more copper!” or “I have zero plastic!” became a room of hushed voices as families determined how much plastic, iron, paper, and copper their scrapped battleships, newspapers, or cell phones produced.

After a family added up their resources, they discussed what resources to sell and when.

With a scrapyard full of materials, the families were ready to hit the market and sell their materials for profit. Educators conducted this in two rounds, so students had to decide what to sell in round one and what to save for the next round where the value of their material changed based on supply and demand. A flurry of discussions took place as families decided what their best move was. “We should sell some, but not all, of the plastic [in round one].” “Maybe we sell iron first?”

After the families sold their scrap, they calculated their profit. Anticipation built as a student from each family announced their earnings:

Bannermans …. $81    Schapiros …. $49    Gershowitz …. $76    Pinkerts … $82 The Pinkerts cheered with excitement as they took the lead in profits. However, one more family was left to report. Hettlemans … $92! The room erupted in celebration as the Hettleman family was declared the winner of the day.

Throughout the game, JMM educators encouraged students to shift their understanding of scrap and consider treating trash as a resource. The 7th graders thought about the role that immigrant families played in establishing the scrap industry in America and how family businesses passed from generation to generation. The class learned first-hand the skills these entrepreneurial families needed to thrive in the industry. Students stated they thought business skills were important, along with knowledge of the market and material values, math skills, and good listening skills (to both the market and your family).

Students were asked to reflect on the question, “after going through Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, how has your view of the scrap industry changed?” Their responses showed their level of engagement with the program:

>My view has changed because now I understand that this job is a lot harder than it seems.

>It’s more serious than I thought. You have to listen to your employees, and you have to have good trust skills.

>It seems more complex than the simple scraping and selling most people describe it as

Students worked together as a team to represent a family in the scrap industry.

 The Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling exhibit goes beyond making cross-curricular connections to social studies, math, and science, by encouraging students to take action. We hope that students think of themselves as upstanders. An upstander is someone who sees a problem and works to solve it. After considering the history of the scrap industry, students made connections to the industry today and what their role in scrap recycling is. The 7thh graders shared one action that they could take at home or in school to encourage others to recycle or upcycle their scrap:

>Start a recycling and upcycling club

>Making posters telling people what to recycle

>One action I can take home or [to] school is using the recycling bin more.

>For starters, I, myself, can pick up recyclable items and encourage others to as well.

>Recycling plastic bottles, cardboard, and paper everything we don’t need them anymore

Thank you to Hamilton Elementary/Middle School for being the first class to visit our new special exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling and play our board game. Our education team is looking forward to exploring the scrap industry with more students and teachers. The exhibit is on display until April 24, 2020!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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