Creativity in Museums: A Rewarding Workshop

Posted on March 23rd, 2015 by

On March 10, 2015, two museum educators and a visitor services coordinator ventured to Edgewater, Maryland for a workshop called “Creativity in Museums.”  This rewarding and inspiring workshop was hosted at the Historic Londontown and Gardens. Linda Norris presented this workshop based on her new book, Creativity in Museum Practice.  We discussed the importance of looking outside your work for inspiration either in a physical setting, the media, or professionals from different museums.  To get the creative juices flowing we did a brainstorming activity.  We started with a problem and wrote down a solution on a piece of paper.  Then the paper was passed to the person next to you.  This activity allowed for all voices to be heard, but also challenging because it made you think outside the box.

 Tenement House

Tenement House

Failure is inevitable in life and often occurs in the workplace.  This can be damaging to our psyche and our creative process, but is necessary.  In a small group we discussed an instance in our careers where we had failed and had to choose the best story.  Linda called this activity “Failure Olympics.”  The importance of failure is how we overcome and learn from it.  We cannot assume what our audience will like or feel about a program or an exhibition, but gathering and testing out ideas will hopefully allow us to create something interesting and meaningful.

Participants of the Failure Olympics.

Participants of the Failure Olympics.

Historic London Town and Gardens was the next subject of an activity called SCAMPER.  Each letter represented a word such as Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Other Uses, Eliminate and Rearrange or Reverse.  We explored the campus answering various questions for each word at different locations.  It was not the best activity for March as the ground was wet and soggy from the snow and rain, but it was not an overall failure.  SCAMPER helped us to re-imagine and re-purpose the space being used while learning about this history of this organization.  “Creativity in Museums” permitted us to bring fresh and creative ideas back to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  We hope to apply these practices to future exhibitions and programs.

 William Brown House

William Brown House

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A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way……

Posted on March 11th, 2015 by

Okay, I am the first one to tell you that the winter weather has put a damper on the daily happenings at the JMM.  Over the past few weeks, field trips, outreach programs and professional development workshops for teachers were all cancelled due to school closings, icy conditions and frigid temperatures.  However, there was a “ray of sunshine” that happened last week that will keep us warm until spring comes in a few weeks.

A little ray of sunshine...

A little ray of sunshine…

Last Tuesday morning at 9:30a.m., I received a phone call from the President of Mercy High School, a Catholic school located in Baltimore City.  The faculty and 11th graders were planning a field trip that morning to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC but decided against it due to the weather forecast. They were wondering if they could bring 84 students along with the teachers and chaperones to the Jewish Museum of Maryland instead.

Museum Educator Carolyn Bevans works with students.

Museum Educator Carolyn Bevans works with students.

My first reaction-OMG!  My second reaction – I went into command mode.  I asked the teachers what the students were learning about with regard to Holocaust studies.  I spoke to the JMM’s education staff and volunteers about the possibility of hosting such a large group and the logistics behind hosting the group.  We were all in agreement to “go for it” and within the hour we welcomed Mercy  High School to the JMM!

Lives Lost: Lives Found- Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1939-1945 photo activity.

Lives Lost: Lives Found- Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1939-1945 photo activity.

We divided the group into two sections. One group visited the Lloyd Street Synagogue and learned about the history of the building and the different immigrant groups that used the building, which was used as a Catholic Church at the beginning of the 20th century.  The students also learned about Jewish rituals and customs that take place inside the synagogue.  The other group stayed inside the Museum and watched a short movie about the JMM’s exhibition, Lives Lost: Lives Found- Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1939-1945. Following the movie, the students looked at images that were depicted in the exhibition and used critical thinking skills to find meaning in the posters.  After an hour, the groups flip-flopped so that everyone had an opportunity to participate in both activities.

Visiting the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Visiting the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

The education staff was pleased with the decision to host the group, especially in this instance when the bad weather was to our advantage.  With all school groups, we give the teacher an evaluation form to fill out about the education experience.   I received the evaluation form back from the teachers but I also received this lovely email… along with lovely posies……  A little kindness  really does go a long way….

IMG_20150307_120933901Dear Ilene,

Many thanks for the warm welcome you extended to our 84 Mercy High School juniors, faculty and parents today!  I am deeply grateful to you and your staff and volunteers for offering a wonderfully enriching experience to our students with less than an hour’s notice!  I learned today that most, if not all, of the students visiting the museum had never been inside a synagogue.  What a gift you gave to them!

I hope that this is the beginning of a new partnership for Mercy High School with the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  In the meantime, if we can be of service to you, please do not hesitate to call upon us.

Best regards,

Mary Beth Lemmon ‘85

President, Mercy High School

 

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




National History Day and the JMM Judge

Posted on February 19th, 2015 by

NHD logoFor the second consecutive year, the JMM education department was invited to participate as judges at various school-level competitions for National History Day. For those of you who don’t know, National History Day (NHD) is a lot like a science fair, but for history. According to its website over half a million elementary and middle school students participate in the competition each year. Students can work by themselves or in small groups to research an historic topic that fits each year’s theme. They can then present that topic in a number of ways: an exhibit (the classic trifold), a poster, a website, or even a theatrical/dance presentation. A winner is chosen from each participating school, who then goes onto regional competitions, and then finally, the national competition, which is held each year at University of Maryland’s College Park campus.

The contest encourages students to develop not just research skills, but also critical thinking and presentation skills. I think it’s a wonderful idea for getting kids excited about history—since they get to choose their own topics—and to practice or be introduced to these crucial skills that are often skimmed over in schools that are strapped for resources and time.

Similar to last year, JMM was invited to judge at several of our partner schools, including Morrell Park and Mount Washington Middle. We are truly honored that these schools consider us to be such an important part of their communities!

Last year, Ilene Dackman-Alon and I both participated as judges in the Mount Washington Middle School contest, but this year, Morrell Park’s conflicted with it, so we divided to conquer. She went to Morrell Park, and I went to Mount Washington.

Being a veteran judge was helpful this time around. I remembered that I’d run out of space to write my notes last year, and so I made sure to have some spare paper to write on. The teachers at Mount Washington also found their experiences from last year to be helpful because they announced some organizational changes this year that definitely helped make things go a bit smoother. For example, this year, instead of being assigned to judge several different types of presentations in different rooms, my team of three judges was assigned to judge only exhibitions which were all housed in the gym.

Theme Book CoverIt was clear that the school had made an effort to reach out to all kinds of community partners for the event, which was great to see. Just in my little team, we had an educator from the Maryland Historical Society as well as the Director of Programs at the Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL).

As always, I had a great time seeing what these students could accomplish! The year’s theme was “Leadership & Legacy”, and there were even a few students who decided to be very creative with that theme. One in particular stood out because the group decided to research McDonald’s as an example of bad leadership and legacy! Their project detailed how McDonald’s was a leader in the fast food industry by peddling cheap and very unhealthy food, which in turn was affecting the national childhood obesity rate. I was impressed with their ability to look at varied sources and to create a supportable, but still interesting, argument.

Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in my duties as a judge (it’s not easy!) that I completely neglected to take pictures!

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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