The Immigrant’s Trunk Goes to Preschool

Posted on February 11th, 2015 by

Exploring the Immigrant's Trunk.

Exploring the Immigrant’s Trunk.

A few months ago, Bet Yeladim, a preschool in Howard County inquired about the Museum’s preschool educational offerings.  We quickly scheduled an outreach program  for late January –and the education staff got busy making sure that the Immigrant’s Trunk for Preschool was in tip-top shape and ready for 50 preschoolers.

The JMM received funding from the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Education Fund to create a preschool program in connection with our very popular Immigrant’s Trunk program.  The Immigrant’s Trunk program was created for elementary and middle school students to help them make concrete connections to historical immigration.  An interactive trunk filled with photo reproductions, artifacts and a curriculum give teachers the tools to teach about immigration in the classroom.

Piecing together a photo puzzle.

Piecing together a photo puzzle.

In order for the Immigrant’s Trunk to be developmentally appropriate for 3-5 year olds or preschoolers,  we created a trunk filled with interactives that included sewing cards, memory games, threading spools, and reproductions of  period clothing.  These hands-on materials  are intended to help younger ones understand the story of brave  Ida (a Ukrainian immigrant who arrived in Baltimore in 1913) and her journey across the ocean, so that she could meet her older sister Minnie who lived in Baltimore (The Golden Land).

Playing a matching game using objects from the trunk.

Playing a matching game using objects from the trunk.

As soon as we entered the classrooms the preschoolers were immediately curious about the trunk and its contents.  We explained that we worked at a history museum and immediately the children thought we worked at a museum that told stories about dinosaurs. We explained that we were going to tell a story about a brave young girl who travelled on a boat and that the trunk was filled with items that the young girl took with her on the trip.  We asked the children to brainstorm some things that they would bring with them on a long trip.  These children would be well –prepared.  Their answers included medicine, towels, food, and toys.

The children listened intently to the tale of young Ida travelling all by herself to meet her big sister.  They learned how Ida dragged her trunk with her up the plank of the ship and how she had to sleep in bunks in the “belly” of the ship, and the only thing she had to eat was watery soup and boiled potatoes.

Getting the wiggles out!

Getting the wiggles out!

The children demonstrated empathy when they learned that Ida’s tummy felt sick on the boat during the storms crossing the ocean.  They children were excited as they heard how Ida sailed on the ship up the Patapsco River and saw the American flag waving at Fort McHenry, and they were excited that she would be reunited with her older sister, Minnie.   The students learned how Ida made a life for herself in Baltimore- she went to school, worked as a seamstress and eventually married Daniel Rehr.  The trunk filled with inter-actives, photo reproductions and artifacts, along with storytelling and songs, helped to reinforce the children’s understanding of Ida’s heroic journey across the ocean to Baltimore and her new life she made for herself in Baltimore.

It's a hands-on learning experience!

It’s a hands-on learning experience!

To learn more about the JMM’s Immigrant’s Trunk for Preschool, and other education materials and resources on immigration, and field trip opportunities for students in grades (PreK through 12), please contact the JMM’s Education Director, Ilene Dackman-Alon at 410.732.6400×214; or idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org

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

 

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Lives Lost, Lives Found

Posted on November 16th, 2012 by

A blog post by assistant director Deborah Cardin.

On Wednesday, I traveled to Patterson Mill Middle School in Harford County to facilitate educational activities for 100+ 6th graders over the course of the day. The activity that the teacher selected was our Lives Lost, Lives Found photography exploration unit that was developed several years ago when we had an exhibit of the same name on display. The exhibit explored the experiences of the 3,000 German Jewish refugees who found safe haven in Baltimore in the 1930s and 40s. The exhibit provided wonderful educational opportunities to teach students of all backgrounds about the Holocaust from a different perspective, using first-hand testimony and artifacts from individuals who left Germany during an intense period of upheaval and discrimination.

 

Personal belongings of Herta Baitch who left Austria for Baltimore in the 1930s as an unaccompanied child participating in the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society’s rescue of Jewish children.

In addition to examining conditions in Germany that led to the large-scale migration of Jews and the difficulty that Jews encountered in their attempts to leave, the exhibit also explored the challenges that the refugees faced in adapting to life in their new homeland.

Because the exhibit afforded us the opportunity to create a stand-alone curriculum incorporating photographs on display, we have been able to continue facilitating Holocaust-related school programs. Students examine poster sized reproductions of the photographs in groups, answer questions about the photo that encourage them to use critical thinking and teamwork skills, and present their findings to the class. As a final activity, students attempt to create a timeline of the photos which gives them the opportunity to think about how the photos tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. (The curriculum and photos can be downloaded from the education section on our website: http:///www.jewishmuseummd.org/educational-programs.)

The stories captured in the photos that the students explore are quite moving and bring to life this distant historical event in a more personal manner. After the students have finished the activity, they listen intently as they learn about the real stories behind the photos. For example they study this photo:

The Weil Family, Hilda and Theo with their children Erna, Lisa, and Toni on vacation in Hollenthal, Germany, 1925

and then learn the story of the Weil family. As we discuss this photo, students who have earlier questioned why Jews didn’t simply leave once the Nazis came to power realize just how complex this question is. The Weils had deep roots in Germany; Theo Weil was a decorated army officer in the German army during World War I and was a successful businessman. Like many other Jews living in Germany, the Weils felt more German than Jewish and were reluctant to uproot their family for what they thought would be a temporary political situation. However, it soon became apparent that their situation was not going to improve. This point was further proven by Theo Weil’s arrest in the wake of Kristallnacht. Theo’s wife, Hilda, arranged for Theo’s release from Dachau by selling family possessions and paying a bribe to the prison officials.

As we discuss the Weil Family’s plight, students also become aware of just how difficult it was for Jews to leave Germany because of the strict immigration quotas that many countries – including the US – had established. The Weils had applied for visas prior to Kristallnacht which was fortunate as the wait for visas became extraordinary afterwards. They still were forced to endure a lengthy wait as the US limited German and Austrian immigrants to 27,370 immigrants per year.

While awaiting their US visas, the Weil daughters had an opportunity to travel to England where they worked as household servants. While living in England, they received their US visas in April 1940. After arriving in the US, they settled in Baltimore and immediately found jobs and worked hard to establish new lives for themselves. They also worked to help their parents emigrate from Germany.  They were soon devastated to learn that their parents were sent to Gurs, an internment camp in France.

Theo and Hilda Weil (standing in the second row in the right) outside a barracks at Gurs, 1940

The three daughters worked strenuously to secure their parents release. Because their parents had been approved to receive US visas, they were able to appeal to the US State Department for assistance.

Because Theo and Hilda Weil had no identifying documents with them when they were deported to Gurs, their daughters had papers drawn up for them.

Amazingly their work was successful and their parents were released from Gurs and reunited with them in Baltimore in April 1941.

(The story of the Weil family has been well documented by Anita Kassof in the Winter 2002 edition of Generations in an article, “Dispossession and Adaptation: The Weil Sisters Rebuild Their Family in America.” Back issues of Generations are available in the JMM gift shop. Contact Esther Weiner / eweiner@jewishmuseummd.org for details.)

The photograph of the Weil family is the first one in the series of photos in the timeline and it inspires such interesting discussion about the rich lives that Jews led in Europe prior to the Holocaust, the struggles they encountered in their attempts to leave, and the hard work that refugees encountered in settling into their new lives while awaiting news of relatives left behind in Europe.

After working with five separate classes and having such positive interactions with the students and teachers at Patterson Mills Middle School, I left feeling energized about the impact that JMM programs have on students and how our resources inspire them to think about topics they are studying in school in new ways.

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