Commodore John Rodgers Middle School

Posted on December 21st, 2011 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Last year Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, the JMM’s Education & Program Coordinator and I began a long-term museum-school partnership with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School (http:/// in Butchers Hill. I love this partnership for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons I love this project is that unlike most of my work as a museum educator, here I get to work with the students at CJR on a continual basis. One of my major roles as the Community Outreach Coordinator is to teach school groups off-site. However, it is rare that I get to see a school group more than once in the same year. I know that Elena will agree with me when I write that our CJR partnership has been one of the most challenging and rewarding projects we have worked on this year. Last week we had a meeting with the middle school social studies teachers to talk about our progress with the students and to create a game plan for moving forward. During our conversation we ended up discussing a few students who had dramatically improved from the 7th to 8th grade. It really is an amazing thing to see a student’s progress over time and I’d like to think that the JMM has had some positive influence over them.

The goal of the JMM-CJR partnership has always been to create large-scale projects with the students based around the exhibits currently being displayed at the JMM. This decision was based upon the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult for teachers to bring their students to visit the museum, even if the museum is right around the corner. Instead it is our role to bring the museum to the students. Last year we were lucky to have artist Loring Cornish and his exhibit, “In Each Others Shoes.” It came naturally that our final project that year was a large-scale mosaic that is now permanently displayed in the school. Loring was a big supporter of the project and worked with the students several times over the course of the partnership.

Loring Cornish and a CJR student installing the large scale mosaic created by CJR middle school students.

This year we are working on a project related to our “Chosen Food” exhibition. Although Elena and I would have loved to turn our CJR students into Jewish Farmers we scaled back our project and decided to create a cookbook with them instead. Each week we have been working with the students to teach them about healthy eating, food traditions and culture, and oral history and memory. Over the course of several months the students have been thinking about their own food cultures and traditions such as their favorite food on Thanksgiving or a meal that their grandmother cooks for them. We asked the students to interview a family member or friend about a recipe that is important to them. The final product will be a CJR middle school cookbook that will consist of the recipes they collected and the stories and memories that support them. We will also provide healthy recipes, Jewish recipes (what middle school student doesn’t want the recipe for gefilte fish?) and some recipes from our own families.

Trying out some yoga moves.

This is where you come in. I’d like to invite you to contribute your family recipes and stories to our collection. Our cookbook is focusing on family recipes in general, but will also have a focus on ethnic and cultural food as well as healthy eating. If you would like to contribute a family recipe and story, we certainly encourage you to. Please email me at rbinning@jewishmusuemmd.orgto provide a recipe or if you would like more information.

Students get a taste of fresh pomegranate.

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Meeting Loring Cornish

Posted on July 13th, 2011 by

A blog post by Summer Intern Ryan Motevalli-Oliner.

I met Loring Cornish one week before I started my internship at the JMM.  As a resident of Randallstown, MD I had the opportunity to come and tour the exhibits on my own time before the internship started. It just so happened that Loring was at the museum that very day. When I entered his exhibition Loring was giving a tour to a couple. I continued through the exhibit on my own eavesdropping when I could. Loring and the couple left leaving me all alone in the exhibit. Shortly thereafter Loring came rushing back in to point out a specific piece in the exhibit, Just Words. He talked about the piece with such excitement; like how a child might explain an achievement they are proud of. Loring walked me through the piece pointing out the many words that made up the piece. He opened my eyes to a piece that from a far just looked like pieces of metal welded together. His excitement sparked an excitement in me to look deeper into his work. That was my first interaction with Loring Cornish; I never told him my name.

Loring came and talked about this sculpture, entitled Just Words, with me during our first encounter. If you look closely you can see the words “Jew” (on the left) and “Holocaust” (on the left). These are two of the many words Loring built into this sculpture.

I told Loring my name for the first time at Commodore Rogers Elementary & Middle School when he came in to work with the students who were making their own mosaics. Loring walked in to excited “hellos” from the students. He said hello to Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and then me. To my astonishment he remembered my face and where he saw it before. I introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes before he dived into working with the students. He went from student to student talking to them about their work. If he saw a name he addressed the student by it, even if he pronounced the name wrong. To an outside observer it seemed like he had known these students for months. The excitement he showed for the students’ mosaics was the same excitement he showed for his own work. Again, Loring sparked excitement within me. His interaction with the students made me want to stop acting like an intern and act more like a teacher and to interact with the students.  I tried this new approach the following week. I got to know a student, Ty-Shawn. We talked about many things including my strange resemblance to Adam Sandler and his belief that I was 45 years old. Loring came back this week and amazed me again as he sat down to try and make his own mosaic with the same crafts the students were using. Honestly I do not think his turned out as great as some of the students, and I am sure he is fine with that.

Loring with students from Commodore Rogers Elementary & Middle School at the JMM.

My most recent interaction with Loring was at the JMM’s first Thursday event, Brews and Schmooze. The event entitled “Piecing a Path: A Night with Loring Cornish,” was designed with Loring in mind. Guests were given the opportunity to collage candle holders and socialize with others over falafel. The guests had the chance go on a guided tour of Loring’s exhibit with the artist himself. Loring gave two tours, and his enthusiasm during the second, smaller tour was at the same level if not higher than the first, larger tour. Loring’s enthusiasm, for his work, was felt by all who listened to him tell the story of each piece. Guests commented on how energetic and full of spirit Loring was and their envy that he was able to do something he loved to do. Loring’s love of his work and the impact he made on his audience inspired me once again. His passion that he transferred to his audience cannot be explained. He is an amazing man that contributes to society through his love of art making, something I hope to do as a teacher.

Loring and Me at Brews and Schmooze, the JMM first Thursday event.

Meeting Loring and getting to see him interact with people has inspired me. He is an optimistic man with a smile always on his face. I am sad his exhibit is leaving the JMM (the last day is July 17) and my interactions with Loring will decrease, but I am extremely lucky to have met an artist with such excitement for the world. If you have not seen Loring’s exhibit “In Each Other’s Shoes” I strongly encourage you to stop by the JMM before July 17th and if you cannot make it, see the exhibit when it goes to the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis in September. Even without meeting Loring Cornish, I can guarantee that by taking the time to really look at Loring’s work, you too will be inspired.

This mosaic, Jilted 6,877,208, is Loring’s remembrance of the Holocaust and its victims. This is my favorite piece in the exhibit because not only do I appreciate Loring’s use of 6,877,208 as the number for the Jews who perished during the Holocaust but also I saw it as a symbol of Jewish prisoners and their identification numbers.


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The JMM & Commodore Rodgers Middle School: Museum School Partnerships in Practice

Posted on June 20th, 2011 by

Mosaic Tile. Trina, 8th grade, Honor/Integrity.

Last week was bittersweet. For the past two months Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and I have been working with the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade class of Commodore John Rodgers Middle School, a Baltimore City public school  located about a mile a from the museum. A generous AEGON grant provided the JMM with the funds to create two long term partnerships with Baltimore public schools. Half of the education department, Deborah Cardin and Ilene Dackman-Alon, worked on a storytelling partnership this year with middle school students from Moravia Park Middle School while Elena and I worked on an art and place based project with the Commodore Rodgers students.

Loring Cornish talking about his work the CJR students.

Elena and I chose to work with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School because of its close proximity and shared history with the museum. Our inspiration for the mosaic project that we worked on with the students came from Loring Cornish’s exhibit, “In Each Other’s Shoes,” which is currently one display at the JMM through July 17. It was also important for us to let the students and teachers know that the JMM is a local resource for them to learn about their community. To emphasize these points we invited the entire middle school to visit the museum to tour our synagogues and exhibits and meet with Loring Cornish before we began working with them in their classrooms. The majority of the students had never visited the JMM or entered a synagogue.

Working with the 7th graders on their collages during the first week of class.

For the next few months Elena and I visited the middle school students on a weekly basis (which was an adjustment for us because they start school at 7:30 AM!).  Our final goal for the project was to have each student create a mosaic based on one of the school’s five promises: honor/integrity, commitment to quality, perseverance, no excuses, and contribution.  It was our hope that each student would use pictures, stories, words, and memories from their personal lives and community’s history to visually illustrate their promise.

Ms. Dekoster and 6th grade students analyzing one of the JMM’s archival images of the neighborhood.

Each week we did writing exercises, played games, and did art projects to prepare the students for making their final mosaics. One of the most special aspects of this project is that over the summer we will permanently install the students’ mosaics along a prominent wall leading up to the cafeteria. Loring Cornish will help us with the instillation and we hope to use shards of mirror and found objects as part of the final piece. We emphasized to the students that it was important for them to be thoughtful about their art, and its permanence in the school seemed to help them take this more seriously.

Mosaic Tile. Adriana, 7th grade, Perseverance.

Working with the students each week was an enlightening and exhausting experience for me. I have such a strong appreciation for Ms. Smith, Mr. Ayala, and Ms. Dekoster, the wonderful and caring teachers we worked with each week. At the end of the day each Wednesday when we were finished with the students, Elena and I would always wonder how these teachers had the energy to teach all day, every day. Despite the fact that Wednesdays were always an exhausting day, I looked forward to going to school each week to work with a diverse group of talented and energized kids.

Mosaic Tile, Rolando, 6th grade, Honor/Integrity

The students’ final mosaics turned out better than we imaged. It was so interesting to see how each student creatively expressed themselves. No two tiles are alike. Elena and I hope that the students and teachers at Commodore Rodgers Middle School enjoyed our time together as much as we did. Hopefully next year we will be able to partner with them again on another great project.

A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

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