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From Pilot to Program: Innovation in Education at the JMM

Posted on March 15th, 2019 by

In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Ilene Dackman-Alon, director of education and the visitor experience explains how two novel ideas have become JMM traditions. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.


Tonight the Museum is celebrating. We are welcoming eager students and their families into the gallery for an evening of art and family history, representing the fifth annual presentation of My Family Story at JMM. In thinking about the hard work of our participating students, the support from teachers and administrators, and the pride and joy on the faces of attending families, it seems to me that now is the perfect time to share some insight into how we find great new ideas and make them our own.

My Family Story’s story began at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 2015. I first learned about this international program directly from its parent organization Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel. The goal of the project is for area Jewish students in communities across the globe to discover and find meaning in their own family heritage and family stories by doing research and conducting interviews with family members.  The exploration culminates in an artistic installation created by the students to represent their family’s personal history.  The hope of the program is to inspire students to think about their family’s history as a way to connect to the larger issues of American Jewish history, community, Jewish identity, and Israel. It was clear to me that My Family Story was in perfect alignment with JMM educational goals and vision and we knew we had to become a part of this amazing learning opportunity.

In order to pilot any new project, all kinds of support are needed. First, we needed a group of students to work with – middle school teacher Lizabeth Shrier at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School was willing to lead our first experimental year. Her excitement was kindled when she considered how the program could be integrated into her 8th-grade curricula, specifically weaving together units on ancient studies and art. Lizabeth brought her colleague Shelly Spector, an art teacher, on board, and they began having students work on their projects at the beginning of the school year. Lizabeth and Shelly were great ambassadors for our pilot – they were ready to work with the Museum as partners, understood the value that museums have in bringing history and culture to life, and believed in the importance of what museums can bring to the classroom.

Second, as with all great endeavors, we needed financial support. Here we have to share our gratitude for the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education, who saw what we saw: how important and meaningful the My Family Story project would be for participating students. The Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund gave us the resources to pilot the first year of the My Family Story project at JMM, planting the seeds for the wildly successful annual program we know today.

One of the things we love about My Family Story is that it’s not just a local program. Students around the world participate in the collection of stories and creation of art installations, though each location designs their version of the program to best fit their resources and participants, as we did with our pilot. While generous funding and community support allowed JMM to not only host a special evening program for participating students and their families to see the finished creations, we also connected with the international level of the program with Beit Hatfutsot. Judges rate each of the projects created and choose two projects from each school that best exemplify the goals of My Family Story. Those selected projects are sent to Israel and compete with projects from all over the world. The top 40 projects are exhibited at Beit Hatfusot and their student creators are invited to Israel to participate in a special ceremony and see their work. We are especially proud that multiple participants from our My Family Story program have been selected for this top honor – including in our pilot year!

Over the past five years, the JMM has partnered with 6 different schools who have implemented the My Family Story project as part of their curriculum. Today, we are especially grateful to the Robert and Alli Russell Charitable Foundation for the generous funding of the My Family Story program over the past two years! With this additional funding, winners of the My Family Story program will get to meet and spend time with Israeli families living in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city in Israel, after the celebration at Beit Hatfutsot.

This year we are thrilled to present work from the students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Ohr Chadash Academy and Beth Israel Religious School. In addition to the special celebration for students and their families being held this evening, the Museum is hosting the My Family Story exhibit in our gallery for the public to enjoy from Sunday, March 17th through Sunday, March 24th. We hope you will come and see the amazing work created by these students – we know you will be moved and impressed.

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Another example of an experimental pilot whose idea was birthed right here in Baltimore at the Museum: Personal Stories: PROJECTED.

Last year, inspired by our own commitment to storytelling and helping individuals connect with their own histories, identity, and the communities around them, we piloted a program called Morrell Park: PROJECTED. Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School is a longtime participant in our museum-school partnership program, which has let us develop strong connections to the school, its teachers, and its administrators. The goals of the museum-school partnership program, which is targeted at Baltimore City Public Schools, include helping students become active learners for the 21st century, helping students build their skills in information literacy, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic duty, and global awareness. From this was born Morrell Park: PROJECTED.

Morrell Park: PROJECTED was a year-long storytelling initiative that has helped students gain insight into their personal family stories. Working closely with 8th grade teacher Danielle Bagonis and young adult author J. Scott Fuqua, students learned storytelling and interviewing techniques so they could develop the skills to interview family and community members. Film students from Johns Hopkins University assisted the students in creating their own short films using their smartphones. The resulting films were screened at a “Red Carpet Premiere” as a way to celebrate the diversity, culture, and roots of the Morrell Park community. This pilot program was made possible by an Excellence Grant from Wells Fargo.

This was a transformative experience for many students who participated in the program. In the beginning, many students expressed a hesitancy to speak to their parents and family members. A few months later, those same students shared that this project has enabled them to talk to family members in ways that they never had before. All of the participating students expressed an appreciation to the family members that shared personal stories of their past. They were also proud of the short films they created; and that they learned new technology in connection with their smartphones.

This year our kernel of an idea has blossomed, expanding into the Personal Stories: PROJECTED initiative and bringing the transformative power of this project to two schools – a new group of 8th grade students at Morrell Park and a class of 7th grade students at Graceland Park-O’Donnell Elementary/Middle School. We are incredibly grateful to both Danielle Bagonis at Morrell Park, and Amy Rosenkranz at Graceland Park for their support, and their willingness to dive headfirst into this still-new initiative. This year, in addition to once again working with J. Scott Fuqua, we have welcomed film students from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s graduate program into the project.

Each school will be having their own “Premiere” evening later in May.  Personal Stories @ Morrell Park:  PROJECTED will take place on Thursday evening, May 9th at 6:30 p.m. and Personal Stories @ Graceland Park: PROJECTED will take place on Thursday evening, May 16th at 6:30 p.m. Both of these premieres are open to the public and we know the students would love to share their films – and stories – with you. Additionally, both schools will come together at a special event in early June at Graceland Park to see each other’s’ films and celebrate the storytelling and diversity of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Pilot programs in Museum education are a way to take a big idea and start small, experimenting with a single school, classroom, or teacher. The success of our pilot programs has depended on the support of motivated teachers who are engaged with the project and who trust us at the Museum to support them in their efforts. Pilot programs over the years have taught us the importance of advance planning, making sure all our teachers and Museum staff are on the same page, and understand the project’s goals and vision. We’ve also learned that success can take many forms, and to truly get all the benefits of piloting programs, we need to be adaptable and open-minded. It’s especially exciting when a pilot program grows into a full-blown educational initiative and becomes a regular part of our annual programs calendar, like both My Family Story and Personal Stories: PROJECTED.


 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Henrietta Szold- A Hometown Hero Goes to Baltimore City Public Schools

Posted on January 5th, 2017 by

In early fall, the JMM developed its fifth living history character, Henrietta Szold in connection with our latest exhibition, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.  The JMM’s education department developed learning and resource materials based on her exceptional life and career as well as highlight the challenges she faced as a modern woman defining herself as an American Jew during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Henrietta Szold meets the students of Morrell Park.

Henrietta Szold meets the students of Morrell Park.

Henrietta Szold was born in Baltimore in 1860, the daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold, the spiritual leader of Baltimore’s Temple Oheb Shalom. Throughout her life, Henrietta was committed to helping those who were in need.  Szold’s many contributions included establishing a night school in Baltimore for new immigrants and the creation of Hadassah, a national Zionist women’s organization devoted to improving health care in Palestine that is still in existence today.  She was directly involved in the rescue of European Jewish children during World War II through her work with Youth Aliyah, an initiative that helped resettle and educate Jewish youth in Palestine.

Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta

Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta

In November, Henrietta Szold, portrayed by Natalie Pilcher made her way to the 7th and 8th grade classrooms at Morell Park Elementary/Middle School located in the southwest section of the city. The living history character Henrietta Szold was used to kick-off the students’ own research on their National History day projects.  This year’s theme- Taking A Stand in History.  The objectives of the program were that the students would watch the presentation and following they would have the opportunity to ask questions.   The performances were stellar and the students asked great questions relative to Henrietta’s life following the presentations.  A few students even asked Natalie about her job as an actress and asked for tips in preparing for their own National History day projects.

Natalie speaks with a student about her role as Henrietta

Natalie speaks with a student about her role as Henrietta

Two weeks later, the education staff followed up with another visit to the classroom.  This time, the students looked at reproductions of archival materials relating to Henrietta’s life and answer questions to make better understanding of the documents.  The images represented Henrietta’s life both in Baltimore and in Palestine.  Students made their own connection to Szold’s life knowing that they also attended Baltimore City public schools and they were also familiar with the address of her two homes, one on Lombard and the other on Eutaw Streets.

Engaging with archival reproductions

Engaging with archival reproductions

morellpark4

Engaging with archival reproductions

The students also saw images of the early medical care that was available in Palestine in the early 1920’s, and made connections to their own experiences of medical care.  They also showed empathy as they learned of Szold’s courageous work saving over 10,000 children from Nazi Germany through her work with Youth Aliyah.

Students at Morrell Park

Students at Morrell Park

Students at Morrell Park

Students at Morrell Park

We returned back to Morell Park a week later to the classroom and the teacher was so excites to see us because she wanted to share the bulletin board that she had created documenting the students work in connection with Henrietta Szold.  Henrietta Szold is now Baltimore City Public Schools new Hometown Hero.  You can learn about Henrietta Szold – Baltimore’s Own Hometown Hero in the JMM’s exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America through January 16, 2017.  If you would like to learn more about the Henrietta Szold Living History Education project, contact Education Director, Ilene Dackman-Alon at idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org or 443.873.5718.

Henrietta Szold: Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated.

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