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.

—————————-

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




Judging My Family Story

Posted on March 21st, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

Make sure to stop in by March 25th, it’s your last chance to see these amazing projects!

This was my first experience working with the My Family Story project, an amazing program done with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

As the projects came in to the Museum it was amazing to see the creativity and thoughtfulness that each child put into their piece.

I was even more amazed by the work when the curator statements where added, revealing the carefully researched stories behind each piece of art.

It was a great honor to be asked to judge the event, along with members of the JMM Board of Trustees, and JMM volunteers.

Each judge was given a group of projects to look at and to view them in turns of aesthetics, creativity, depth of research and Jewish peoplehood. This helped allow me to focus on the projects – otherwise I might not have been able to decide! Every project told an incredible story of a family’s journey and I was impressed by all the work that was done.

Each judge then presented their top projects, which were discussed and reviewed by all the judges.

All the finalists were amazing and it was truly a difficult decision to get down to the final two for the Beth Tfiloh group. One of the projects I selected as a “top two” was chosen as a winner! Erela I.’s piece was beautifully done, and her curator’s statement truly showed the thoughtfulness and research that went into the work.

The Winning Projects from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School:

Erela I. ’22, A Light Surrounded by Persecution

Erela’s “Curator Statement:”

My Family Story display shows my family’s heritage of religious Jews who lived in Iran. In my project I have a black surface with a collage of images of Persian Jews, Arabic writing, and the persecution of Jews in Iran. The collage represents the environment that both of my parents grew up in. One filled with hate and bad opinions towards all Jews. My family was surrounded by this threat of danger all throughout their lives in Iran until they immigrated to the US in 1984 and 1992. In the center of my project is a figure shaped like an open house. This represents my family’s safe haven in a habitat of darkness. Set up inside of the house is a setting of a Shabbat night dinner table with lit candles a family saying Kiddush. These moments in Iran, in this event, represents the light that being Jewish brought to my family.

Maya T. ’22, 1801 West Mosher Street

Maya’s “Curator Statement:”

This representation of my family story depicts the grocery store that my great-grandparents owned when they moved to the U.S after surviving the Holocaust. My grocery store is made in a wooden box. Inside, there are four parts to the store. The fridge, resembling the frigid weather that my great-grandparents had to endure in the DP camps, and the shelves, with bread and crackers, resembling the only food that my great-grandparents were given. Then I made a fruit stand, with six different fruits with significance to six million Jews killed and the differences between each person and his story. Lastly, the tiles on the floor represent the silver dollars used to pay for the groceries at my great-grandparents’ grocery store. These silver dollars are very important to me because my great-grandmother saved those dollars and gives them to me and my brother when we lose teeth. Finally, on the outside of my box, I have created a collage of pictures with me and my great-grandmother because I am so fortunate to be able to know her and her amazing story. One of the lessons I can learn from my great-grandmother is independence. Even at 93, my great-grandmother makes the holiday meals for all of our family. I can also feel connected to her by the silver dollars that she gave me. I keep these silver dollars safe, and plan on giving them to my great-grandchildren, and telling them my great-grandparents’ story, in hopes of instilling their values in future generations, when the time will come.

I can’t wait to see what comes next year!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Celebrating Students, Finding Their Stories

Posted on March 16th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes to us from Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Learning and Visitor Experience.

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are storytellers.

It’s one of the things we do best. Whether the stories of the “old neighborhood, Jonestown,” the voices of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, or one of the thousands of stories of individual Jewish Marylanders, we use story to connect our visitors and audiences to others and themselves. We also help others tell stories. We’re especially interested in helping students and families living in their own communities find and tell their stories. To make that happen, we have been developing partnerships with area schools for years.

Why do we do what we do? How does telling our stories benefit future generations?

Research has shown children who know more about their families display more confidence and are more resilient. Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist of Emory University, has conducted research that shows family stories are a critical part of adolescents’ emerging identity and well-being. Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world.  Research shows children who know their family and community stories have a strong “intergenerational self;” they know that they belong to something bigger than themselves.

In other words, stories connect the past and present to the future.

The month of March is extremely exciting for JMM storytelling. The JMM’s Education department is working on two programs in partnership with area schools and institutions: My Family Story and Morrell Park: PROJECTED. Each helps students develop their own family narrative, through a different medium. Through these partnerships, the JMM has been able to reach to a wider audience. We are a valuable education partner and resource to the larger community. Keep reading for more on both of them.


Earlier this year, area students from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Beth Israel Congregation and Bolton Street Synagogue embarked on an exploration of their own heritage with a project that goes beyond the usual family tree.

Through rigorous research and inspiring creativity, these students have produced beautiful art pieces illustrating their personal exploration into their family roots, and connections to the greater story of the Jewish People.  On March 8th, we held a special opening for My Family Story, celebrating this education initiative in partnership with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Thousands of other students from around the world are also on their own My Family Story explorations, with the best projects from each school to be entered in Beit Hatfutsot’s international competition later in June.

Over the past months, I have had the opportunity to visit students in their classrooms as they created art to represent their family stories. I loved seeing them point out specific elements to illustrate the research they have done. Their faces shone as they shared their family stories.

I invite you to come celebrate with us the creativity, hard work, and beauty represented in these student-created works of art. The My Family Story exhibition will be on display through March 25th. My Family Story here at the Museum is generously supported by the Ronnie and Alli Russel Charitable Foundation.


Baltimore City Public Schools

In addition to our partnerships with religious schools and day schools, JMM has strong partnerships with five area Baltimore City Public Schools, where we provide a more customized and intensive educational enrichment for students and teachers.

All these programs are offered at no charge to  our partner schools, thanks in part to generous education program donors like the Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation, the Maryland State Department of Education, Larry Boltansky, and many of our Museum members.

Through our partnerships, we help students become active learners for the 21st century. As a museum, one of our most critical roles is in helping students build 21st-century skills in the areas of information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.


Over the fall semester, JMM staff, with the guidance of J. Scott Fuqua (an award-winning young adult author), and Johns Hopkins University film students, have been working with the 8th grade students at Morrell Park Elementary/Middle school on a new, innovative program. Morrell Park: PROJECTED is a year-long storytelling initiative that has helped students gain insight into their personal family stories. Students learned storytelling and interviewing techniques, gaining the skills to interview family and community members. They used what they learned to tell their own stories, creating short film clips using their smartphones. The resulting films will be screened for the public as a way of celebrating the diversity, culture and roots of the Morrell Park community. Morrell Park: PROJECTED is supported by an Excellence Grant from Wells Fargo.

This project has been a transformative experience for many students.In the beginning, many students expressed a hesitancy to speak to their parents. Just a few months later, some of 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 for the family members that shared personal stories of their past. The students are also rightly proud of the short films they have created, of their own learning, and of mastering a new skill on their smartphones.

You can listen to more about Morrell Park: PROJECTED over at WYPR’s “On The Record” here.

I hope you will join us on March 22 at 7:00 p.m., as these eighth graders from Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School walk the red carpet at the Jewish Museum of Maryland to celebrate the premiere of the autobiographical films they’ve created. This premiere is the first component in a two-part series, and we look forward to sharing news of the second part with you in the future.

We hope that you will visit JMM during the month of March to celebrate area students as they share their family and community stories!

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »