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Education Spotlight

Posted on February 14th, 2020 by

Performance Counts: February 2020

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes to us from Director of Learning and Visitor Experience Ilene Dackman-Alon. Below, Ilene shares three of the major projects our education team has been working on this year. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

JMM’s education department has not skipped a beat in the new year! School groups are enjoying the Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling exhibit, and the activities our department has created help students learn the stories of scrap families as well as use critical thinking skills to imagine what it might be like to work in a scrap yard.

The student response has been incredibly enthusiastic, especially as we discuss the importance of recycling and taking care of the environment. They are quick to identify differences they can make in their own schools, homes, and communities. We are also receiving positive feedback from our visiting teachers, who cite how much they love seeing their students engage with the exhibit and activities. Teachers have also confirmed the effectiveness of the curricular guide we send them in advance of their field trip experience to JMM.

In addition to our exhibit-based education programming, the team has been hard at work creating and refining projects and programs for a variety of different audiences, from hands-on student work to teacher professional development. There are three programs in particular that are coming to fruition over the next two months, and we wanted to share them with you!

1. Winter Teachers Institute 2020: Confronting Antisemitism

For many years, JMM and the Baltimore Jewish Council have co-sponsored the very successful Summer Teachers Institute (STI), a three-day professional development opportunity dedicated to providing teachers with resources and materials to help them teach about the Holocaust in their classrooms. Each day of the Institute takes place in a different location – JMM, the United States Holocaust Museum (USHMM), and a changing third location (last year’s Day 3 took place at the American Visionary Art Museum).

Through STI we are able to provide an incredibly important professional development opportunity for teachers and educators at all levels and located all over the state of Maryland. The experience allows participants to not just be a student in the classroom, learning something new, but also providing them with the tools and resources to bring back to their classrooms. In addition, participants can receive achievement units which are applied to their continuing education requirements.With such a positive track record, last year we decided to expand our efforts in professional development and Holocaust education by piloting the first Winter Teachers Institute (WTI),which coincided with the Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit. Like STI, this two-day event took place at two different locations, the first day here at JMM and the second day at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and USHMM in Washington, DC.

The response to this program was overwhelmingly positive and this weekend we debut Day 1 of the second annual Winter Teachers Institute: Confronting Antisemitism. This first Sunday, February 16th, will take place at JMM and the second Sunday, February 23rd, will take place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC, where participants will see the Auschwitz: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away exhibit. Over the two days, teachers will learn from scholars, educators, and Holocaust survivors, exploring the topic of antisemitism through historical and contemporary lenses.

This year’s Winter Teachers Institute is made possible, in part, through the generous support of Sheldon and Saralynn Glass and the Joan G. & Joseph Klein, Jr. Foundation.

2. My Family Story 2020

2020 marks our 6th consecutive year of participation in the international education program presented in collaboration with Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Israel. Jewish students from area schools research their family history with a goal of presenting their family stories and placing these stories in the broader context of Jewish history. Through interviews with family members and independent research, students make significant discoveries about who they are and where their families came from. They learn about historical events that have affected their families and discover their connections to the Jewish community. You can read more about JMM’s involvement with My Family Story here.Students, with the help of their teachers, transform these family stories into meaningful art installations, reflecting personal heritage and pride. The art installations are displayed and judged, with winners selected to have their project presented for inclusion in the international My Family Story exhibit at Beit Hatfutsot. The competition is intense, and for the past five years, the Baltimore Jewish community has been represented at the international show! Students whose projects were selected also receive a trip to Israel to take part in the opening exhibit ceremonies at the Museum. This year, if a Baltimore student project is selected, we will work with The Associated to arrange a special visit for the student(s) and their families to visit Baltimore’s sister city, Ashkelon.

3D Pens at Ohr Chadash Academy and Mannequin head at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

This year we will host projects from students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Bolton Street Synagogue Religious School, and Ohr Chadash Academy. Over the past few weeks our staff have visited the students at some of this year’s participating schools to learn more about their projects and the stories behind them. The kinds of materials we’ve observed the students using to tell their own individual stories are so unique, including mannequin heads, 3D pens, and paper towel rolls! We can’t wait for you to come and see the projects for yourselves. Families will celebrate their enterprising students’ works at a special reception on February 27th, but the projects will only be on display to the public March 1 – 8, 2020, so don’t delay on planning your visit!My Family Story at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is supported, in part, by the Ronnie and Alli Russel Charitable Foundation.

3.The Immigrant’s Trunk: Ida Rehr Education Initiative

The last education program – and the newest – is one we are particularly excited to share. Thanks to a generous grant from the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated, we have been able to create a new, expanded experience around our Ida Rehr living history character.

The Ida Rehr Education Initiative combines aspects of the beloved Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore exhibit and the living history performance of Ida Rehr, a Jewish immigrant who arrived in Baltimore from Ukraine in 1914. The combination is achieved with a comprehensive learning packet that supports learning outcomes in Jewish history, social studies, storytelling, and primary-source research. The experience introduces students to concepts and themes such as Jewish immigration, Americanization, and Baltimore and Maryland history. The Ida Rehr living history character is portrayed by professional actress Katherine Lyons, who has been playing the role for over 15 years.

To expand the living history character experience beyond a single performance, we have created three distinct modules for the project, each building on the previous experience. The program begins with a trip to the classroom that features the Ida Rehr living history performance. Following the performance, the students will then visit the Museum to explore the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue and our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. During this visit to JMM, our education staff will help the students make connections between their in-class experience with Ida and their time at the Museum.

The third module takes the experience back into the classroom. Students will watch a newly created video featuring the character of Ida Rehr, who will invite the students to open a trunk that has been delivered to the classroom. In the trunk we have placed reproductions of artifacts that Ida highlighted in her performance. In the video, Ida guides the students through several activities that will culminate in them creating a classroom exhibit of Ida Rehr’s life. Students will work to create labels to identify each item and explain how each object, photo, and document relate to Ida’s immigration experience.

A little behind-the-scenes excitement for you – the education team had a wonderful time and learned a lot by working with a real camera crew, complete with film and cameras, lights and lighting, sound, a make-up artist and lunch for the crew, in the process of creating the video!

We can’t wait to share this experience with students all over Maryland. This spring (2020) we are piloting this education initiative in Baltimore City and Baltimore County schools served by CHAI’s Schools and Community Partnerships team. After this spring’s pilot, we will refine the experience as needed and begin outreach to a wide variety of schools in our networks, public, private, independent, parochial, Jewish, and non-Jewish. We are confident students and their teachers will really enjoy this extension of the living history character experience and how each of the modules is founded on a well-rounded, hands-on, sensory unit on immigration. This Initiative also offers a wonderful opportunity to extend the lessons and encourage students to apply what they have learned to exploring their own personal and family histories.

The Immigrant’s Trunk: Ida Rehr Education Initiative was funded by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.

Our education team is excited to share these initiatives and programs with you! We are always working to provide the best educational experiences possible to our students, visitors, members, and friends and we’ve got even more coming down the pipeline.

Looking forward to sharing even more innovative work from the JMM education department with you in the future!

Header Image: Mr. Almy sits at his teaching desk at City College, c. 1930-1945. Gift of Stanford C. Reed, JMM 1987.19.36.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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

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