Become an Upstander!

Volunteer Opportunities
in partnership with
Jewish Volunteer Connection

Volunteer Field Trip: National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center

Posted on April 25th, 2019 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

One of the benefits of being a volunteer at the JMM is the opportunity to go on field trips with fellow volunteers.  Our last field trip was to visit our new neighbor, the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center.

Did you ever wonder where the fish and marine mammals from the National Aquarium go when they need to take a break from constantly being on display to all the visitors on Baltimore’s Pier 4?  Or where the fish and marine mammals are cared for when ill or before they are integrated with others at the National Aquarium?  They go to the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center in Jonestown, the same neighborhood where the Jewish Museum of Maryland is located.

To develop awareness of the JMM neighbors and just for the fun of it, the JMM volunteers walked the three blocks from the JMM to the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center on April 8th.   We received a wonderful morning tour of the immaculately clean facilities.  There were rooms with multiple tanks that reminded me of above ground swimming pools except these tanks were populated by fish or marine mammals and were attached to elaborate pipes and filters.

They also had windows which allowed us a view of the inhabitants and gave the inhabitants a view of us.  It was fascinating to see how a fish was trained to swim to a specific colored ball.  Using that training, the staff could monitor the amount of food eaten and they could also easily get the fish’s attention when they needed to physically exam him.  Talking about examining the fish, we went to a lab where, with a plastic fish, we learned how a fish could be anesthetized and examined out of the water.

This facility is also where the elaborate National Aquarium displays are created.  From a video we learned about the many considerations needed to be taken into account when designing the displays, such as making the displays lifelike but not toxic if the marine animals nibbles on it thinking it is the real deal.

Now, as I drive by the red brick building of the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center on my way to JMM, I have a better understanding of what goes on there.  Maybe you too will arrange a tour of the center and hopefully, combine your visit there with a visit to our wonderful Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Journey to the National Aquarium Animal Care and Research Center

Posted on August 8th, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM intern Alexia M. Orengo Green. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

As an intern in the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I have been to various field trips to several museums in the Baltimore and Washington DC area. On these field trips I have been able to learn various aspects about the museum filed and everything that entitles working in them. From all the field trips that we went to this summer, my favorite one has been the visit to the National Aquarium Animal Care and Research Center. I know, you must be wondering, what does a Care and Research Center have to do with museums? In reality it has to do a LOT.

Pig turtle.

The National Aquarium Animal Care and Research Center officially opened its doors on May 2018. The building contains the National Aquarium’s exhibit fabrication space, water production equipment, and doubles the capacity to care for rescued animal. From the moment we arrived at the Center we were told that this Rehabilitation Center was different from the rest. In contrast with other Centers, which the public has either limited or no access to it, the building was design to have visitors. The National Aquarium wanted people to feel welcomed to a space where they can learn about a lot of aspects from the Aquarium that often go behind the scenes.

The sense of welcomeness to the public can be felt from the moment one steps through the front door. The space has an open feel and invites the curiosity of the visitor. In the lobby of the Center one of the first things one notices is the large vitrine that allows visitors to see into the production area. The production area has various functions, which include creating and fixing exhibits, producing new features for the exhibits, and creating toys for the different animals they have in the Aquarium and the Center. To be able to make the exhibits for the animals the manufacturers must do intensive research to recreate the environments of the ocean with materials that are durable. The toys the manufacturers create also require research and are made to challenge the animal. An example we were giving during our visit was a crab that was being created for an octopus. The octopus was going to have to open the crab to “hunt” for his food. Once the octopus has master how to open the crab, the mechanics would be changed to continue challenging him.

Long neck turtle.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the lobby its the classroom where visiting groups receive information about the work that is happening in the Center. There they are given an introduction and talked about the different journeys of the animal that they have in the Center. To do this, the care takers recreate the process in which the animals arrive to the center and what happens to them once they are there. Each person is given a card with the information and name of one of the animals on the Center, and they are responsible for the care of that animal. While the groups are being toured around the building, they learn about the proper care of the animals they were assigned require. They are also given the opportunity to “recreate” one of the procedures that vets do to make sure the animals that just arrived are healthy. Through “recreating” the procedure the visitors can see that no animal is small enough for veterinarian attention.


One of the main parts of the tour of the Center are the exhibits. Each panel was thoughtfully created to explain the different types of works that are done in the center. All the panels were made in the production side of the Center and can be easily adapted depending on the information that is displaced. An example of one of the ways in which they were able to make the panels adaptable is the one regarding the care of the seals. The panel has pictures of the seals that have been on the Center that can be easily changed if a new seal arrives. They also have clipboards containing the information of each seal. The panels also have a bag that contains interactive objects to facilitate the learning experience for visitors. The bag of the seals’ panel has an example of what they would use to rehydrate seals when they arrive to the center.

For our tour we were able to see the lab and kitchen where the care takers make the food for each animal in the center. But for me, the must exciting part of the tour was seeing the animals that were on rehabilitation.  The center has two caimans, fishes, and turtles! As a big turtle fan, you can say I was extremely happy when I saw them. The care takers talked about their diet and care while they are in the center. They also talked about how each animal has its own personality and their individual journey. It was incredible to see these animals receiving the care they need and establishing a connection with them when visiting the center.

Long neck turtle and pig turtle.

The connection that one stablishes with the animals that are on the Center makes the visitor more compelled to learn about the different ecosystems and animals. But the Center is not the only place that has been able to create that experience for their visitors. The Cincinnati Zoo has been able to establish a strong connection between its visitors and their baby hippo Fiona. Through social media the zoo has been able to share moments from Fiona’s life that otherwise would not be available for the public. I, for example, have never been to Cincinnati but I would love to go just to see Fiona. Ever since I first heard about Fiona, I have learned several hippo facts that I didn’t know before. The effect that the Cincinnati Zoo has achieved with their hippo Fiona is one that the National Aquarium Care and Research Center can achieve through its tours.

Even though the Care and Research center is not a typical museum in contains many aspects that normal museums have. The architecture and design of the building was created for receiving visitors, which is one of the reasons why the building feels inviting. The production area gives the visitors the chance to see a behind the scenes look into how the exhibits of the aquarium are created and how thorough the process is. The building is created to teach its visitors about the ocean wild life, how is being affected today, and what they can do to help it.

Many thanks to Adam Nelson, Jessica Young, and Candice Canady for facilitating our special tour of the center!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by

Jonestown horizontal 4C


On May 29 we’re putting out the welcome mat as six of greater Jonestown’s well established historic and cultural attractions celebrate the arrival of three brand new facilities planned over the next few years.  We hope you’ll join JMM, the Carroll Museums, Zion Church of Baltimore, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Port Discovery, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, and B’Nai Israel: The Downtown Synagogue, in saying “welcome!” to our future neighbors.

We thought it might be a good idea to share the backstory behind this event.  Most of you will recall that last October we facilitated the development of the Jonestown Vision Plan and the launch of the new Jonestown brand identity.  In the months since, we’ve continued to work closely with the community and Historic Jonestown Inc. (HJI), led by Lindsay Thompson and Joe Cronyn on ways to put our ambitious goals into practice.

HJI is in the process of organizing itself into affinity groups, bringing together the neighborhood’s social service organizations, its religious institutions, its hospitality industry and its historic/cultural organizations to work on parts of the plan that are a natural fit with each group.  Our historic/cultural group has been concentrating on events and programs.  We felt very fortunate to be included in the Carroll Mansion’s current partnership in support of the All American House and we are studying other two-way and three-way collaborations to bring life to the streets of Jonestown, including tentative plans for a plein air art experience on surrounding streets later this summer.

Meanwhile we’ve had some terrific news about institutions bringing new activity and energy to our immediate vicinity.  Just a block away from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Ronald McDonald House is well on its way to starting construction on a new facility.  The new Ronald McDonald House, which will be built at 1200 E. Baltimore Street, will reflect a commitment to incorporate best practices into all of its programs and services. The new house is intended to fulfill an institutional goal of establishing Baltimore as providing not only quality pediatric care but the most effective and compassionate family-centered care in the world.  Amenities included in the design of the new house were carefully selected through input from staff, volunteers and families. The new House will serve approximately 55 families daily and 2,200 families a year.  We intend to extend outreach to both volunteers and families. The coming of the new facility will also mean upgrades for the adjacent McKim Park.

And just a block away from the park, at 1100 E. Fayette Street, Kevin Plank and Under Armour have provided more than $6 million in support for a new recreation center, scheduled to open later this year.  The new center will be operated by Living Classrooms.  Jonestown’s cultural institutions are exploring ways to engage youth at the new center in our ongoing programs.

Go just a few blocks further down Fayette  Street and you’ll come to 901, announced last January as the new site for the National Aquarium’s animal care and rescue center.  Preparations are beginning now for an anticipated 2018 opening.  The Aquarium hopes to provide some public access to this behind-the-scenes space.  Jonestown has been welcoming new immigrants for more than 200 years – now we’ll have new arrivals with fins and tails as well.

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

It seemed like a great time to bring these new institutions into the Jonestown family.  From 1pm to 4pm we’ll have family activities for every taste.  Art projects, craft work, storytelling from Port Discovery and our new friends at the National Aquarium are bringing with a bearded dragon… just in case you’ve never seen a real dragon, or at least a real dragon with a beard. Admission to the Museum and to all the activities is free.

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Speaking of every taste, there will also be birthday cake.  Whose birthday you ask?  Well Jonestown, of course.  On June 15, 1641, David Jones built his home by the falls that bear his name (not to mention the expressway they put on top of it).  So we’ve decided to jump the gun just a little and pull out the 355th birthday cake at our Jonestown celebration.  It seems a fitting way to mark a milestone for Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood and newest destination:  Jonestown – proudly we hail.

~Marvin Pinkert

Posted in jewish museum of maryland