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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.

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What We’re Learning

Posted on January 10th, 2020 by

There are many ways to measure JMM’s progress. For this month’s  Performance Counts, Rachel Kassman collected highlights of what JMM staff learned in 2019. The great thing about gaining the weight of knowledge is that no January diet is required! To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

In the spirit of January, the New Year, resolutions, and self-improvement, while planning for this month’s edition of Performance Counts, I started thinking about the efforts we make on an individual level to improve and strengthen ourselves as Museum professionals. Professional development is as important as evaluating our exhibits, counting our visitors,  and appreciating our members, but we rarely here about what everyone is doing and learning. So I decided to reach out to my colleagues and ask everyone to share an example of professional development they participated in this year and you can read them yourself below. I love the variety of experiences and opportunities that JMM staff participated in – and am already getting excited thinking about what we can do in the year ahead.

For myself, this past year I was able to attend the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Conference as a panelist.

It was a really great experience – not only did I get to share what JMM is doing in the world of social media (it’s a lot, by the way), I got some really great ideas from my fellow panelists AND attended a particularly great session on workplace happiness with Tamara Christian of the International Spy Museum. I’m hoping to share her presentation with the whole JMM staff at one of our Monday meetings.

From Marvin Pinkert, Executive Director:

They say that travel broadens the mind. After 32 years in the Museum industry, I can honestly say that some of my most worthwhile hours are those spent in other people’s museums. Among the most interesting exhibits I visited this year were the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park and the nearby Statue of Liberty Museum (which I visited four months before its opening); an experimental gallery featuring augmented reality at the Free Library of Philadelphia and Museum of the American Revolution (also in that city); and back in Chicago, an outstanding exhibit on “streamlining” at Chicago History Museum and a huge mobile museum gallery built as a companion to the musical, Hamilton. I may not have agreed with every choice made by curators or project managers, but in every instance exposure to new ideas for design and project management, stimulated my thinking about what we do at JMM.

From Paige Woodhouse, School Program Manager:

Professional development can take many forms. While I also attended some incredible conferences and webinars this year, another experience is worth mentioning. This year I transitioned roles at JMM to the newly created School Program Coordinator role. Over the last couple of months, I have had the opportunity to sit down with my counterparts from other Baltimore organizations to learn about their roles, programs, successes, and goals for growth. These casual meetings have empowered me to think creatively opportunities for the education team and about how JMM can develop partnerships. I look forward to meeting more of my fellow Baltimore museum education cohort in the upcoming year.

From Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Learning and Visitor Experience:

Professional development is so personal for me. This past year as a Board member of MAAM I participated in meetings to help plan and organize the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Conference that took place in October at West Point, NY. I am looking ahead to help plan the MAAM 2020 Annual Conference that will take place in Wilmington, Delaware.

I also had the opportunity to attend a session sponsored by CAJM (the Council of American Jewish Museums) on the topic of antisemitism. As an institution, the JMM also plans professional development opportunities for teachers throughout the State of Maryland. For the past 16 years, the JMM and Baltimore Jewish Council have worked together to plan the Summer Teachers Institute in the area of Holocaust Education. In 2019, we piloted the Winter Teachers Institute with great success with over 30 teachers in attendance for the two days. We are holding the Second Annual Winters Institute next month.

From Sue Foard, Membership Coordinator:

Webinars are my favorite type of professional development. It suits my learning style very well. This past year I participated in webinars from the postal service and about the Bank of America Cashpro system.

From Wendy Davis, Volunteer Coordinator:

One of my goals has been to provide workshops to increase the volunteers’ skill set and knowledge. Those workshops include learning how to use assistive listening devices and having the curators of the temporary exhibits provide us training on those exhibits. But the workshop that had the most meaning for me was the one I presented on the mikva’ot associated with the Lloyd Street Synagogue. I spent hours combing through books covering the history of Baltimore’s early synagogues and documents on the JMM computer finding archeologist reports, first person recollections and quotes from primary documents. I and the volunteers are now able to answer many more questions posed to us by Museum visitors regarding the mikva’ot, though there are still some questions that remain for future investigation!

From Tracie Guy-Decker, Deputy Director:

In February of 2019, I attended the Building Museums Conference in Brooklyn. The conference is dedicated to the processes and challenges of building museums and other cultural institutions. It was an eye-opening experience to hear stories from other institutions at various stages of expansion and evolution. Interestingly for me, some of the biggest takeaways weren’t about the nitty-gritty of building (e.g. humidity controls, building materials, LEED certifications and the like), but about the importance, nature, and consequences of visitor experience. Insights gained at that meeting have led to new partnerships and priorities as we move toward our own expansion. I’m looking forward to building on those insights at this year’s symposium.

From Talia Makowsky, Visitor Services Coordinator:

In December, I had the opportunity to join the Keshet Leadership Summit, as a part of the Keshet Leadership Project in Baltimore. Fifteen organization total came together to talk about LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Jewish community in Baltimore, and how we can commit to supporting and welcoming people from the LGBTQ+ community. Working together to show our dedication to diversity and inclusion was inspiring, and I felt proud to be a part of the Baltimore Jewish community. Our projects will continue for the rest of the year and we hope to meet again as a cohort soon. If you want to learn more about what we did that day, read about it here.

From Lorie Rombro, Archivist:

This past year I have enjoyed listening to webinars. My position has me working with numerous types of materials and objects and I enjoy learning more about care and processing of these collections. Many times, the webinars can be refreshers for me, but they always add additional knowledge to help in the care of the Museum’s collections.  Many of the webinars were facilitated by Connecting to Collections Care, including Practical Book Repair, Exploring Old Loans: A quest for resolution, What is this: solving problems found in collections, Preserving Film collections for the future and Managing resources for collections storage.

From Laura Grant, Program Assistant:

I spent the majority of 2019 in graduate school at George Washington University’s Museum Education Program. I learned about designing, implementing, and evaluating museum tours and programs for a variety of audiences. One of the most useful aspects of graduate school was meeting with professionals in the field. I learned so much about both the lofty and practical elements of museum work.

From Marisa Shultz, Museum Educator:

Last October, I had the opportunity to both present at and attend the Maryland Council for Social Studies Inc. 2019 Fall Conference, where teachers, museum professionals, and students came together to discuss the topic of “Integrating Civics in the Social Studies.” While attending sessions and meeting colleagues, I learned new techniques for sparking student curiosity, innovative ways to engage students with primary sources, and more about some of Maryland’s important historical figures, such as Margaret Brent. 

From Tracey Dorfmann, Director of Development: 

I was able to attend a workshop with The Association for Fund Raising Professionals in 2019 that focused on expanding our donor base.  One of the salient points was the importance of every contact with visitors, members, and existing donors. Each interaction holds the potential for a meaningful connection to the Museum. A good experience here can convert a visitor today can become an inspired donor in the future.

From Joanna Church, Director of Collections and Exhibits:

One conference I attended this year for the first time was the Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists (ARCS) biennial conference in Philadelphia. As I mentioned in my blog post, “it’s always nice to be among your peers, people who understand the pain of poorly documented 50-year-old donations and the joys of matching up a “found in collections” object with its original paperwork.”

And these are just a few of the many, many learning opportunities JMM staff have taken advantage of over the past twelve months! We look forward to all the conferences, workshops, meetings, readings, discussions, and more to come in the year ahead.

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The Value of Our Visitors’ Voices

Posted on December 13th, 2019 by

In this month’s Performance Counts, Paige Woodhouse gives a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important ways we evaluate our work. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

Performance Counts: December 2019

Often in Performance Counts we look at the data – the numbers. Tracie Guy-Decker shared in Quantitively and Qualitatively Measuring the Museum and Measuring Memory, Nurturing Upstanders about how data is an important tool for evaluating how we, as a museum, are doing. For this Performance Counts, let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at how we the develop tools to collect data and measure the Museum from the visitor’s point of view.

After an exhibit, our team gets together to discuss the project. We look back at our goals for the exhibit and measure how we did. What were our successes? Where are opportunities for us to improve? Were there any unexpected outcomes? There are lots of perspectives from different departments represented in these meetings – programs, education, curatorial, to name a few. But there is one voice, which is the most valuable, that can’t be left out. That’s your voice. The visitor’s voice.

For Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, we want to hear from you about your experience of our new original exhibit. We created a survey as a tool to collect this data. Planning began months ago when Fashion Statement was still on display. There were five steps to this project:

(1) Establish Goals. What did we want to achieve with the survey? Originally, we want to see if visitors were taking away what we consider to be the main themes of the exhibit. We also want to learn about people’s overall experience of the exhibit. Following piloting our questions, we added one more goal – to learn what motivated people to see the exhibit.

(2) Develop Questions. There are many ways to ask a question. There are some best practices to question writing too. We learned that it is better to keep our questions simple and to avoid museum jargon/terminology (When talking about the things you can do in the exhibit, “Hands-on Activity” is better than “Interactive”).

Intern Hannah with our pilot survey for Fashion Statement this summer.

(3) Pilot Questions. We piloted our survey during the Fashion Statement exhibit. Our great team of summer interns took turns asking visitors to complete a survey for a complimentary gift. We collected 36 surveys. This wasn’t enough data to foster meaningful insight about the Fashion Statement exhibit, but it was enough to see which questions were working and which were falling flat.

(4) Re-Evaluate Questions. After analyzing the data collected during our pilot, we made a few changes to our questions. For example, we asked visitors “How much do you feel you know about fashion history in Maryland” and provided them a scale from one to ten. When looking at the data, the responses were vague (what does a 4 mean?). We changed the question to be “How much do you feel you know about the scrap industry before visiting the exhibit?” We ask visitors to circle one of the following options: nothing, a little, average, more than average, a lot. These responses are more clearly defined.

Have you taken the survey yet? (Did you know you get a cool Scrap Yard magnet when you do?)

(5) Implement Survey. This brings us to the present. Since the opening of Scrap Yard on October 27th, our team has been asking visitors to complete a survey at the end of their visit. To date, we have collected 105 surveys. These surveys provide you, our visitor, with a voice. They give you a chance to tell us about yourself and why you chose to visit. You can tell us what you liked, what you weren’t so keen on, and what you learned.

This process doesn’t end at step five. After the exhibit ends, we will analyze the data, interpret it, and apply what we have learned. After all, evaluation is about learning. These surveys are another tool for us to collect data and measure we are doing, celebrate successes, and make improvements. It also reinforces the person behind the number. The stories shared, the connections made, and the actions taken.

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