Jewish Party in the Park!

Posted on September 21st, 2011 by

A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Picnicking in Druid Hill Park

This past Sunday the Jewish Museum of Maryland participated in the first annual Jewish Party in the Park, a festival celebrating the Jews and Jewish organizations of downtownBaltimore. The party included live music, vendors, a children’s area, and even a shofar blowing flash mob.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland was both a partner and a vendor at the event. The education department had a booth in the children’s area where we did crafts related to the holiday of Sukkot. Elena and I were very enthusiastic about creating crafts related to stargazing and constellations since an important aspect of building a sukkah is being able to see the starts through the schach, the roof covering usually made of palm leaves, bamboo sticks, or other branches.

I made sure to take a lot of photos that day, so I’d like to share some of them with you.

One of the highlights of the children’s area was the bounce house. I was pretty set on bouncing it in myself but unfortunately I never made it inside.

The other major highlight in the children’s area (besides the JMM tent of course) was the balloon making demonstration by “Balloons by Jon”. Jon made a life sized princess and motorcycle out of balloons. It was very impressive.

Kayam farms had a tent where they taught visitors about Jewish agriculture, which included displaying live chickens. They also sold some of their produce. Elena and I purchased mini gherkins, perhaps my new favorite healthy treat.

At the JMM tent Elena, Deborah, Ilene, and I taught children and their families about the starrs and how they relates to Sukkot. We were  impressed by how much knowledge many of the children already had about the constellations and the sky.

Last but not least, one of my personal highlights of the day was that both Ilene Dackman-Alon and Amy Smith, two JMM staff members, brought their dog to the park! Jack and Floyd were adorable and definitely attracted many children to our tent.

Especially considering that this was the first Party in the Park I would call the event a success. I’m already looking forward to attending again next year.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Becoming Jewish Famers: The Education Department Visits Kayam Farms

Posted on August 31st, 2011 by

A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Chana the goat at Kayam Farms

For the past month or so the Education Department at the Jewish Museum of Maryland has been working on what I would consider one of our most exciting projects ever. We are partnering with ExeterGardens(http:///­) inAlbemarle Square, a neighborhood adjacent to the JMM to create a community garden.  TheExeterGarden website says that the “project aims to transform an abandoned, ramshackle concrete lot into a model urban green space forBaltimore city.” The JMM is looking forward to participating in a community garden that will embrace the diversity and culture of the neighborhood.

Elena, Rachael, and Hasdai learning to becoming Jewish Farmers at Kayam Farm

When talking with Lindsay Thompson and Hasdai Westbrook, two of the key organizers of the garden, the JMM education staff realized that our newly formed partnership with Kayam Farm (http:/// would be an asset when developing this urban community garden. We quickly coordinated a time to meet with staff from Kayam to talk about ways in which they could help us visualize and create Exeter Gardens. As part of this process the JMM Education staff and Hasdai agreed to be trained in Jewish Farming techniques. Although Jewish farming is only one component of Exeter Gardens, we thought it useful to start the visualization process of how the garden may look as a whole and what type of Jewish educational programming we can provide at the museum. The JMM staff is especially excited about the development of this community garden because it ties in so nicely with our upcoming Chosen Food exhibition.

Morris and Elena discussing where her breakfast (oatmeal ) came from.

On Tuesday of this week the staff from the Education department (Deborah, Elena, Ilene, and myself), and Hasdai fromExeterGardensparticipated in the first of our training sessions to learn about Jewish farming. We have excitedly been referring to this training as first step in becoming Jewish Farmers, something I never expected to when taking this job. Morris Panitz, one of the Kayam Farms educators, helped each of us to understand the similarity between the values of Jewish education and education about farming and Jewish farming. We learned about how connected so many of the Jewish holidays (Sukkot, Purim, Shavuot, etc.) are to farming and the four seasons.

Team “Pest:” Hasdai, Deborah, and Ilene

Finally, we had a chance to go outside and experience an educational activity that we will be using with students. The goal of our activity was to teach the difference in mono-culture versus poly-culture crops.  Large scale mono-culture crops, so often used for commercial crops, are much more easily susceptible to attack by pests and therefore rely heavily on pesticides. In order to illustrate the difference between the two types of crops our group was divided into two teams: crops and pests. The first round illustrated mono-culture crops and Elena and I acted as corn crops while Ilene, Deborah, and Hasdai acted as pests. The pests chased the crops, which resulted in me taking one for the team and rolling down the side of a hill. Unfortunately in the end I was still caught by a pest (Deborah). During the second round Elena, Deborah, and I were pests, but the crops were diversified and it was much harder for us to tackle the crops.

Deborah and Elena embracing their role as pests

We had a beautiful and informative day at Kayam Farms and cannot wait to return to learn more about Jewish Farming. The Chosen Food exhibition opens on October 23 and when it does look for programs related to ExeterGardens and Jewish Farming.

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The JMM & Commodore Rodgers Middle School: Museum School Partnerships in Practice

Posted on June 20th, 2011 by

Mosaic Tile. Trina, 8th grade, Honor/Integrity.

Last week was bittersweet. For the past two months Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and I have been working with the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade class of Commodore John Rodgers Middle School, a Baltimore City public school  located about a mile a from the museum. A generous AEGON grant provided the JMM with the funds to create two long term partnerships with Baltimore public schools. Half of the education department, Deborah Cardin and Ilene Dackman-Alon, worked on a storytelling partnership this year with middle school students from Moravia Park Middle School while Elena and I worked on an art and place based project with the Commodore Rodgers students.

Loring Cornish talking about his work the CJR students.

Elena and I chose to work with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School because of its close proximity and shared history with the museum. Our inspiration for the mosaic project that we worked on with the students came from Loring Cornish’s exhibit, “In Each Other’s Shoes,” which is currently one display at the JMM through July 17. It was also important for us to let the students and teachers know that the JMM is a local resource for them to learn about their community. To emphasize these points we invited the entire middle school to visit the museum to tour our synagogues and exhibits and meet with Loring Cornish before we began working with them in their classrooms. The majority of the students had never visited the JMM or entered a synagogue.

Working with the 7th graders on their collages during the first week of class.

For the next few months Elena and I visited the middle school students on a weekly basis (which was an adjustment for us because they start school at 7:30 AM!).  Our final goal for the project was to have each student create a mosaic based on one of the school’s five promises: honor/integrity, commitment to quality, perseverance, no excuses, and contribution.  It was our hope that each student would use pictures, stories, words, and memories from their personal lives and community’s history to visually illustrate their promise.

Ms. Dekoster and 6th grade students analyzing one of the JMM’s archival images of the neighborhood.

Each week we did writing exercises, played games, and did art projects to prepare the students for making their final mosaics. One of the most special aspects of this project is that over the summer we will permanently install the students’ mosaics along a prominent wall leading up to the cafeteria. Loring Cornish will help us with the instillation and we hope to use shards of mirror and found objects as part of the final piece. We emphasized to the students that it was important for them to be thoughtful about their art, and its permanence in the school seemed to help them take this more seriously.

Mosaic Tile. Adriana, 7th grade, Perseverance.

Working with the students each week was an enlightening and exhausting experience for me. I have such a strong appreciation for Ms. Smith, Mr. Ayala, and Ms. Dekoster, the wonderful and caring teachers we worked with each week. At the end of the day each Wednesday when we were finished with the students, Elena and I would always wonder how these teachers had the energy to teach all day, every day. Despite the fact that Wednesdays were always an exhausting day, I looked forward to going to school each week to work with a diverse group of talented and energized kids.

Mosaic Tile, Rolando, 6th grade, Honor/Integrity

The students’ final mosaics turned out better than we imaged. It was so interesting to see how each student creatively expressed themselves. No two tiles are alike. Elena and I hope that the students and teachers at Commodore Rodgers Middle School enjoyed our time together as much as we did. Hopefully next year we will be able to partner with them again on another great project.

A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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