Performance Counts, July 2015: Education at the JMM – A Year in Review

Posted on July 10th, 2015 by

The beginning of summer marks the end of the school year- the time when the education department reviews its activities of the past year to see how our programs and resources have the impacted students, teachers and adult audiences.  We wanted to take the opportunity to share some of our accomplishments with you.

Number of Students:   We are pleased to report that we had a successful year serving close to 4600 area school students from Maryland public, independent, and parochial schools (including Jewish day and congregational schools).  Our breakdown of school attendance is as follows:

Public Schools

District Students Served Number of Schools
Baltimore City 1855 16
Baltimore County 134 4
Frederick County 76 1
Howard County 23 1
Montgomery County 42 1
Prince Georges County 42 1


Independent and Parochial Schools and Others**

District Students Served Number of Schools
Anne Arundel County 47 1
Baltimore City 855 19
Baltimore County 37 2
Carroll County 5 1
Frederick County 31 1
Harford County 250   1*
Montgomery County 15 1


*Outreach program at John Carroll High School where area high school students from more than a dozen schools participated in Lessons of the Shoah.


** We had visitors from Central High School –Philadelphia, PA  and Stockton University-  Galloway, NJ


Jewish Day and Congregational Schools 

District Students Served Number of Schools
Anne Arundel County 44 1
Baltimore City 124 4
Baltimore County 561 5
Harford County 14 1
Howard County 124 5
Montgomery County 67 3
Prince Georges County 28 1
Other*** 82 4


*** Visitors were from Washington DC, Forest Hills, NY, and Diller Teens from Ashkelon, Israel

Educational Programs and Activities

T he JMM education department continues to provide high quality educational resources that align with Common Core goals and objectives that enhance the social studies curriculum. Education programs include field trips and tours of our historic synagogues and changing exhibitions, and  outreach programs in the classroom such as our successful Immigrant’s Trunk living history program (students learn about immigration history through dramatic one-person plays based on the real lives of real life immigrants  who settled in Baltimore in the early 20th century). Other programs include enrichment activities such as art projects and creative writing workshops.  We also have History Kits and archival explorations on a number of topics available for school groups.

The Amazing Mendes Cohen Education Activities

Using puzzle pieces as the motivation and hook for students- the education department created two separate activities for both elementary/middle school and high school groups using puzzle pieces to engage students.  Our younger visitors were given blank puzzles and explored their own identity using the puzzle pieces from the exhibition describing different attributes of Mendes Cohen.  How was Mendes Cohen a family man?  How are you part of a family?  How was Mendes Cohen a patriotic American?  How are you a patriotic American? Where did Mendes Cohen travel?  Where have you travelled?  How was Mendes Cohen a civic advocate? What are some ways that you demonstrate being a civic advocate?  The students loved filling in their puzzle pieces and then putting the actual puzzles together and sharing with their friends and family.

The older students were also given an activity that involved looking at the puzzle pieces describing the attributes for Mendes Cohen.  They were challenged to find the supporting evidence in the text panels of the exhibit to help them understand the many facets of Mendes Cohen.  In addition to these activities, all of the students enjoyed the interactive activities in the exhibit- especially the powder magazine and the world map stringing activity.

Students loved racing against the clock to ensure that the powder magazine did not explode and learning about the names of countries and cities throughout Europe and the Middle East where Cohen travelled. Another exhibit highlight for students was the section of the exhibit where they learned about the story of Cohen creating a flag for his trip down the Nile, viewing the actual flag he created and then making their own flag to hoist up the mast. In addition, to these activities done in conjunction with the exhibit, the education staff put together  a curriculum for teachers that includes lesson plans for elementary , middle and high school audiences.

Living History Performances:

Both school and adult groups scheduled living history performances both on-site at the Museum and at offsite venues throughout the year.  These living history performances, portrayed by professional actors, tell the story of actual Jewish immigrants to Baltimore.  Below is a breakdown of performances this year.

Living History Character Number of Performances Audience
Ida Rehr 18 790
Bessie Bluefeld 5 322
Mendes Cohen 16 836
Saul Bernstein 1 26


Professional Development for Teachers and Museum Professionals

Professional development for teachers continues to be an important component of our educational program. We served more teachers this past year than in FY 14 (503 in FY 15 as compared to 439 in FY 14) with workshops devoted to topics including immigration and American history, world religions, Holocaust, and working with primary sources. Our annual Summer Teachers Institute remains a popular professional development opportunity for teachers. Below is the breakdown of districts and those served.


District Number of Workshops Audience
Baltimore City 3 90
Baltimore County 1 40
Harford County 4 157
Prince Georges County 2 170
Montgomery County 1 45


In addition to these workshops, the JMM education staff attended and facilitated two workshops at the AASLH – American Association of State Local History Museums in St. Paul, MN and also the MSCSS – Middle States Council for Social Studies in Gettysburg, PA.

Kudos to our Volunteer Docents and Museum Educators:

The education department has been privileged to work with committed volunteer docents and museum educators throughout the year in an effort to facilitate our education programs.  Kudos and thank you to  volunteer docents  Barbara Cohen, Harvey Karch, and Lois Fekete in working specifically with our school age audiences.  Special thanks to the amazing museum educators who have also helped promote our education programs. … Virginia Steiner, Jessie Gordon, Arielle Kaden, Emma Glaser, Sean Schumacher, Carolyn Bevans, Kelly Suredam, Abby Krolik and Graham Humphrey.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Why Museums Need Guinea Pigs

Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by

A few days ago we had our first opportunity to test out the educational programs we’d created for school groups visiting The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit. The 8th graders at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School were brave enough to sign up to be our guinea pigs!

Picture 1

Checking out the exhibit

Going into it, our education staff was unsure if we could manage more than ten students at a time inside the maze. Nightmareish images of children hiding in unseen corners and running roughshod over the interactives flooded our minds. Limiting the number of students allowed in the maze at one time would of course make planning field trips for large groups very awkward. We had to be creative about our use of time and space. The plan we came up with was based on the average group size of 40 students. We would split them in half—20 and 20—between Voices of Lombard Street and The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. The 20 in Mendes Cohen would then be split again—10 and 10. The first group of ten would be led through the exhibit, while the second group did an archival activity in the Orientation Space. They would switch at 15 minutes, and then, at the half hour mark, switch with their classmates in Voices, and repeat.

Picture 2

Hard at work

We learned a lot by observing a school group go through the exhibit. The first thing we learned—much to our relief—is that it’s not as terrifying to take students through the maze as we’d imagined. We decided that it would not be impossible to even take up to 20 students at a time. The next thing we learned was that we really needed to give the students more time to go through the exhibit. It has so much to offer—from the fun of going through a maze, to the neat objects on display, and the hands-on interactives dispersed throughout the corridors and “rooms”—and no one was benefitting from having to rush through it.

The teacher also expressed her disappointment that we had put as much emphasis on the archival activity as on the exhibit itself. She felt that the archival activity could as easily be done in the classroom as at a museum, and she’d hoped for a more hands-on experience for her students. While I don’t think we should completely discount the appropriateness of utilizing our primary resources during a museum visit (many schools have limited access to these kinds of resources), we did take her critique to heart.

Afterwards, we went back to brainstorming:  how could we supply just enough structure to make the school’s visit intellectually stimulating without making it seem like just another day in the classroom? How could we best get a group of students to not just walk through the maze, but to actually engage with its content? We had previously assumed that these two activities had to be separated—hence the archival activities. Now we needed to come up with a way of bringing the two together.

A major theme of the exhibit is the puzzle of Mendes Cohen’s complex identity. The exhibit seeks to demonstrate the different aspects of his character with his objects, letters, and actions. There are puzzle pieces scattered throughout the exhibit that list his attributes—e.g. “Family Man” and “Proud Jew.” Each of these puzzle pieces lifts up to reveal a question about how we know that Mendes was all of these things. At the end of the exhibit, we turn the question to the visitor: what are the attributes that make up you?

Picture 3

A “make your own” puzzle piece

It was this central theme that led our Education Director, Ilene Dackman-Alon, to a breakthrough idea. For the next school group that visits us, we will ask the students to work in pairs to find each of the puzzle pieces in the exhibit, and to write down the answer to each one’s question.  At the end of the exhibit, we will ask them to think of attributes that describe their own class. Each pair will contribute their attribute to a piece of the class puzzle that they will then get to take back to school with them!

We are very excited about this new plan! It can be daunting to have to go back to the drawing board after working so hard to come up with the first lesson plans, but actually knowing what it looks like to take a school group through the exhibit helped us shape what we hope will be an even better one.


abby krolikA blog by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Once Upon a Time…03.01.2013

Posted on July 9th, 2013 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  March 1, 20131992108017

PastPerfect Accession #:  1992.108.017

Status:  Partially identified! Can you name the other two Past Presidents of the Isaac Davidson PTA? Back Row Left to Right: 1. Unidentified 2. Thomas Lipnick 3. Unidentified Front Row Left to Right: 1. Harry Mandelberg 2.Louis Klein 3. Benjamin Bloom


Special Thanks To: Evelyn (Evy) Strauss Mandelberg 


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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