See You on the Flip Side

Blog post by Education & Programs Intern Anna Balfanz. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

As a young adult, I find myself on the flipside of many events from my childhood and teenage years. When I began attending my family’s congregation in fifth grade, I fidgeted through the children’s services and, admittedly, antagonized the teen leaders with my friends. We grumbled when instructed to stand, acted too cool to play the games, and introduced ourselves with incorrect names. Of course, only a few years later, I began working as a teen leader myself …and dealt with all the younger kids intent on troublemaking for the next five years.

Now, as an education and programs intern, I’m on yet another flipside: assisting with school and camp group tours and activities. On my first day as an intern, Trillion told us to arrive early the next day to help with a school group. Since that day, we’ve worked with seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade, and K-second grade groups. While I first felt most comfortable walking with others and monitoring behavior, I just experienced the best tour yet leading the students myself. While I’ve learned to feel more comfortable with this responsibility, I’ve also learned a few other facts along the way. By combining memories of my own school trips along with my time as one I’ve the leaders, I’ve realized three things.

Exercise activity before seeing the “Beyond Chicken Soup” exhibit!
Exercise activity before seeing the “Beyond Chicken Soup” exhibit!

First, that quiet, seemingly disengaged kid in the corner? He or she may just need someone to personally engage with them. I know this both from my own experience as the quiet kid and from my favorite moment with a school group. We all sat in the exhibit beneath Lloyd Street Synagogue, while the instructor gave a mini-Hebrew lesson. After learning a few words, the leader told the students to turn to each other, shake hands, and say “Shabbat Shalom.” After a few seconds of awkwardness, most kids got into it, shaking hands wildly up and down while giggling “Shabbat Shalom!”  One kid, however, sat further away from the others, a slight frown on his face. I went up to him and stuck out my hand for a handshake. Right away, his face split into the biggest smile and his eyes lit up, taking my hand and giving me a very professional handshake. “Shabbat Shalom,” I grinned, and he giggled it right back.

The box of goodies that turns into an archeology game.
The box of goodies that turns into an archeology game.

Second, both the students and the adult leaders compromise for each other. I know from being a student that sometimes, even if you enjoy the trip’s topic or location, you’re just not in the mood on that particular day. Yet, you still sit (relatively) still, try to listen, and participate when possible. At the same time, the leaders listen to the needs of the students more than I realized. Twice now, we’ve changed the original plan based on the needs of the students, whether cutting out an activity or changing the timing of lunch when students complained of hunger. It makes me wonder what compromises my own teachers and student leaders enacted when I took these fieldtrips.

Finally, a large group of kindergarten, first, and second graders listens and plays along far better than a medium sized group of ninth graders. Whether it’s the different degrees of fear, respect, and excitement, or simply the difference in height (even many seventh graders towered over me), I would take the group of younger children any day.

All in all, these school and camp tours remain my favorite part of this internship. I love improvising to cater the exhibits to each group, seeing the students interact with each other, and hearing their guesses to my questions. Museums are for the public, so I consider it special that the education and program interns have the chance to see it engage with our museum first hand.

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