Posted on February 17th, 2014 by Rachel
This past week, Ilene and I had the honor of being judges in a National History Day Competition at Mount Washington Middle School (Ilene actually was a judge at several other schools’ competitions as well, but I was only able to attend this one). The competition has existed for many years, but this was the first year that Baltimore City public schools have participated, which we learned when three different schools asked us to volunteer as judges for their school’s competition.
Each year, elementary and secondary school students can participate by selecting any topic in history that relates to the annual national theme. This year, that theme is “rights and responsibilities.” Students can work by themselves or in small groups to research and present their topic as either a small “exhibit” (think science fair presentation board), a paper, a performance, a documentary, or a website that they design. They must make use of both primary and secondary sources and make connections not just between their topics and the theme, but also to current events that demonstrate the topic’s relevance. The first step is the school-level competition. The winner from each school goes on to the local competition, and the winner at that level goes on to a state-wide competition, and then that winner proceeds to the National History Day competition, held each year at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Mount Washington Middle School is one of our newest partner schools. One of our favorite teachers, Ryan Kaiser, just moved there this year from Patterson Park Public Charter School, and it was he who invited us to be judges for their school level competition. The judges were pulled from various educational institutions across the city–teachers from other schools, educators and administrators from the District Office, the Maryland Humanities Council, and us, the Jewish Museum of Maryland!
Ilene and I were assigned to work together. We were handed folders with the names of the students whose projects we’d be judging as well as the rubrics and rules for grading. As a first time judge of anything, it was a little overwhelming, so I was very glad that the folder also included a list of suggested questions to ask the students, such as “Why did you choose this topic?” and “What was the most important thing you learned from this?”
The projects we saw covered a wide range of topics, including Nelson Mandela, Child Labor Laws, and Grave Robbery. As expected, there was also a wide range of ability, but given that this was probably the first big research project many of the students had undertaken (many of the students we were judging were 6th graders), we were both impressed by the scope of each student’s project and also by their clear enthusiasm.
We were especially impressed by one girl’s project which compared the murders of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. Not only was she able to make a connection between an historical event and a current event, but she was also able to articulate other comparisons between the two cases. Her exhibit included sections on two different, flawed systems of justice that existed, or still exist, in the U.S., as well as how the two cases influenced and inspired contemporaries.
Overall, the experience of judging the History Day competition was a very positive one. I wish we’d had more time to look at other projects besides the ones we were assigned to judge. And I’m already looking forward to judging again next year!
Posted on January 13th, 2014 by Rachel
Back in late November, I received an intriguing email from a history Phd candidate from Johns Hopkins University. She and another history grad student were putting together a mini course for JHU’s intercession, in which undergraduate students can take 3-week courses in a wide variety of topics that they wouldn’t necessarily get to explore in the normal semester. This particular mini course was to be about mapping Jewish community in Baltimore—and what better place to start then the Jewish Museum of Maryland?
The three of us and Ilene Dackman-Alon met to discuss the scope of the course and to see where we could help out. It was ultimately decided that the class would have their first meeting here at the museum, where they would tour the synagogues and exhibits, and later on, back in their classroom, our living history character, Ida Rehr (played by Katherine Lyons), would come visit them.
Voices of Lombard Street
Last Tuesday, the class arrived, eager to learn about the roots of Jewish Baltimore. Before beginning the tour, they took turns introducing themselves and explaining why they had signed up for the course. Many of the students came from mixed backgrounds—one Jewish parent—and so were curious about the history and culture from which they came. When the instructors—the grad students—introduced themselves, they talked about how their identities weren’t shaped just by their religion, but also by where in the country they grew up. One, who grew up in Viriginia, said she felt that she had the very specific identity of being a Southern Jew, while the other, who grew up in New York City, related strongly to the cultural identity of being a New York Jew. Listening to this conversation, Ilene and I couldn’t help but wish that the Chosen Food exhibit were still here!
LSS by Jono David
The students enjoyed seeing the two historic synagogues and learning about the migration of the Jewish community within Baltimore. It’s great to see so many people who are interested in learning about the Jewish American experience and identity and that the JMM is viewed as an invaluable resource for schools of all kinds!
A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click here.
Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by Rachel
Dear Abby is at it again!
My dear friend, “S” has put himself into a bit of a pickle. He has a reputation for being a know-it-all, and now he’s made an ill-advised bet with his archenemy (let’s just call him “M”) that he knows everything about the Jewish Museum of Maryland. He even wagered his prized violin! There’s only one problem: “S” has never been to the JMM! Obviously, he needs to visit the museum as soon as possible. When is the soonest that he can go on a tour? Do your tours cover the whole museum? Another potential problem is that “S” has lived a long, full live, and his knees just aren’t what they used to be, so he is not comfortable using stairs—even with railings. Will this be a problem?
Dear Dr. W.,
A wager is very serious business, so I will try to do everything I can to help your friend learn what he needs to know in order to keep his violin! First of all, we offer five tours a day, Sunday through Thursday, so there are plenty of opportunities for “S” to go on a tour. These tours go out at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, and 4:00pm. I would recommend that he come for the tours earlier than 3:00pm because the 3:00pm tour talks more about the Civil War than about the history of the synagogues, and the 4:00pm tour is abbreviated because we have to close up the synagogues at 4:30pm. For future reference, you can always find our tour schedule on our website, here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/.
The tours do not cover the entire museum. They only cover the two synagogues—Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel Synagogue. The exhibits inside the museum, and in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, are all self-guided.
Unfortunately, while the main museum building is handicap accessible, both synagogues require our visitors to climb a lot of stairs, and because they are historic buildings, it’s very difficult to install ramps or elevators that still comply with the historic trust’s rules. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll have a solution to the problem of ensuring access while preserving the historic character of these buildings, but for the time being, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
Generally, I assume that each visitor knows his or her own abilities best, but if “S” is uncomfortable with stairs, even when they have railings (as ours do), then he will not be able to see the sanctuaries of the synagogues…in person. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t go on a tour! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have a DVD version of the synagogues tour that we can set up in as little as five minutes! If “S” asks for it at the front desk, we will have him set up in no time at all.
Have a question of your own for Abby? Click HERE to email her! Make sure to put “Dear Abby” in the subject line!