This Year in Education
There is no doubt that these past 14 months have brought immense changes to our world. Thinking back on March 2020, when the news of the novel COVID-19 virus was still relatively new, I remember realizing the severity of the pandemic when Maryland’s public schools began cancelling field trips and then promptly moving to virtual learning. I remember the large number of school groups we had scheduled for that spring and my agenda full tasks, meetings, and field trips all aligned to support these students’ learning and on-site experiences. Suddenly, all schools – public, private, Jewish, parochial, congregational, and home schools – all had to reckon with the reality of pandemic living, making previously unfathomable, daunting, and absolutely immense changes to their approach, pedagogy, and methodology. Almost overnight, the whole education landscape, and even its bedrock, had shifted. I am continually in awe and deep gratitude for everything the teachers, administrators, staff, and other educational professionals have done to support Maryland’s students during this time.
Our JMM Education Team also had to implement radical changes to our approach so that we could anticipate and meet the needs of local, Maryland educational communities. Gone were the days of buses and on-site visits.
As we near the end of the 2020-2021 school year, and we finish our last virtual visits with students, it seemed a great time to reflect on the past year and the accomplishments of our JMM Education Team. I am proud to announce that since August 2020, the JMM Education Team has worked with over 1,300 students at 25 different schools and educational institutions. The schools came from many different areas, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Howard, and Montgomery Counties, as well as Baltimore City and Washington D.C. Virtual learning also enabled students outside of the Maryland/DC corridor to visit JMM, including to students in New York, California, and even Quebec, Canada!
To support these students’ learning, the JMM Education Team has created 10 different virtual programs since the beginning of quarantine in March 2020. Some of these programs are directly based on Museum exhibits, such as our Voices of Lombard Street, Scrap Yard, and Jews in Space programs. Some are based on amazing stories and artifacts from our collection, like the Holocaust Memory Project and the brand-new Baltimore’s Garment Industry programs. We still offer tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue too, introducing students to Maryland’s oldest Jewish house of worship and the communities that gathered there. We also had the pleasure of working with Katherine Lyons and David London to reconfigure and reintroduce our Ida Rehr and Harry Houdini Living History Performances to schools during this time! Many of these programs also have variations that emphasize different aspects of the topic or pedagogical methods so that our team can best meet the needs of each classroom.
We also had the opportunity to forge new partnerships with schools and institutions we had never worked with before. This past spring, the JMM Education Team worked with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Park Heights Renaissance, and Cross Country Elementary/Middle School to develop and deliver a three-part program for the school’s eighth grade students, culminating with a joint program on the history of the integration of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. We even had the honor of Baltimore City Mayor, Brandon Scott, joining us for the program on the amusement park, in which he shared his personal reflections on its history and the importance of advocacy.
We also partnered with Crofton Middle School to bring our Holocaust Memory Project program to all of their 8th grade English Language Arts classrooms as their students studied The Diary of a Young Girl and worked collaboratively to build a digital Holocaust memorial for their school.
This year we also began working with Monarch Academy, a public charter school in Anne Arundel County, to craft programs specially tailored to their curriculum. With their 8th grade students, who were learning about the experiences of immigrants and refugees, we tailored a Holocaust Memory Project program to center on the experiences of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe in the late 1930s and the experiences of Holocaust survivors in Displaced Persons camps after the war. With their 7th grade students, who were studying working conditions and workers’ rights, we explored the history of Baltimore’s garment industry through the eyes of Jacob Edelman and Sarah Barron.
Virtual learning and social distancing also didn’t keep our team from hosting our special programs either! In August of 2020 and February of 2021, our team and the Baltimore Jewish Council hosted our annual Summer and Winter Teachers Institutes on the best practices of Holocaust Education over Zoom, reaching teachers from across Maryland and even from other states too. Hosting these programs over Zoom allowed us to work with national and international museums and cultural institutions to bring amazing experiences and resources for our attending teachers. Over the course of the two programs, we worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, World Without Genocide, Facing History and Ourselves, Echoes and Reflections, the Center for Jewish Education, the HERO Center, the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, Schools of Dialogue, and Centropa. In the virtual Google Classroom pages for these Institutes, teachers shared their lesson plans and provided feedback to one another, growing a community of teacher-learners in our digital spaces.
Even in the digital world, we continued our My Family Story program in partnership with Anu: The Museum of the Jewish People (formerly Beit Hatfutsot). This year two local Jewish day schools – Kreiger Schechter Day School and Ohr Chadash Academy – participated in the program, helping 44 students explore their family histories and tell those stories in creative ways. You can view all of the student projects at our digital exhibition here.
As summer approaches, our JMM Education Team is already looking to the fall with both its opportunities and uncertainties. We are starting to make plans for the programs and educational resources we will be offering in the fall, and we would love your thoughts on what kinds of resources or programs you could use in your classroom, school, or educational space. Is there a topic that you always wished we offered an education program on? Is there a different format you wish we offered programming in, such asynchronous lesson plans? Please reach out to us at email@example.com– we would love to hear from you!