City Kits Provide Free Hands-On Learning for Students

When schools closed their doors in the earliest days of the pandemic, the BMI quickly adapted two of its popular programs into take-home kits for local students.

One mirrors the Kids’ Cannery activity that engages students in active exploration of the work involved in the process of preparing, preserving, and providing food to communities through the lens of the historic canning industry. The other looks at the science behind light.

With an estimated one quarter of all Baltimore City school children living without reliable internet access, there was an urgent need for ways to engage school children using non-virtual programming. The aptly named City Kits are available to schools at no charge, thanks to the generous support of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, The Edmund Eisenberg Memorial Fund for the Advancement of STEM Education, Northrop Grumman, Green Bay Packaging, and museum board member Janet Novak.

Photo courtesy of Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

How does light help us to see, and to communicate?

Elementary schools explore these questions as part of the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum adopted by Baltimore City schools. Using the Lights On! City Kits, students investigate methods for communicating with light and sound, test their skills using Morse Code, and create their own light communication device. Each kit includes hands-on, curriculum-aligned activities and primary source images, accompanied by easy-to-follow lesson plans.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the BMI distributed 1,000 Lights On! City Kits to Maryland schools. The BMI has distributed 620 kits so far this school year, and now includes the added option of having a museum educator guide the activity in classrooms. These on-site field trips help add variety to the school day for children, provide expert information, and give classroom teachers a much-deserved breather.

Photo courtesy of Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

The Edmund Eisenberg Memorial Fund for the Advancement of STEM Education provided a generous gift in support of the development, production, distribution, and on-site implementation of the Lights On! kit.

Howard and Ellen Eisenberg created the foundation in memory of Howard’s father, who dedicated his life to teaching math and science to students of all ages. The fund supports efforts to introduce STEM education to children who might not otherwise have access to enriched hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and math.

As co-founders of a company reliant on tech-skilled workers, Howard and Ellen were concerned that some children, especially during the pandemic, wouldn’t have access to rich hands-on programming. “It’s a privilege to see students learn, to be there when that light bulb goes on, when they achieve the project goal,” she says. Having a museum teacher to help guide the process and keep students on track helps encourage them to keep moving forward in this field, she adds. Ms. Eisenberg taught math and science in Howard County schools, and is now an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University, teaching about foundations of entrepreneurship.

Demand for City Kits remains high. The BMI seeks support so that we can continue to provide kits at no charge to participating schools. Please consider making a difference by becoming a City Kit sponsor. For more information, contact Deborah Cardin at

Photo courtesy of Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

Science is best experienced hands on and this project is no different. I’m not sure that I can say enough good things about the experience. We were able to watch our students engage in, enjoy and better understand the science of light communication with the help of these kitssays Sharon Cowger, a 1st grade teacher at Holabird Academy in Baltimore City.

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