Alumni Artists Create ‘Traveling Classroom’
Armed with conventional ICJA desks and a chalkboard, two alumnae Ariela Robinson (’01) and Rena (Geller) Grosser (’03) set out to create a most unconventional art display. The two spent three days this summer traveling around the state of Wisconsin, setting up a “classroom” at various locations and documenting that process through video, photography, writing, sketching and other art mediums.
Following the three days of exploration, the pair held a local show to display their “Traveling Classroom” and raised funds for the very classrooms that they were both educated within–ICJA.
Ariela developed the Traveling Classroom concept when she participated in a creative competition that involved creating an original idea for a public space. As a high school English teacher for more than six years at Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY, Ariela was enamored by the idea of creating a public or outdoor classroom because learning can happen anywhere.
She went on to win that competition and then wanted to find a way to “build” the concept on her own. She partnered up with fellow alumna, Rena, in hopes of transcending the educational experience in their traveling classroom.
These two very talented and dynamic alumnae joined together to express themselves and their teachings through this fascinating artistic medium. With a truck of desks in tow, they traveled for three days with a mission: to set up their classroom—learn anywhere—and from everyone. The goal was to demonstrate that real learning can happen anywhere and that the concept, they remarked “is intended to incite educational nostalgia within a community and capture an artistic expression of the very place that shapes the root of our society as a whole.”
Ariela holds a Masters in teaching English from Teachers College, Columbia University. Rena is a Licensed, Board Certified Art Therapist and Certified Child Life Specialist. She completed her undergraduate studies at Queens College and received her Masters in Creative Arts Therapy from Hofstra University. Together, they have found that the most effective way to impart knowledge and connect with their students is by creating a learning experience that involves one’s senses. And, the Traveling Classroom accomplishes just that—wherever they were, there was an associated sensory experience.
Ariela and Rena say that in some ways being inside is a more challenging experience for teachers, as they are limited to a four-walled classroom. The traditional classroom is like a blank canvas; it can be a potentially confining educational experience if teachers are not creative. Teachers should use their creativity as a tool to be more inventive in creating an interactive and effective learning experience.
Another unique element about the Traveling Classroom, unlike its traditional counterpart, is that it was a voluntary experience. Ariela and Rena set up their classroom in various spaces and inviting passerby’s to join. Discussions ranged from what worked about their own classroom and what didn’t, to eating in the classroom or the setup and design of a classroom. The conversations dissected the different elements that comprise a classroom. Everything was laid out on the table.
When asked who inspired the girls in the ICJA classroom. Ariela and Rena both agreed upon Ms. Goldstein. Ariela explains, “Ms. Goldstein always encouraged her students to speak and really listened to our thoughts and opinions. She would also set up her classroom up in a circle in order to create a dialogue among students, which fostered great learning.” For Rena, Mrs. Goldstein’s “passionate and vivacious” teaching style really affected her learning. Public speaking was her favorite class, and there she was able to give a demonstrative speech on how to tie-dye, embracing her interests and sharing her creativity with her peers.
For both Ariela and Rena, Ida Crown truly created a memorable and valuable educational experience, one in which they use to motivate, challenge, and push educational limits now and in the future.