Class is in Session

Cast your mind back to when you were a kid in school. For me it was parochial school in Des Plaines and Arlington Heights, with the old wooden desks, and the good Sisters of St. Francis at the chalkboard. It was “Fun with Dick and Jane” and the Baltimore Catechism, it was learning the Palmer Method and getting a real fountain pen in the second grade. It was my beloved Snow White lunch box with matching thermos, saddle shoes and knee socks and chapel caps. Sure, I’m dating myself, but I know you can do it, too. For you it might be just like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” with shoulder pads, frizzed out fringe and silver bracelets up your arm like Nancy Cunard transported to the 1980s. (And if you know who Nancy Cunard is, you get extra points.)

What happens if you take all that nostalgia about what it was to be learning when you were young, what it meant when your teacher got through to you past all the giggles and the surety that nobody would ever ever use Geometry in real life, and make that nostalgia into something as real now as it was then? What if there’s a way to open up your own inner child’s eyes (whatever your age) and see that we are always students, we are always learning, and we love it?

Welcome to the Traveling Classroom Chicago, where class is in session….all over the city.

One of the things that we always say at Urban Gateways is that the city is the classroom. So we’re going to explore what happens when a few intrepid teachers turn the class on its head and set up their desk – and yours – on the beach, or in the train station, or in the middle of the farmers market. You will be invited to learn anywhere, to recapture that amazement, that wonder and that joy. To see that you live in a place where learning can always happen and does always happen.

Follow Teaching Artists Rena Grosser and Ariela Robinson when the Traveling Classroom Chicago pops up in locations all over our town, June 10 through 13. Learning can happen anywhere, so Rena and Ariela will arrange their desks and invite the student in us all to make a drawing, to write a poem, to fill in the yearbook in iconic landmarks like the Great Hall at Union Station, under the Ferris Wheel as fireworks illuminate the scene on Navy Pier, and at the Lincoln Square Farmers Market under the Western Brown Line tracks. Golfers will walk past an impromptu classroom under the collonade at the South Shore Cultural Center, while soccer players might wander over with you to do a quick art project between games near the Allstate Field in Humboldt Park. A lazy day at North Avenue Beach will become a sandy school day on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Ordinary school equipment like a teacher’s desk, a standing chalkboard and a slew of student desks will evoke our childhood memories while non-traditional spaces ignite imaginations and wake up our capacity to learn as we see with fresh eyes what is always there for us. Parks and buildings, streets and beaches, and each person, every one of us, a student of life.

June 10 – 9:30 PM on Navy Pier under the Ferris Wheel June 11 – 11:00 AM at North Avenue Beach, 3:00 PM in the Great Hall at Union Station, 6:00 PM at the Lincoln Square Farmers Market June 12 – 11:00 AM at the South Shore Cultural Center, 3:00 PM at Humboldt Park near Allstate Field or (in case of rain) near the Boat House

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Photos by Rena Geller Grosser and Ariela Robinson

…And don’t miss the photo exhibition at Cliff Dwellers on June 15, 200 S. Michigan Avenue, 5:30 to 7:30 PM. It just might be you in one of the pictures!