ELIZABETH–Benedictine Academy students participated in a novel classroom experience this month, when a “webinar” was set-up between the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts and one of the Academy’s religion classes. The “webinar” was a first for the museum in conjunction with a school.
Via the SMARTBoard Internet connection in their classroom, students at Benedictine Academy were directly connected to the museum, and toured the facility on Dec. 1, guided by one of its personnel.
“Our students were able to take a live, personalized virtual tour of the Museum to study the history of Russian Icons as an art form of prayer,” Benedictine Academy Campus Minister Linda Michalski said. “This was a pilot program that was developed between the museum and our school over several months,” she added.
The response was an overwhelming success for all parties, according to Michalski. “This was the first time the museum conducted a ‘webinar with a school,’” she explained. It all evolved from a request by Michalski earlier this year to take a virtual tour of the Museum and have students study its religious icons.
Since the museum did not have virtual tour capability at the time, its officials decided to give it a try. “It took them three months to develop,” Michalski noted and, their efforts ultimately resulted in an exciting virtual visit for the academy’s students.
Sophomore Martha Devia of Elizabeth commented that she found the tour “very detailed…there was not one dull moment and everything was explained thoroughly with all questions answered,” she stated. Devia was “interested to learn how old some icons are and how everything in an icon has meaning.”
Krystal Burns, a sophomore from Newark, liked the fact that she “was able to interact with the tour guide over the computer. I found the presentation very interesting,” Burns added.
The virtual tour was conducted for approximately one hour during the students’ religion class. The tour guide at the museum gave a formal presentation, live at a computer, showing and teaching about the religious icons- how they are painted and about the meaning behind each of them. Students were able to chat with the guide and ask questions.
“At Benedictine Academy, we believe critical thinking and intellectual curiosity are the cornerstones to learning,” Michalski noted. With every classroom at the Academy equipped with Laptop/LCD Projector/SMARTBoard Technology, “Third Millennium education is no longer confined to a classroom,” Michalski said.
The Museum of Russian Icons was founded in 2006 as a non-profit educational institution by Massachusetts industrialist, Gordon B. Lankton. The collection includes more than 400 Russian icons, the largest collection of its kind in North America, and one of the largest private collections outside Russia. The collection spans six centuries, and includes important historical paintings dating from the earliest periods of icon “writing” to the present.