(Until recently I was the Head of Social Studies at Crofton House School in Vancouver, Canada. This fall I take up the position of Assistant Principal at Bodwell High School, also in Vancouver. In this second of two blog posts, I reflect on what I and my 11th grade students gained from participating in the Out of Eden learning community this past semester.)
As my students got involved with Out of Eden, we looked at the plan for Paul Salopek’s journey and marvelled at the idea of walking for seven years. That takes a patience that seems lost in our frenetic world. Paul’s slow journalism is intended to help us slow down and perhaps pay attention to things we might normally whizz by.
The work we completed as part of this project in some ways paralleled Salopek’s journey. Many of the prompts required students to look carefully and thoughtfully at their own worlds and the worlds of others around the globe. Like Tabbatha’s younger students (see the previous post Looking differently at the world: engaging young learners in the Out of Eden Walk), my 11th graders found that slowing down to take a closer look at their surroundings led to new insights about where they live and indeed about life in general.
However, for my students, their interaction with other students from around the globe was the key to extending their learning. As we journeyed through our own communities, mapping our own spaces and taking photos of places with which we were familiar for an international audience, things that were commonplace suddenly appeared new as we started to actually look at them. We also got the opportunity to see the communities of other students from around the world (including India, England, Australia, and the United States). The comments that students sent to one another about each other’s work were instructive in and of themselves. And so the learning happened at the local level, as we saw our own spaces in new ways, but also on the global level, as we saw how other students viewed their spaces.
One of my favourite prompts involved looking at several photographs from around the world and commenting on how we live in a globally connected world. What the students noticed was that there was a familiarity in all the photographs, no matter if the photo was taken in Mexico or Guatemala, Johannesburg or Paris. The message the students gleaned from this task was that our lives are intertwined no matter where we find ourselves on this planet.
Seeing the world with fresh eyes was one of the benefits my students received from having been involved in this project. As we journeyed concurrently with Paul, following his walk and commenting on what he was seeing, we also were tasked with looking at our own world in new ways. Students started paying a lot more attention than they normally would to everyday objects and what they reveal. This new perspective taking helps students extend their learning beyond the classroom. Thinking about how they observe the world is a benefit that will extend well beyond their high school years.