A high school journalism class gets inspired by Paul’s writing

Melissa Quiter is a journalism teacher at Miramonte High School in Orinda, California. She and her students engaged with the Out of Eden Walk in her Introduction to Journalism course.

In this world of the 24-hour news cycle, constantly updated social media, and connectivity in the palm of our hands, it’s no wonder that teenagers have a hard time slowing down. In fact, it is often the adults in their lives that set the fast-paced standard that is the unfortunate norm. When I first presented Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk project to my Introduction to Journalism students at Miramonte High School in Orinda, California, they approached the website like any other, and jumped around clicking and glancing, skimming and scanning.

But I was inspired by Paul’s monumental project and his commitment to slow journalism, so I kept bringing my students back to Out of Eden Walk for various days and lessons, and after a few months of periodically examining Paul’s work, they finally slowed down. And when they slowed down, the results were astounding.

After months of “traveling” along-side Paul, geeking out over maps, lavishing over his written words, and examining the fine art of “slow journalism,” I presented my students with a seemingly simple task (with a lesson tweaked from Footstep 2, “Connecting Our Own Lives to the Past”):

The Assignment:

Look at Paul’s route in the Map Room. Where is he currently?  Explore at least three different Milestones or Dispatches from the Out of Eden Walk website that you haven’t read yet.

Write a response that involves “snipping” – that is, copy a phrase, sentence or section from one of Paul’s Milestones or Dispatches that caught your attention and paste it into a document. Why did you find this interesting or important?

The "snip" tool is part of Out of Eden Learn's dialogue toolkit.

The “snip” tool is part of Out of Eden Learn’s dialogue toolkit.

What students wrote:

Pearl

“Such private trials, such intimate agonies, occur all over the world. They happen by the millions, to all sorts of people.” June 2, 2015

I feel that this sentence, as well being a beautifully crafted piece of writing, is one of the most truthful I’ve read on Out of Eden. It perfectly encapsulates the message and purpose of Out of Eden  to examine the details and the lives of individual people, not as a big-picture statistic, but in terms of their unique stories.

Rosie

“This long walk isn’t mine: It belongs to everyone, because all of our ancestors blazed the pathways I now follow — the compass points of human need and fear, of wonder and curiosity, that in the Stone Age led us questing out of Africa and across the unknown world.” March 13, 2015

I really enjoyed this “snippet” from Paul Salopek’s “Trail Gallery: Anatolia Through Others Eyes” because I think it encompasses all of the reasons why he embarked on this journey. I think that the way he says “This long walk isn’t mine: It belongs to everyone…” just shows that he is doing this not just for himself, but for the people along the way and for the world. He is shining a light on all of the places that our ancestors walked through, persevering through hardship and transitions. This snippet is also important because it shows that Paul really cares, and is putting in lots of time, energy, and effort to map out our ancestor’s walk out of Africa and into society.

Kate

Photo by Paul Salopek

Photo by Paul Salopek

“Nodar says: Stop. Stopping is good, he says. Why? Because life is short, and only friendship lasts…” March 25, 2015

I think this quote is important because I believe it offers solid life advice. What Nodar is saying is that if they stop at the caravan stop, they might meet some people and make some friends. Life is short and moves fast, but a solid friendship will last a lifetime and that is very important. Nodar sees the significance in making friends and bonding with people, and that’s why he wants to make stops. Who knows who you might meet at a caravan stop and what stories could be potentially traded and passed along. People are very interesting and everyone has a story, and one should take what opportunities that they can to hear them.

Katie

“All we want is peace. With peace everything is good. With peace you can make progress. War is no good. Nothing good comes of it. Nothing. Nothing.” Hazare Aydin, retired herder, age about 69 (at right)

hazareaydin

Photo by Paul Salopek

Paul encountered this woman while he was in Kars, Turkey. This quote stood out to me because it reminded me that people all over the world, no matter what culture or religion they are all want the same things, one of them being peace in their lives. People are all so different they have different lifestyles, abilities and languages but all have one thing in common they want peace. Many people get so caught up in their own lives that they focus on small things that they want and not their big goals or dreams. This quote reminded me that the small things are not as important as the big goals and dreams of our lives that we should be focusing on, just like Hazare Aydin.

Final Thoughts:

Not only did I ask my students to slow down, I slowed down as well. Despite, or in spite of, the emphasis placed on testing and grades, when my students and I slowed down in our classroom and with the curriculum, more meaningful learning and reflection occurred. And while we all know this to be true, we rarely take the risk slowing down involves, whether it be with our teaching or our own lives.

One comment

  1. Thanks for this blog post and what you are doing in your class. This project would be great for a HS or even college journalism project. As a former journalism major and current teacher, I love Out of Eden Learn and Out of Eden Walk. I teach MS and hope to have a journalism club where I can continue to build on what we did in class last year.

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