Adapting, deepening, extending: How educators are making Out of Eden Learn their own

On November 24, 2015 we held a Google+ Hangout called Out of Eden Learn in the Classroom. During this session five educators from our community shared how they have incorporated Out of Eden Learn into their specific classroom contexts. The participants, who all happen to be active on Twitter, were:

Andy Richardson, an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program Humanities Teacher at the Lincoln Community School in Accra, Ghana @AndyRO16

Kiriaki Melliou, a kindergarten teacher in Piraeus, Greece @KiriakiMelliou

Robert Martin, a 6th grade teacher at the American International School of Chennai, India @DigitalnomadRob

Vanenka Mosqueira, a Spanish teacher at the Atlanta International School, Atlanta, Georgia, USA @VaneMosqueira

Hollis Scott, a 5th grade teacher at Montair Elementary School, Danville, California, USA @holliswscott

The session was inspiring in that it attested to the wealth of resources and terrific ideas that are being generated by educators who have gone well beyond anything that the Out of Eden Learn team based in Cambridge, Massachusetts have created. Here I pull some highlights from the session and provide links to the resources and suggestions that these educators generously shared. What stood out to me were the ways in which these teachers have (1) successfully adapted Out of Eden Learn activities to incorporate them into their everyday practice and curriculum; (2) deepened our materials, in part by developing greater scaffolding for their students; and (3) extended or broadened the scope of the activities we’ve designed, sometimes by integrating Project Zero materials that stem from projects other than Out of Eden Learn.

Andy Richardson shared how he developed an activity for his students inspired by Paul’s dispatch Sole Brothers. He asked students to reflect on Paul’s assertion: “Footwear is a hallmark of modern identity. How best to glimpse an individual’s core values at the start of the 21st century? Look down at their feet – not into their eyes.” In an example of how he tied Out of Eden Learn to his everyday practice, Andy incorporated the skills of notation – which he and his students were already working on – into the activity. As you can glimpse below, students notated the images they took of their own shoes to comment on what their choice of footwear reveals about their personal identities. A subsequent discussion in class brought up issues concerning privilege and access to resources.

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Examples of Andy’s students’ reflections about their own footwear.

Kiriaki Melliou works with five and six year olds who, she points out, typically have short attention spans. Here are some slides she prepared for the Hangout to summarize how she integrates Out of Eden Learn into her everyday classroom practice. For example, using Paul’s video glances such as Camelology, she tries to help her students look more carefully at their surroundings and to identify how little elements fit into larger systems like their neighborhood. She continuously documents the children’s listening and learning experiences through notes, photos, and audio recordings. She finds that by making the story of their learning visible and listenable, she opens up opportunities for her students to hear different perspectives and to really listen to one another. She also invites parents to share their ideas and thoughts about Out of Eden Learn within a dedicated space on a classroom wall. Kiriaki has adapted the Dialogue Toolkit to support her kindergarteners’ in-person interactions with their classmates, friends, and families. They practice the different tools with one another, developing a repertoire of conversation moves.

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Examples of documentation in Kiriaki’s classroom.

Robert Martin shared a variety of tips with other educators, which you can read here. For instance, like Kiriaki, he tries to engage parents in Out of Eden Learn. This year he opted to run an introductory workshop for parents instead of just sending them a letter or email message. He also brought in a fellow teacher who is an excellent photographer to give students advice on how to take photos ahead of their neighborhood walks. He has developed some systems to help his students’ learning journeys run smoothly. For example, students draft their stories in shared Google docs and review each other’s work before posting – which is helpful for ELL and non-ELL students alike. Through Rob’s social media accounts, his students enjoy engaging in Paul’s periodic live Twitter chats via his Out of Eden Walk account and are avid followers of the Out of Eden Learn Instagram page, which has featured their work. Finally, he encourages educators to use the Out of Eden Learn forum to share resources: he himself, for instance, has shared these rubrics that he created for assessing his students’ work for some of the Out of Eden Learn footsteps.

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Rob’s students receiving tips on taking photos.

Vanenka Mosqueira, who is helping to pilot our new Spanish version of Out of Eden Learn, incorporates a number of Project Zero thinking routines into the way she teaches Out of Eden Learn. For example, she uses 3-2-1 Bridge to help students engage with Paul’s dispatches: students are invited to come up with three initial thoughts or ideas about an image from Paul’s walk in Ethiopia, as well as two questions and one analogy. They then repeat this process after they’ve read some of his dispatches from Ethiopia and note how their ideas have changed. Vanenka also uses the Step Inside thinking routine to invite students to consider what Paul may have (1) perceived, (2) known about or believed, and (3) cared about when he took a particular photo.

Like Kiriaki, Vanenka documents the process of her students’ learning – in her case through Google classrooms. She has also adapted our dialogue toolkit for use with her students, including in contexts beyond Out of Eden Learn activities. For instance, she uses the tools to help students engage with texts and they also use the tools in oral activities.

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Vanenka’s adaption of our Dialogue Toolkit.

Hollis Scott also exemplifies how educators are adapting, deepening, and extending Out of Eden Learn. Hollis believes that Paul has come to represent depth in her curriculum: in a link to another Project Zero project, Hollis encourages students to view the Out of Eden Walk as an example of Good Work in terms of Paul’s commitment to do excellent writing that takes an ethical stance. Like Rob, she enables her students to follow Paul on Twitter – as she puts it, to encourage them to immerse themselves in his craft. She also insists that her students review and edit one another’s work before they post anything on our platform.

Like Kiriaki and Vanenka, Hollis takes care to document her students’ work. She uses the Storehouse app to organize this process. Here’s how Hollis documented her students’ learning for Footstep 4: Listening to Neighbors’ Stories and from participating in Paul’s most recent live Twitter chat. You can see the importance of reflection in Hollis’ class and how she encourages students to create visual representations of what they’re learning.

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Hollis’ students participating in one of Paul’s live Twitter chats.

Because she works in a public school in the United States, Hollis ties the work she does for Out of Eden Learn to the Common Core Standards. She takes a single footstep and then tries to do much more with it so that she is developing the kinds of communication skills she is mandated to teach. For instance, as a class they closely read the Out of Eden Learn guidelines and think carefully about digital ethics and how to interact with others in their walking party. Hollis provides additional scaffolding for Footstep 4 so that students learn as much as possible from the experience of interviewing a neighbor. They start by listening to stories on the Storycorps website, as a way of gaining a sense of the importance of narrative and the meaning of everyday stories. They then used the Parts, purpose, complexities thinking routine from the Agency by Design project to consider the different parts of the interview process, as well as their various purposes and the complexities they present. To help students prepare for the potential challenges of interviewing – such as winning the trust of the person they are interviewing and keeping them more or less on topic – Hollis organized a fellow teacher and her class to participate in a “fishbowl” interview so that they could practice their interview strategies ahead of time.

Thank you Andy, Kiriaki, Rob, Vanenka and Hollis – as well as all the other educators out there who inspire us and teach us so much about the potential of the core ideas that underpin Out of Eden Learn.

If you an educator participating in Out of Eden Learn please consider sharing any resources you have developed in our Educator Forum. Also be in touch if you are interested in participating in a future Google+ Hangout.


  1. Thanks for summarizing this! It was a great experience!

  2. I echo what Andy said. I appreciate this opportunity to share some of the things I am doing with my students. I have learned so much from making connections with other educators via our Google Hangout. I am appreciative of Paul’s efforts to connect with students as well. I also like that Out of Learn has a very active Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. They share student work regularly, and I think it make students feel a sense of pride when their work is seen outside the classroom by a wider audience.

    Out of Eden Learn is not all about technology and social media. It’s the platform that allows teachers and students to connect with other classrooms around the world. I enjoyed this experience and look forward to future Google Hangouts.

  3. Thank you for sharing this! It is amazing to be part of a community that connects educators of different grade levels from around the globe and allows them to interpret their reality in their settings and communicate it to others.

  4. · · Reply

    Liz, Sheya, et al–

    Thank you for this great blog post, Liz, and for the Google Hangout, from which I got so much inspiration. Because teachers are under so much time pressure, we all have to look for multiple types of learning and thinking in any activity in order to justify devoting time to it. I love the way these teachers model weaving OOEL into multiple curriculum areas, and taking advantage of the richness of using OOEL as both a touchstone and a springboard for incorporating PZ thinking routines in their classrooms. They show that devoting more time to OOEL can mean getting so much more out of it that we really can make an intense engagement with OOEL part of slowing down to learn more –and more deeply.

    Thank you for offering these great glimpses of possible practice! Bea Winslow Montair Elementary Danville, CA

    Sent from my iPad


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