Sarah Sheya is the Project Coordinator of Out of Eden Learn. She joined the team in November of 2014. Sheya, as she prefers to be called, manages the day-to-day operations and develops media and outreach tools for the project. This post is part one of a three-part series on Out of Eden Learn’s recent trip to Piraeus, Greece.
Day to day, in the offices here at Project Zero, I spend nearly all of my time interacting with the geographically diverse Out of Eden Learn community from behind a computer screen. I’ve found these kinds of interactions don’t stifle connection, but actually foster relationships and we make it a priority to use digital tools to build and sustain these relationships with our educators. Emailing, updating, troubleshooting, and organizing Google+ Hangouts among educators are all a part of the work I do. I’ve also had the joy of looking at thousands of pieces of student work, reflections, and remarkable photos and videos.
While I really love communicating with our educators and reviewing student work, it was a special privilege to witness students and educators in action, in-person, participating in our curriculum. In early December, I traveled to Piraeus, Greece, with Out of Eden Learn team member Jessica Fei to document the work of Kiriaki Melliou and her colleague Popi Nikolopoulou in their kindergarten classrooms. We also had the opportunity to meet with and learn from participating kindergarten educators Maria Tsapara, Tonia Dagla and Jenny Roussou.
It was invigorating to feel so immediately welcomed into the community, and to witness the presence of Out of Eden Learn on the classrooms’ walls and in the educators’ instruction. I saw the learning moving and breathing through students. Where I would normally only view students’ photographs on our platform, I actually got to see the students taking pictures. I saw the words of our curriculum weave through their movements as they walked thoughtfully, paused, angled their bodies to achieve different perspectives, looked up and down. I didn’t just see pictures of the classroom walls. I actually got to touch student work and “zoom in” on the details of every piece of documentation.
This experience was a powerful reminder of the life of this project and how all Out of Eden Learners—educators and students, researchers, team members, Paul Salopek and his guides— are somehow connected around the important ideas that shape our curriculum and Paul’s walk: that of slowing down, sharing stories, and interacting with others. I imagine classrooms (or other contexts) participating in Out of Eden Learn around the world. I imagine how they might be alike or different to the kindergarten in Piraeus Jessica and I visited and I know that no matter what form the project takes, Out of Eden Learn’s heart beats to a similar rhythm in all contexts, languages, age groups, content areas, and educator styles. It makes this computer screen before me each day seem like even less of a barrier and more of a doorway.
Our journey in Piraeus offered many opportunities to learn from participants and ideas on how to further develop Out of Eden Learn. I feel immense gratitude toward the educators and parents of Piraeus, along with the support of their community members, for their efforts in putting together an experience I will never forget and our team will continue to learn from as the project grows. I’ll be thinking of those young photographers in action each day I’m inside the platform exploring neighborhood photos shared by students from around the world.