Paul’s appreciation of student work: Sharing the wealth

As I write, Paul is getting ready to set off across the bleak and remote steppes of Kazakhstan. According to Paul, this part of his journey has been one of the most demanding because of the logistical preparations necessary to walk across terrain that hasn’t been traversed on foot in decades. Nevertheless, he recently found time to browse through and respond to student work from Out of Eden Learn. In an email to us he commented, “I’m blown awayas usualby the quality and thoughtfulness of the students’ work. Intellectually, it’s fascinating to see the cohesion of observationsand enthusiasmamong kids from all over the globe.” Twenty lucky students recently received a direct comment from Paul via our platform, including three who received a comment in Spanish (Paul is bilingual having spent much of his childhood in Mexico). In a bid to share the wealth, we are featuring some of that student work and Paul’s accompanying comments via this blog post. Look out for more examples in the coming days and weeks on our social media.

Exactly a year ago, I wrote a similar blog piece, straightforwardly entitled Paul’s Responses to Student Work. In that piece I pointed out how Paul (1) makes connections between the students’ work and his own writing, (2) addresses the students as his peers and encourages them to take their work seriously, and (3) engages playfully with the work of our youngest students. I think you will see continued evidence of this approach in Paul’s comments below, as well as his sincere appreciation for the young people and educators within our Out of Eden Learn community. Enjoy what follows.

Meow608, Singapore, high school student
Footstep 2: Connecting our Own Lives to the Past from Learning Journey 2.

Meow608 Singapore, Singapore

“I think all aspects of history (including personal heritage, national identity/country and even the whole human history) plays a role in shaping who we are and who we want to become in the future,” writes Meow608. “That’s why I have chose to include all three aspects into my diagram as I feel that they are the essential three aspects that influenced me the most.”  [Click here to read the full post.]

Paul’s response:

Meow608—this is extraordinary work. (When I need an illustrator, I know who to contact.) Slow learning—which what I do when I’m walking—has taught me that the past bubbles up everywhere: through farmlands, through the concrete sidewalks of cities. We move through an often invisible atmosphere of history, that as you rightly point out, influences the directions we take in our lives, and thus guides the outcomes of the future. I spent a long time “reading” your map of time, global and personal. Very powerful work. Keep looking for and making these connections.

Junior Explorers of Mrs Tsapara’s class, Piraeus, Greece, kindergarten students
Footstep 2: Creating Neighborhood Maps from Learning Journey 1

Paul’s response:

Hello Junior Explorers of Mrs. Tsapara’s class. I really enjoyed the video of your work. I especially liked the wonderful animated map of your neighborhood—all of us were able to see your streets, shops, trees and buildings take shape: It was like a history of your community, your home. And at the very middle: your schoolyard. I can tell from your map that Mrs. Tsapara’s class is a special place—it is where you begin daily adventures in learning. Keep walking. Beautiful work!

TheDiamondMinecart, Accra, Ghana, middle school student
Footstep 4: Listening to Neighbors’ Stories from Learning Journey 1

“For this assignment I interviewed Mr. Richard Bularge, who manages the Ghana lottery betting booth at the end of my street. I chose him because I pass his business every day and see him with other people sitting under the tree next to his booth.

Mr. Richard is originally from Bulsa District, in Upper East (Northern Ghana) but he started managing this lottery betting booth 4 years ago. He was good at History and English in school and enjoys doing Maths. In addition to running this lottery booth, he has a cement mixing business that is managed by an operator during the day. He sometimes helps out himself too with cement making, because he was covered in cement splashes on his clothes, arms and face when I interviewed him.

He said he receives 10% commission on the total value of the bets placed during a day. He brings all the money and tickets of the bets placed to the main office each day where all payments and bets are registered. The betting at his booth closes at 6:30pm, and he drops all daily bets and money off at 6:45pm with his boss. The daily lottery drawing is at 7:15pm. Sometimes when he feels lucky he places a bet himself.

Since he started managing this booth 4 years ago there has been a lot of housing and apartment building construction, and changes in traffic and cars coming by because the road changed and more people and businesses moved into the neighborhood. The area around his place changed because of new houses being constructed, some trees have been cut, and new yards have been planted.

Before, the bad thing was that there was no street light, the streets were bad and there were not many people. Now, there is good lighting, and at 7pm the neighborhood is quiet, and it’s safe. There is no crime and he is never worried that people would come and try to steal his cash.

He has lots of regular customers that come place their lottery bets at his place. He only has a little booth, but he sits at a table with a few benches and chairs set up underneath a tree on the side of the road – which is where we did the interview. He has about 70-100 clients every day who place a bet.

The clients that I met and spoke to all said that they come to place their lottery bet at Richard’s place because he is their favorite – he is trustworthy and does fast payment the next morning to the winners. I placed a bet myself for 10 Ghana cedis, and tomorrow morning I will find out if I picked lucky numbers: 15-31-73-45-11”

Paul’s response:

Wonderful interview, TheDiamondMinecart. It is clear from the carefully observed details (the cement stains, the cramped size of the kiosk, the numbers of customers) that your spent some time with Richard. This is one of the keys to a good interview: not rushing. People relax and open up if you sit with them for a while. Your essay is written beautifully, and I learned something new about your community, and about the larger world. Excellent job.

** Note that National Geographic are organizing a Google+ Hangout with Paul Salopek for educators and students at 11am ET this coming Tuesday April 26. Follow along live (you can post questions for Paul) or watch the video later.

One comment

  1. I am tickled to read these letters and Paul’s comments, and am sure the students were so pleased to know their letters and submissions were actually read. Well done!

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