Out of Eden Learn – which did not acquire this name until six months into the project – began as an exploratory collaboration between Project Zero and journalist Paul Salopek, with the loose ambition of establishing an online learning community to accompany his walk around the world. There were shared interests around having audiences slow down, exchange stories and perspectives, and make connections between their own lives and bigger, unfolding human stories – and we knew that Project Zero had relevant expertise and resources from which to draw. However, we embarked on this project without a fixed curriculum design or research goals.
Three years into the project, it has become clear that one of Out of Eden Learn’s most significant contributions lies in the realm of facilitating meaningful cross-cultural encounters among diverse youth. We’ve come to appreciate the significance of this aspect of Out of Eden Learn in part from the feedback we’ve received from participating students and educators who’ve spoken about their existing stereotypes being challenged and their interest in and sense of connection to other people having grown. Furthermore, increasingly divisive public rhetoric in many parts of the world (including the United States where we are based) makes the need to facilitate meaningful cross-cultural exchange seem all the more urgent.
We’ve received overwhelmingly positive responses from participating students and educators about the Out of Eden Learn model, even though there are aspects we could certainly develop or improve and we will continue to iterate on the existing model. We will also pursue new initiatives, such as a learning journey on Stories of Human Migration, which we are currently piloting. But we feel that now is a good time to distill the key qualities or ingredients of the Out of Eden Learn model for promoting digital cross-cultural exchange. Our new white paper highlights three design principles that are woven into the structure, curriculum materials, and learning community of Out of Eden Learn: we aim to promote cross-cultural encounters that are slow, reciprocal, and authentic.
We encourage you to read the full white paper, which incorporates examples of student work and hyperlinks to other resources and organizations. For now, we share a diagram from the paper, which summarizes the ways in which these three design principles are integrated into Out of Eden Learn.
The orange text describes the ways in which the principle of slowing down to carefully observe and listen is integrated throughout Out of Eden Learn, as befits a project that is tied to “slow journalism.” The blue text highlights the ways in which young people explore their own identities, lives, and environments at the same time as they digitally meet young people growing up in different contexts to their own. Finally, the red text points to the aspects of Out of Eden Learn which lend authenticity to young people’s experiences such that they feel engaged in learning that is both about the real world and is the real world.
As an antidote to the stereotyping and prejudice that seems increasingly rampant in the world, we believe that inviting young people to forge slow, reciprocal, and authentic connections to other young people is of paramount importance. It is also essential for preparing them for the complex globalized world in which they will live, and for working collaboratively to address the kinds of collective challenges (environmental degradation, public health crises, rising extremism and more) that increasingly defy national or cultural or racial/ethnic boundaries.