Animals, peace, and borders: Paul Salopek responds to student work

Paul Salopek recently took the time to look at and reply to a selection of student work from Out of Eden Learn, including some pieces in Spanish. In this blog post we highlight three very different pieces of student work along with Paul’s responses. Together, they show the range of ways in which students (and their educators) find resonance with the underlying themes of Paul’s walk and the ways in which Paul makes connections between his own work and the ideas and observations of a younger generation. Something we always appreciate about Paul’s responses is how he engages learners as peers: he takes their work seriously, while responding in ways that are appropriate for the age of the individual student.


brucewayneisbatman
Serpong, Indonesia
Age 15
Taking Neighborhood Walks: Students go for a walk in their local area and observe their surroundings carefully, taking photos to share with other participants.

I call this photo “Legs among Wheels”, since, well, how many of us still see horses in our neighborhood (here, in Indonesia, at least)? What we see in the contemporary world around us is nothing but a bunch of gas-guzzlers such as cars and motorcycles by the means of transportation. Nowadays, we tend to forget that we’re not the only living things in this ever-growing, rapid digital era. In fact, we might not even recall or know what something as simple as a horseshoe is. This is the reason why I took this photo, to remind us to also be aware of the “still-existing” animals in our environment, but I’m not trying to persuade anyone to go back to the old days when means of transportation used to employ our 4-legged counterparts, rather, to embrace the luxury of what we already have now, it’s essential to know several things of the past. Besides, it’s no wonder we have the term “horsepower” for engines and the phrase “hold your horses.”

… From taking these … pictures on my walk, basically, it made me grasp a better and deeper understanding of what’s going on in my neighborhood. In fact, I used to take everything in my neighborhood for granted, but going on a walk taught me the importance of being aware. As a matter of fact, I’m even more interested to learn more about my neighborhood now.

Paul’s response:

Wonderful insights from your neighborhood walk, brucewayneisbatman. This is what slowing down brings—the ability not only to witness new things, but the time needed to process them, and to make unexpected new connections between ourselves and the whirl of events around us. For example, I too notice animals as outliers in our modern landscapes. Yet while traveling with them as partners through parts of the world—I’ve used cargo camels, donkeys, horses—I have come to realize what an important connection in our lives we are missing by not including animals anymore in our days. They can teach a lot—about patience, dignity, trust.

 

brucewayneisbatman’s comments remind us how much Out of Eden Learn students are closely observing their surroundings and making connections to larger human narratives—two major themes of the Out of Eden Walk. Like brucewayneisbatman, Paul is observant of how animals interact with daily human life, often noting how animal helpers have factored into his walk and how relationships between animals and humans have until very recently been central to the overarching story of our species.


peace-skillin

peace-skillin-3

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Violette’s 2nd Grade Library Class
South Portland, Maine, US

Hello Friends,

We are celebrating Peace Day. Peace is a wonderful thing to have because it is relaxing and quiet (sometimes). It is having fun, being happy, getting along, and playing nice. It is about forgiveness, taking turns, and being truthful. We made peace flags and stuck them in a spiral on the ground with our whole school. We are sending you a picture of the flags from our class. We are peaceful.

We have a banner that says, “Peace at Skillin is Peace Around the World” because we have students whose families come from many different countries. In our class, we have students from Uganda, Angola, Somalia, Sudan, Peru, Haiti, Guam, Syria, Tunisia, England, France, and the USA. We work and play together peacefully and we want peace for everyone. 

Peace, Shalom, As-alamu alaykum,

Mrs. Violette’s Class

Paul’s response:

Dear students in Mrs. Violette’s class: Very cool peace flags. It looks like the beautiful leaves around them are flags too—little banners of nature. You are setting an example for the grownups. We need to be reminded to get along just like you. Keep walking along.

 

While Paul is first and foremost a storyteller, his walk across national borders and his respectful engagement with and curiosity about people from all kinds of cultural contexts resonates with this educator who is seeking to build community within a classroom where her students hail from many different parts of the world. In a Q&A with Out of Eden Learn students and educators, Paul remarks that while he has encountered roadblocks along the trail, most of his interactions have been peaceful: “People greet you not with a fist, but with an open hand.” His writing often highlights simple acts of kindness that point to a shared humanity, even in difficult circumstances.


m.i.2002
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Age 13
Everyday Borders : Students take a slow walk in their neighborhoods or everyday contexts, specifically paying attention to and documenting both visible and invisible borders (from our “Stories of Human Migration” learning journey).*

In my opinion, boundaries exists to separate people, sometimes they are good because they protect us and keep danger away, but many times they are also annoying, they separate people and cultures, dividing them into different groups. I think that this can make some people feel alienated or make them believe that they dont belong someplace.

There are many different types of boundaries and they are all around us, like for example the ones that separate countries or cities, but there are also smaller ones that we cant see or touch, like the ones that we set up to ourselves to prevent from hurting someone or entering places that we know that can be dangerous.

Paul’s response:

Your thoughts on borders are terrific. They are a mystery. We seem to want or need them. We surround ourselves with borders every day: streets, doorways, the private border created by putting on headphones and not listening to others. And yet, they also make us lonely. Your photo suggests that ambivalence: Do we take that step? What happens if we do? What if we don’t? For as long as we live, this question about borders, boundaries, frontiers, never goes away. Great job.

 

The fraught topic of borders comes up time and time again in Paul’s work—in stories that explore the broad migratory pathways of our ancient human ancestors and in more intimate and personal portraits of migrant experiences. On a more meta-level (and much like m.i.2002), Paul also explores borders from a conceptual standpoint, a theme that we have built upon in this “Everyday Borders” activity.


These student work examples reveal the ways in which young people of different ages are exploring meaningful issues in their communities and the wider world on Out of Eden Learn. Comments from Paul and from other students across the world on our platform invite them to deepen their explorations by engaging with different perspectives.

*Note: If your students are ages 13 and up and you would like to have them participate in the “Stories of Human Migration” learning journey, please register your class at learn.outofedenwalk.com.

 

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