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The Road to Learning

Following the path of a round-the-world journey, a Project Zero initiative lets students trace new connections

February 12, 2015
student artwork of a map related to the Out of Eden Learn project

For students (and teachers) who dream of escaping the confines of the classroom and exploring the world beyond, Project Zero has created what may be the ultimate road trip — a journey around the world, in fact.

In an initiative called Out of Eden Learn, Project Zero is partnering with journalist and modern-day explorer Paul Salopek, who is in the midst of a remarkable quest to retrace the migratory pathways of our human ancestors — on foot. He left the Rift Valley in Ethiopia in January 2013, and he’ll walk 21,000 miles before he’s done — across the Middle East and Asia, and then down the entirety of the American continent. His journey, which he calls the Out of Eden Walk, will end at the tip of South America, seven years after it began.

Out of Eden Learn lets students follow along by joining an international online learning community that Project Zero and Salopek developed to accompany the walk. Through a series of shared assignments and activities, the initiative asks students to:

  • slow down to observe the world carefully and to listen attentively to others;
  • exchange stories and perspectives about people, place, and identity; and
  • reflect on how their own lives connect to bigger human stories.

The goal is to stimulate students’ interest in the wider world, in part by following Salopek’s adventures, but also by fostering real connections among participants from across the globe. And by asking the students to mirror Salopek’s slow journalism  — to record and share their observations of the ordinary (and extraordinary) sights they see every day — organizers hope kids will also gain new insight into the wonders of their own surroundings.

Educators: Register to Join

Out of Eden Learn curriculum and activities are free and open to everyone, with a wide range of schools, afterschool programs, and home schools currently participating. Educators can sign up by visiting the website (learn.outofedenwalk.com) and clicking on the blue box at the top right of the page, labeled “Educators Register.”

Once their classes are signed up, students are grouped into learning communities — or "walking parties" — of about six classes of similarly aged children from different parts of the United States and around the world. They explore their own neighborhoods, investigate global issues via Salopek’s reporting, and reflect on how their lives fit into a broader geographical and historical context. They complete weekly activities, post their responses in an online forum, and read and respond to others’ posts. It’s an experiment in social learning that offers new perspectives — and adds contemporary currency — to the study of history, political science, and world cultures.

Sample the Curriculum: Take a Walk in Your Neighborhood

Educators and parents, you can sample the Out of Eden Learn curriculum by leading your students in one of the weekly activities, known as Footsteps. Try out Footstep #3 here:

1) Engage with Salopek’s Journey

  • Read Camel-ology, Salopek’s amusing but thoughtful piece about his tricky camels, Fares and Seema. You can read an annotated version here. Notice how Paul pays careful attention to small details in this piece.
  • Now watch the accompanying video (scroll to the bottom of Camel-ology). Notice how the video incorporates lots of different angles and perspectives.

2) Do an Activity: Take a Walk in Your Neighborhood

  • Take a walk in your local area. You can walk by yourself or with a classmate, friend, or family member.
  • As you walk, take photos of things that catch your attention. What do you see, feel, hear, taste, or smell? Try to look at the place and the people who live or work there with fresh eyes. Zoom in or pull out, point the camera in different directions, find things both unfamiliar and common.
  • Choose two photos and tell a story of why you took them and why you would choose to share them. What do you like about the photos you took? What would you like other people to notice about them?
  • How, if at all, did taking a walk and/or taking these photos make you think in new or different ways about your neighborhood or local area?

Each footstep has a third component, which involves interacting with your walking partners by commenting on their posts. For this sample exercise, educators can share the work they or their students produce by emailing it to Out of Eden Learn coordinators.

Additional Resources

Photo caption: In Out of Eden Learn, students create maps that show what's important to them about their neighborhoods. This map comes from a student in Lahore, Pakistan.

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