This spring, the NYC Lab School partnered with the Pulitzer Center for its second annual Out of Lab project. Out of Lab, inspired by Paul Salopek's Out of Eden walk, teaches high school seniors about the art of slow journalism. At the end of the semester-long project, students leave the classroom and embark on walks around neighborhoods in New York City, putting slow journalism into practice while also discovering new aspects of their home city.
As part of the project, students learn to pay close attention to their surroundings and to the people they encounter. One of the biggest takeaways for students is realizing the value of slowing down and talking to people outside of their normal social circles.
"For as long as I could remember, I ignored the lives of others," wrote one NYC Lab School student in a reflection about the project. "I bumped into my neighbors but only greeted them briefly. I took the same train every morning and saw familiar faces, but I never bothered to introduce myself and talk with them. When I went from place to place, I was only focused on myself and never slowed down to truly observe who and what was around me."
The same student wrote that her walk allowed her to better understand the impact of gentrification on NYC neighborhoods.
"What I took away from my project was that what matters most is that cultures still exist, that histories still exist, that people and businesses still exist to display such cultures and histories somewhere in this world, and that’s all that matters in the end. If gentrification is irrevocable, I can rest assured and be grateful that there are still places that exist that are proud of their heritages and showcase their cultures through foods, experiences, businesses, etc," she wrote.
Another group of students focused their project on local artists, interviewing and quoting the artists for their final presentation.
"There are so many people surrounding us everywhere, everyday. Although we all have our own paths to walk on, we’re constantly interacting with and influencing each other if we are open to the experience," the students wrote in their PowerPoint presentation about the project.
Lab School students Linus Levey, Francisco Esperon, Abdelrahman Elsayed, and Noah Miller created a website to display students' work from this year, including their photographs, "milestones," and "dispatches."
Students also had the chance to share their work at a celebratory event at the end of the semester. In their final presentations and reflections, students alluded to lessons that extended beyond journalism skills.
"Slowing down, observing closely, and participating in the world through the walks helped me learn that you should appreciate what you have right now," wrote one student. "After going on these walks, I realized what I thought was a boring town turned into a town that has a meaningful existence."