How do you and other members of your community experience the place in which you live? Over the course of three days in December, a group of 7th grade students from Washington Global Public Charter School took on this question, developing responses and their journalism skills through writing descriptively, meeting a professional journalist, and conducting interviews on the streets of DC.
"The wind is so brutal down in a specific part of DC: L’Enfant Plaza, where the trees reveal their nakedness and people walk quickly, trying to get warmth," wrote 7th grader Danae as part of her final reporting project. "I had to agree myself that it was quite chilly when I was interviewing."
The students were participating in a workshop, called “Walk Like a Journalist,” which was developed in 2016 as part of the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative’s Arts for Every Student Program and is available in schools throughout the DMV (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
On day one, students learned about the Out of Eden Walk, National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s journey from Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego on foot to experience and document the world in a more detailed, nuanced way. Students were asked to adopt Paul’s methodology, slowing down and drawing out the details and the feeling of images from the Out of Eden Walk. In examining this milestone (a multimedia snapshot Salopek creates every hundred miles along his walk), students were challenged to more deeply describe the “watermelons” in the image. As students applied slow journalism skills, the watermelons became “green, striped, globed, sweet,” and “stacked three high on the sunny dirt.” Students identified the feeling of images in other milestones, learning both how photographers can use their subjects, lighting, angle, and more to tell a story with a picture and how viewers can interpret those pictures differently based on their perspectives.
For their second day, students got out of the classroom and hopped on a bus to the Pulitzer Center’s office near Dupont Circle. There, they met Kathryn Carlson, a Pulitzer grantee and National Geographic video producer who screened her film about the treatment of widows in Uganda. By describing how she connected with her subjects, Carlson showed students how journalists can “operate as windows” into others’ lives. To convey the truth about a person, Carlson said, they must be equipped with a crucial tool: the interview. After practicing how to conduct a meaningful interview with Carlson and with their classmates, students strode into the cold afternoon to practice their new skills with strangers in Dupont Circle. “I’m nervous talking to people but excited to learn more about them,” said student Kennedy W.
Students made their own contributions to the Out of Eden Walk on the third and final day. After applying their slow journalism techniques and interview skills in the blocks surrounding their school, which is close to L’Enfant Plaza, they penned creative milestones that captured the feeling of their neighborhood. The students’ milestones—text and photography—can be viewed below.
The wind is so brutal down in a specific part of DC: L’Enfant Plaza, where the trees reveal their nakedness and people walk quickly, trying to get warmth. I had to agree myself that it was quite chilly when I was interviewing. Fakry, a person who we interviewed, was trying to get a business going for her food truck. “This area is good to sell food for the summer, but not for the winter.”
The freezing icy, dicing weather with changing colors and a mix of trees. People having fun. We went up to a food truck and met Mamdouh. He said he was from Egypt. He does not like the weather. “The area is better in summer.”
Today was a nightmare with a little swish of cold air. It was like a dream, but without Frosty the Snowman. There were no birds or clouds, just the plain, plastic sky.
It was cold. Food is in the air. People walking in the metro. Scott was very cool. His motto was “Never give up.” We got rejected but we didn’t give up. Friends all around. They’re in the way of the landscape. All the people everywhere, cars, motors. People talking. I smell fries, burgers, and chicken. It smells nice. That motto still in my head. “Never give up.”
Gust of winds, people walking, talking. Some even eating and drinking. Food trucks lined up like a grade school line. An area of diversity. Some people speak, some don’t, but the new experience is all that matters.
It was freezing cold. My hands were numb. Many people were busy people. Most people worked around there. I’ve seen food trucks all over the place. Today was a busy day. I walked up to a man named Scott, and I ask, “What is the feeling of this place?” He said “DC is full of people who want to make the world a better place.” And I thought that some people are doing that and some people are not.
Freezing weather. Forgetting the heat. Living life with laughter, joy and heart. Ray, the food truck guy, said free food: fries and all!
It’s a grey and gloomy day with stubbles of grass and patches of dirt with leaves on top. Jason walked out of the building. I stop him cold in his tracks. I ask him for an interview. It went well. My last question was for him to explain where we were, L’Enfant Plaza. His last sentence to me was, “Chilly!”
The world shifting, knowing it’s time to change. The people also know too. They put on extra layers to stay warm. As for nature, you’ll see the last little squirrel running across the plains. The beauty of falling in love with the world, because if anyone else doesn’t the world will still know. Cold. It’s just cold, but beautiful. “We come to see the political buildings, they are wonderful,” say Nicky and Jay, as they also adapt to the wilderness.
The wind, the trucks, the buildings, the parks. There is no other way to express downtown DC in any other words. This is what it’s like. Everyone always trying to impact the world but in a wrong way. Just like Scott said his father told him, “If you’re not early, you’re late." Miguel says his rent keep him going.
The air is cold and windy. The street was quiet. It smelled of snow and rain. But the streets are still busy. People sitting on benches and taling. We saw Salma walking down the block. She stopped and looked at us after we asked her. She told us that she was from Mexico and just saw the Air and Space museum. We asked her if she liked D.C. She said that she loved it, except for today. It was cold as if it were snowing but no snowflakes came down.
It was cold out there. The leaves were falling, the trees were old. There were a lot of people out there eating and there was one women walking fast so she was nice to take time from her life and answer some questions. I had to walk with her because that’s how cold it was and her name was Candad. She was in the FBI and she was on a case. She was tired and her job was nearby.
Food trucks and hungry people is what I see. Bundled up adults, rushing in and out of freezing weather (tall glass building and train station) eager to get to their destination. A visiting man with blue eyes and fading white hair says “its pretty cold, colder than it is in California.” I also could feel the blowing wind and see the wind blow around the leaves.
I saw lots of people and most were gettng food. What surprised me is that none of my group was from DC. It was all the way to Japan and close, too, like Nebraska. It was nice to meet new people. None wore similar clothes but what they had in common was them being very nice and calm. The man in the food truck he was from Japan he had black hair and looked 50-60. He was eager but seemed like he didnt know what to say. In the end he talked to us and he was cool.
The wind was blowing...people were walking in and out of office buildings. Jay asked, “Where you from? How are you?” Even though she didn’t want to get interviewed, she wanted to anyway just because. People putting little layers under their jackets, some people didn’t want to talk, but that was fine. Even still the new experience matters.
Dino was cold, but you could tell he was excited to be interviewed even though he was hungry. I feel good that I got to interview him. The air was fresh and me and my partners’ morale was high.
I was cold outside, but I still survived. A lot of people we asked to interview said, “No, thank you.” But there was this one person who made me mad. I said, “Can I please interview you?” He just walked past like I was a pile of stone.
It was cold and it was nice people like this guy that stopped for us and wasted time with his girlfriend. He talked to us. He had a leather coat, a hat, some books, brown pants.
Vivien, Maria, Sabrina and Lesley from Mexico. Food trucks were filling the air with their country’s food. “It’s bigger here,” Anika from Germany said.
Samihah and Zakiayah
The cold breeze. Nicky and Jay a couple so nice. They're from Australia. What do you guys recommend? We recommended them Starbucks. We also interviewed Donna. She’s from Wisconsin and works at FEMA.