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Pulitzer Center Update October 18, 2016

Engaging Students Panel: Finding a Global Perspective

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How do we help the stories our grantees tell live on? We begin by bringing the reporting—and the journalists—into classrooms all over the country. In its 10 years, the Pulitzer Center's support of journalists has gone hand in hand with its support of global education to empower students.

Educators, editors and journalists hoping to share their reporting with students filled the room for the "Engaging Students" panel hosted by the Pulitzer Center at the National Press Club on Saturday, October 8, 2016 as a part of its 10-year anniversary celebration.

"As journalists we have a story to tell and we're eager to tell that story. But we are not just here to transmit, we should engage with students early and keep that engagement going," said Mark Schulte, the panel's moderator and Pulitzer Center education director.  

The panel included Arthur Lieber, director of Civitas St. Louis; Latisha Coleman, principal of Inspired Teaching Middle School in Washington, D.C.; Veronica Boix Mansilla, principal investigator and steering committee member at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Guillaume Saladin, co-founder of ArtCirq, featured in the film Circus Without Borders; and Nick Fahy, Philmont boy scout and student winner of the Out of Eden Walk essay contest.

Lieber addressed today's test-score-centric education system that gives students "tunnel vision." In addition to providing Model UN opportunities, Civitas has created opportunities for Pulitzer Center journalists to speak to students since 2006.

"What Pulitzer Center is doing is remarkable against a backdrop that is really challenging," Lieber said.

Coleman illuminated the key to helping students at her school. "Teaching is about empowering the student voice. It is one thing to share your opinion based on one idea. The Pulitzer Center, who we have been working with for three years, brings perspective," Coleman said.

She noted that students embarked on their own reporting trip through the city, taking photos of their own communities to discount stereotypes about their own neighborhoods. Exhibitions that resulted, like "Everyday D.C." and "The Empathy Gap," gave students the ability to have these conversations with a journalist, leading to this topic of empathy.

"Empathy is something you build in children," Coleman said. "Having that global perspective and being able to talk about what is happening inside their world and relating it to what is happening outside their world is extremely important. Photojournalism is a powerful tool but we have to teach them how to use it well if we want the students to become responsible citizen."

Boix Mansilla explores the habits of mind involved in global thinking routines, asking "How can we create a culture of contending to the contemporary where journalism plays a central role?"

"This is a quite urgent challenge that we face. We need deep, long lasting education that shapes the lenses through which we look at the world and our place in it," Boix Mansilla said.

Saladin reflected on the importance of bringing these stories to life. "After the film [Circus Without Borders] is finished, the curtain goes up and there we are. When the students are surprised to see us it is very touching. In circus you don't talk and everyone feels something. I feel it's a very global experience, makes everyone want to share who we are. We forget to validate our feelings. When you fear and still let down your guard, you trust in your friend and trust in yourself," Saladin said.

Another Pulitzer Center project with a special impact on students: The Out of Eden Walk–a decade-long journey to retrace the path of early human migration from Ethiopia to the Southern tip of South America, led on foot by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek for National Geographic. The Pulitzer Center finds new ways to bring the walk into classrooms to teach "slow journalism."

Fahy, a rising high school junior at Boston College High School, recently returned from a trip to Uzbekistan where he and Schulte walked alongside Salopek. Fahy had won this privilege through a writing contest that asked students to respond to the question "What do you notice about a place when you slow down?"

"Paul Salopek's idea of walking across continents to trace human migration was incredible to me!" Fahy shared anecdotal moments from his two-day walk with Salopek. "It was really cool to interact with teenagers in Uzbekistan which was like a cultural exchange. The highlight for me was getting to pick Paul's brain–so many great discussions. The takeaway for me was a revelation of how similar and how different our cultures are. Bukahara looked clearly very different from the states. But inasmuch as buildings were different than I knew, the people were the same. We often think of places like Uzbek like a different world but getting to talk with these fantastic people showed me how similar we all were," Fahy shared.

During the discussion Boix Mansilla spoke about the importance of connecting classrooms to schools around the world and concluded: "The students then understand the richness of learning to tell a story or listen to a story from to a different cultural context audience."