National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek walks to illuminate our understanding of our world. His 22,000-mile journey, soon entering its fourth year, follows humankind’s migration ‘out of Eden’ and offers a treasure trove of experiences for educators to share with their students. Those are the messages we shared at our recent Walk on Campus Workshop in Chicago.
“Education is one of the main reasons he is doing this walk,” Don Belt told more than 15 university faculty members at a Pulitzer Center-organized Out of Eden Walk Workshop in Chicago. “He is there as a reporter to report on the world as he sees it. … He also really wants it to be used in the classroom.”
Don is an adviser on Paul’s Out of Eden Walk and teaches journalism at the University of Richmond. Their history together goes back years to the day Paul applied for a caption writer's position–and was hired–at National Geographic. Paul then went on to a career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer for both National Geographic and the Chicago Tribune.
For the Chicago workshop on Friday, October 30, the Pulitzer Center collaborated with Don and with Tim McNulty, from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, where we set up shop for the afternoon workshop in Medill's downtown offices. It was our second such workshop: we held our first one in May 2015 at the Pulitzer Center’s offices in Washington, DC.
The workshops are part of our efforts to explore the Out of Eden Walk with university faculty and administrators so they can bring the project into their curriculum and into their students' lives. The idea is to create a series of such Out of Eden Walk Workshops on university campuses, hence the other moniker: Walk on Campus Workshop.
The workshops are organized as half-day sessions with the idea that they will help faculty get a good handle on the vast amount of information available through Paul’s walk reporting and spark ideas on how to incorporate the material into courses. Earlier in the day, Don also presented an introduction to the Out of Eden Walk to City Colleges of Chicago faculty and administrators as part of the Pulitzer Center's visit to the seven-campus community college system.
In the Walk on Campus Workshop, Don shares his “Slow Journalism in a Fast World” curriculum (developed at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond) to raise awareness of the Out of Eden project as a resource for educators in a range of disciplines from journalism to geography, anthropology to history, environmental sciences to religion, and beyond.
The Pulitzer Center is one of Paul’s education partners on the Out of Eden Walk. In addition to Don’s curriculum, the Pulitzer Center produced with Paul a series of videos including an introduction for educators.
Colleagues came to the afternoon session from City Colleges of Chicago/Harry S. Truman College, Columbia College, Northwestern University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, University of Chicago, University of Illinois Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis.
All told 19 of us spent the afternoon going through examples of Paul’s work, discussing the idea of ‘slow journalism’ and thinking through how the material crosses multiple disciplines and academic needs from anthropology to literacy programs.
Several colleagues in Chicago thought the material would work well as the basis for a college freshman seminar to explore a cross-section of issues. Others considered how to incorporate into reporting classes. Participants from the May 2015 workshop are already sharing the Out of Eden Walk with their colleagues and working through the material as part of their courses for fall and spring of this academic year.
“It’s really like a trip around the world. You can follow along with him,” Don said during the session in Chicago.
When asked how he might approach development of a course or incorporation of material from the Out of Eden Walk, Don suggested that professors might want to cherry-pick portions of Paul’s reporting or interactive elements of the website to apply to their particular areas of interest.
At Virginia Commonwealth University, Don created the first ever such college course based on the Out of Eden Walk. He is now at the University of Richmond, where he’s offering the course again. While a good number of his students may have an interest in journalism, he has made an effort to cross-promote the course and try to bring in more students across a greater number of disciplines.
One reason behind the genesis of the course: “It would be a crying shame if journalism students, any students, didn’t know this guy was out there,” Don said.
Many participants echoed those thoughts and the notion of how important it is to teach students to ‘see and hear’ and to understand people’s stories rather than quickly pass them by.
When we met in Chicago on October 30, Paul had been on the road for more than a week after a long stopover in Tbilisi. He is now heading toward Central Asia.
Milestone 29 is his most recent marker on his journey.
One milestone every hundred miles with many more to come.
As Paul set off again, his followers of the Out of Eden Walk submitted scenes from their own neighborhoods in the style of Paul’s Glances videos from his Milestones.
Along his way to the tip of South America—where as Don says humankind ran out of real estate—Paul will provide deep insights into our history and our future. He’s eager to engage more people along the way to connect deeply with their surroundings.
The workshops in Washington, DC, Chicago, and wherever our next stop will take us are part of those efforts too. Join us!