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Pulitzer Center Update May 17, 2016

"Walk Like a Journalist" with 5th graders from Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School

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As Paul Salopek journeys around the world on foot, he will follow the migration pathways of our...

On April 27, 2016, 46 fifth graders from Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School stormed Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, with notebooks, cameras and a mission to use reporting and interview skills to capture the essence of the park on a rainy April afternoon.

"The air was cold, but the park was beautiful," Stella wrote.

"Crowded. Man-made. Loud. Traffic. Buildings. It was all looming over the beautiful Dupont Circle," wrote Felix.

The students were participating in a three-day workshop in slow journalism inspired by the Out of Eden Walk, Paul Salopek's 10-year project exploring how a slow approach to reporting on foot can enlighten understanding of larger world issues. The workshop was designed as part of the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative's Arts for Every Student Program, but was modified and strengthened through consultation with the fantastic 5th grade team at Washington Yu Ying.


The workshop series, titled "Walk Like a Journalist," began with an in-class workshop exploring Paul Salopek's photos. Students started by observing photos scattered around their classroom and making predictions about the Out of Eden Walk. Next, after viewing videos and blog posts from Paul's journey, they developed questions about how journalists report.

"What inspired you to become a journalist?" Rosemary asked.

"What is the most important assignment have you done? How do you know if a story is interesting? How does it feel to know that people everywhere know your work and identity?" others added.

On the second day, students met with photojournalist Allison Shelley at the Pulitzer Center office. Shelley presented photography from her reporting project Haiti: The Promised Land and explained how she applied observation and interviewing skills when reporting on a cholera outbreak in Haiti. Many students were curious about how Shelley's photos captured the culture of Haiti, a country several said they knew little about. They were particularly struck by a photo of a religious ceremony taking place in open water. "Could they get cholera from standing in the water?" one student asked.

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"Why are they wearing all white?" another wondered.

Several students asked how Shelley was able to gain the trust of her subjects. She explained how important it was for her to ask people before taking their portraits and how she would often spend time with her subjects before taking their photos.

Students applied the reporting skills they learned from Shelley to a reporting project in Dupont Circle later that afternoon. Their task was to use written observations, interviews and photos to capture what was happening in Dupont Circle, a popular Washington DC park. Many students quickly moved to asking passersby for interviews, but a few chose to observe from a park bench or fountain step. Shelley, teachers from Yu Ying and members of the Pulitzer Center staff moved between groups to support students as they took their final photos. When Shelley gathered the group to process their experience reporting, students were quick to articulate what excited and surprised them about their reporting adventures.

"I met four people from Ohio," one student reported.

Others reported meeting several people that were from outside of the United States.

Gabriella explained that she had assumed a man she interviewed was passing through Dupont Circle on his way to work because he had been wearing dress clothes. The man explained that he had been kicked out of his home and was homeless. He had come to the Circle to earn money by playing music. "I learned not to make assumptions about people," she shared.

Click here to see a slideshow of the final photos and captions from the students' reporting in Dupont Circle.

On the final day of the "Walk Like a Journalist" workshop, students met with Shelley to review their photos from Dupont Circle and to discuss how to write strong captions. After watching a film from Paul Salopek describing tips for identifying stories based on observations, the students broke into groups to conduct their own reporting projects at their school. Their goal was to use the reporting techniques they had learned from Salopek and Shelley to observe and capture moments in their communities through photography and writing. Their photos and captions will be part of a photography exhibition at the Pulitzer Center in June 2016.

Click here to see a slideshow of the photos from the students' reporting from Washington Yu Ying.

"What I liked the most is finding out how many people have very interesting stories," Soloman wrote at the end of the final workshop.

His classmate Camilla added, "I learned that you have to get to know your topic before you can actually start your writing."

In her evaluation of the workshop, Morgan wrote, "I learned that being a journalist isn't just about TV. It's about caring about other people."

Jewel added, "I learned that being a journalist is fun. I would like to keep trying to be a journalist."

Originally posted on 5/13/2016

Click here for a lesson plan used on the first day of the "Walk Like a Journalist workshop. All three lesson plans will be available on the Lesson Builder later this month.
Contact education@pulitzercenter.org if you would like to try this project with your students.
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