Walk through Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. during one of the Pulitzer Center's "Walk Like a Journalist" workshops, and you might see fifth grade students clustered around the fountain at the center of the park, writing in notebooks and observing their surroundings. Walk by 15 minutes later, and some of these same students would likely ask if they could interview you and take your photo for their school project.
Inspired by Pulitzer Center grantee Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden walk, the Walk Like a Journalist curriculum emphasizes the art of 'slow journalism' and teaches students how to observe their surroundings and create 'milestones,' snapshots that capture a particular moment in their reporting.
In June 2017, nearly 60 Stanton Elementary School fifth graders had the opportunity to participate in the program through a series of three workshops, led by Pulitzer Center Senior Education Manager Fareed Mostoufi and grantee photographer Allison Shelley.
As part of their first workshop, students worked with Pulitzer Center staff and their English teacher Breanna Haynes to learn slow observation skills. They practiced noticing details in images from the Out of Eden Walk, and then explored videos and writing from Salopek’s journey. Finally, they practiced devising their own short, descriptive reports on the feeling of their classroom. The following description was created using writing from nearly 20 students at the conclusion of their first workshop:
Monday, May 22. Stanton Elementary in Washington DC.
I see a clock, a blue t-shirt, pencils and shoes on the cubbies.
I see black history stuff around the room. I see posters. I see people. I see kids.
I see pictures in the hall of kids who have passed away.
I hear some kids talking.
I hear Ms. Haynes typing on the keyboard
I feel air hitting my body.
It feels like Mexico and Miami. It’s hot.
Pulitzer Center grantee Allison Shelley visited the students for the second workshop and explained how she applied slow journalism skills to her recent reporting from Haiti. She introduced the students to the different kinds of photographs that journalists take to capture a story and skills she applies when conducting interviews. By the end of the workshop, students had worked in small groups to brainstorm how they would present reporting on their classroom using a three-image photo story.
In the final workshop, the young journalists practiced introducing themselves to new people and interviewing effectively. To review the principles of photojournalism, they looked at photography by Shelley and by fifth grade students from Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, who did a similar “Walk Like a Journalist" workshop last year.
The students were excited to learn about the photos they saw around the Pulitzer Center office, as well as the challenges of interviewing strangers and reporting in dangerous areas, but they were even more excited to get outside and start reporting. After ten minutes of quiet reflection in Dupont Circle, they began speaking to people around the park and taking photos. Some students moved in groups, one student conducting the interview while the others took notes and portraits. Other students returned to the fountain in Dupont Circle to write ‘milestone’ descriptions inspired by what they saw, heard and felt.
“I see people sleeping, eating and hanging around the area,” one student wrote. “I see people walking everywhere around the world.”
“I feel the breeze on me when it is windy,” another added. ”I feel the sun beaming on my skin. I observe a tall tree providing shade. I feel good because it feels good out here.”
By the end of the session, students were so engrossed in interviewing and reporting that it was difficult to convince them to leave.
“Today I enjoyed being in the park, talking to people, and getting to know people,” one student said. “It was fun and interesting.”
Below is a slideshow of photos taken by the students to accompany their writing. If you are interested in connecting the “Walk Like a Journalist” workshop with students, contact us by emailing [email protected].