Out of Eden Learn

A screenshot of Out Of Eden Learn student posts.

A screenshot of Out Of Eden Learn student posts. All images are taken by students.

Creativity & Personal Connections

Previously, I have blogged about Carrie James and  Shari Tishman describe Out of Eden Learn (OOEL) at the Project Zero Conference in Sydney and last term I participated for the first time with my ESL class of eight international students from China.

In short, OOEL is a Harvard Project Zero global project that connects students in  ‘walking parties’ to respond to articles written by Paul Salopek while on his 21,000-mile odyssey decade-long experiment in slow journalism … walking the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age.

OOEL Footsteps-Lessons

OOEL Footsteps-Lessons

In the project, every couple of weeks lessons called ‘Footsteps’ are posted with video and written instructions for students to respond to using photographs and text. The video instructions by Sheya were captivating and together with Paul’s stories my students were energized to be highly creative in their photography and writing.

Reflecting on my students’ responses, it was their enthusiasm and creativity in constructing their photographs and videos that amazed me the most and gave me a new perspective on their attitudes to living in Australia.

Image response to Footstep 3: Neighborhood Walks

Image response to Footstep 3: Neighborhood Walks

In this post in response to Footstep 3, Taking Neighbourhood Walks, a student revealed her perspective about studying overseas through her photo and accompanying reflection.

These photos were taken while I was taking a walk with friends around our school. The photo is of some birds on electrical wires and were taken from the angle up towards the sky. These photos are symbols to me and about my personal experience: the birds represent a group of people which are the students who are studying abroad because they fly a lot, and the wire represents the strong connection between international students. I am one of the birds in these photos, an international student from China studying abroad in Australia. Sometimes the people in my home country think the students who go to study aboard are escaping from the hard and stressful study routine in China. This thinking makes many students who study aboard feel sad about this point of view. In my opinion, studying in China or studying abroad in another country are just different ways to achieve our dreams, and none of them are easier. Many international students are not sure that their choice to study abroad is a right decision or not. This is also a question I used to struggled with, and my suggestion is that if you are not sure that studying abroad is the right decision or not, try your best to make this decision without regret.

Paul responded to her post, making a serious comment that expressed the emotions revealed in the student’s photo and text:

Great photo and connecting thoughts, Came. Your metaphor of birds finding a shared resting place on the wires is very beautiful. And your image carries both a feeling of loneliness and togetherness.

OOEL Student comment

OOEL Student comment

Another highlight was reading students’ comments. The dialogue toolkit gave guidance and learning about how to write positive online comments. Every day we discovered different perspectives and similarities. Here is one of my student’s comments on a photo taken by a student in America:

The pictures you took was amazing, I really love these! The first picture in the Traverse City State Theater is my favorite! This picture makes me think about Shanghai, the brightest building is still in my mind. Most of the time ,we ignore the beauty around us. Through walking, we will be more thankful for the everything around us. Then open our eyes to see the good things you weren’t paying attention to before. That is the meaning of walking, and that is the meaning of life. Thank you very much! You make me think more deeply .


Footstep 4, Listening to Neighbours’ Stories was the last lesson my class could participate in due to the end of our academic year in Australia. As my students are boarders they interviewed members of school staff including office staff and teachers who were all deeply moved by these student’s reflection of their interview.

This is one student’s interview with her teacher and concludes with revealing her love of learning.

Neighbor's Stories: A student's video response

Neighbor’s Stories: A student’s video response

Participating in OOEL gave me and my class a valuable opportunity to learn and practise responsible global citizenship, to develop empathy and understanding of other people and to engage in our own school community in a deep and meaningful way by slow observation.


More about Out of Eden Learn

Out of Eden Learn White Paper

More on critical digital literacies  Out of Eden Learn  Blog

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