Slow Journalism- A Year 8 English Study with Out of Eden Learn

English Year 8. Narrative Voice. Out of Eden Learn

Out of Eden Learn‘s online project gave my Year 8 English students a global collaborative experience as part of their English curriculum.

What is Out of Eden Learn?

Out of Eden Learn is a collaboration with journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek, who is currently engaged in a 21,000-mile ‘Out of Eden’ walk following the ancient pathways of human migration. It promotes…thoughtful cross-cultural inquiry and exchange, drawing inspiration from the ways in which Salopek and other writers and artists interweave “slow journalism” and local and global storytelling.

Out of Eden Learn has  several 8-12-week long learning experiences, or “learning journeys,” designed around three broad learning goals. All of the journeys combine offline activities with online interaction and invite young people to:

  1. slow down to observe the world carefully and listen attentively to others;
  2. exchange stories and perspectives with one another; and
  3. make connections between their own lives and bigger human stories.

By positioning Out of Eden Learn’s Core Learning Journey 1 into my English programme I was able to give my class a safe environment to develop global competence dispositions such as curiosity about the world, understanding different perspectives and engaging in respectful dialogue.

At Wilderness…to develop the growth mindsets and dispositions for global consciousness capacities in our girls teachers must make them part of daily classroom learning experiences… Wilderness Times (p22-23)

What Happened in my Year 8 English Lessons?

This was my first experience of participating in Out of Eden Learn with young students who are fluent English speakers. Previously, my classes have been senior secondary English Langauge Learners (ELL). As with my ELL students, the Year 8 girls were curious yet cautious about spending their lessons in a global project and wondered how this would develop their English skills.

To introduce Out of Eden learn and Paul’s Salopek’s Pulitzer Prize-winning articles we began reading his latest dispatches and exploring his ‘slow journalism’ through the lens of a Visible Thinking routine of  ‘Sentence, Phrase, Word‘. Open this Padlet to read my students’ responses.

Out of Eden learn Map of Walking Part

We then, began the Out of Eden Learn online learning program with students creating their profile and reading about respectful online communication using the Dialogue Toolkit. Soon our ‘Walking Partners” come online and my students were engaged in conversation with students from Mexico, Kazakhstan, Long Island, Indiana and Maine. Being curious, we investigated where these schools are and what languages they speak. This led to discussions about interpersonal language and how to be understood by people from different places and cultures.

The programme’s resources are set out in six “Footsteps” called the ‘Learning Journey’. For each Footstep, students read Salopek’s dispatches, view his milestone posts and respond to prompts by posting their own creative texts. After posting, students then comment on other posts using the dialogue prompts. These resources provided language that challenged and engaged all my students. In their creative responses, they could choose to use video, photography and text or a combination. We completed the six ‘Footsteps’ and I selected two creative responses, Footstep 2 and 4, as summative work for the term.

What did I notice and appreciate?

The highlights of participating in Out of Eden Learn were:

  • the class discussions about Paul’s use of video, slow observation and how he engaged his reader through his use of language techniques
  • how students created their own texts experimenting with Paul’s techniques of slow journalism and observation- use of detail, metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia and inclusion of photographs and quotes.
  • The students’ reaction to other students’ posts and their use of positive language through the dialogue prompts
  • authentic discussions about audience and purpose
  • reluctant writers and quiet students became totally engaged in their written conversations with others
  • adventurous learning as students explored their own neighbourhood with photography taken from new perspectives
  • The individual conversations I had with my students about their writing.  I got to know my students in a new way- how they walk home from school, their families and their neighbours, their skills and their passions

Below are some excerpts of my students’ writing that stood out to me. Overall, the program was engaging and offered many learning opportunities in language, literature, global awareness and digital citizenship. The program was perfect for term 4 and kept students engaged to the very the last day of the year.

Australian Curriculum (ACARA)


  • Language for social interactions- Understand how conventions of speech adopted by communities influence the identities of people in those communities (ACELA1541)
  • Evaluative language- Understand how rhetorical devices are used to persuade and how different layers of meaning are developed through the use of metaphor, irony and parody (ACELA1542)
  • Purpose audience and structures of different types of texts– Analyse how the text structures and language features of persuasive texts, including media texts, vary according to the medium and mode of communication (ACELA1543)


  • How texts reflect the context of culture and situation in which they are created- Explore the interconnectedness of Country/Place, People, Identity and Culture in texts (ACELT1806)
  • Expressing preferences and evaluating texts- Recognise and explain differing viewpoints about the world, cultures, individual people and concerns represented in texts (ACELT1807)
  • Language devices in literary texts, including figurative language- Interpret and analyse language choices, including sentence patterns, dialogue, imagery and other language features, in short stories, literary essays and plays (ACELT1767)
  • Experimentation and adaptation- Experiment with particular language features drawn from different types of texts, including combinations of language and visual choices to create new texts (ACELT1768)


  • Purpose and audience- Analyse and evaluate the ways that text structures and language features vary according to the purpose of the text and the ways that referenced sources add authority to a text (ACELY1732)
  • Analysing and evaluating texts- Explore and explain the ways authors combine different modes and media in creating texts, and the impact of these choices on the viewer/listener (ACELY1735)
  • Creating texts- Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that raise issues, report events and advance opinions, using deliberate language and textual choices, and including digital elements as appropriate (ACELY1736)

References & Resources

Wilderness Times: Issue 82

Australian Curriculum Year 8 English

Core Learning Journey 1: The Present and the Local

Out of Eden Walk

Global Thinking

Thinking Pathways

Resources from the Pulitzer Center

Resources from National Geographic

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