In this era of interconnection, disconnection, and rapid change, it is vitally important to offer young people opportunities to dialogue and build understandings with peers from different backgrounds. An initiative of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Out of Eden Learn is a free online program for students aged 3-19 that has so far served over 30,000 students in 60 countries. On Out of Eden Learn’s custom built, social media platform, students of similar ages from diverse geographical and socioeconomic settings come together for collective learning experiences.
Out of Eden Learn began in 2013 as an experimental 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 has evolved into a promising model for promoting 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 is also an active research project that examines such themes as students’ conceptions of culture, the character of their online interactions, and what they learn when they slow down to observe the world closely. Read more about our research agenda in our white paper.
Student Participant Reflections
What I have liked the most about this project is getting to know other people and discovering different things in this adventure by following Paul through his walk.
-Angi, 6th grade student, New Mexico, USA
I never really took time to introspect, but creating my posts during this project gave me more insight on what makes up who I am. I think when exposed to the details of other's lives, you start noticing your own. Also, I thought it was amazing to show that so many people from so many different backgrounds and lifestyles can be connected in some way or another. We are always taught that, but we never really get a chance to truly experience it. This project allowed us to find similarities miles apart and spark up conversations.
-Annie, 10th grade student, Massachusetts, USA
Following this whole journey, I've come to be exposed to how global and alive the world can be…We built up on each other's knowledge of the world and globalization, and I liked how we were freely able to share aspects on a personal level as well by actually conversing with one another…Though our surroundings may have differed quite a bit, in the end we all shared something in how we have taken care to look into the world around us and to share what we found and analyzed. These focused prompts through this journey thus helped (me, at least) to develop a sense of one's role in this world as an aware, global citizen.
-Ashley, 10th grade student, Massachusetts, USA
I have definitely learned a lot about the other countries that the participants of this project are from. Through the text and pictures that others have shared, the stereotypes that I previously had of certain countries were broken. I have also learned a lot about how the world is all connected. Whether or not we are aware of it, our actions can affect other people on the other side of the world. This project really highlights that, and I have definitely gained a new insight on how we are all part of a global community.
-Cinderella, 11th grade student, Vancouver, Canada
Though oceans and mountains may separate us, I have grown a strong bond with many of [the students]. Many of the things they wrote about have touched my heart and left me with a desire to know more. I have lived bits and pieces of their lives through their words. They have shown me the world through several different perspectives. I have learnt the meaning of being a true global citizen.
-Destiny, 10th grade student, Mumbai, India
As an individual, I learned a lot about the world through this group. I learned how connected each of us really is and how similar we all are. The idea of globalization was really present throughout this experience...This was definitely a worthwhile experience because I learned so much about something that cannot simply be taught in a classroom.
-Diana, 10th grade student, Massachusetts, USA
For the Out of Eden project I have learnt a lot about other countries and also about my own. I have come to realise that we are all similar as a person and the difference of country barely changes that. I have learnt the influences that have impacted people and that may impact me later. All together this experience has changed my point of view towards the world and I am excited to visit these countries again with the mindset that I have developed now.
-Harvey, 9th grade student, Sydney, Australia
Being part of this unique project has been extremely enjoyable. Most prominently, it has compelled me to think about issues we so often overlook in our lives - like difference in cultures, lives of people living around the world etc. It has also given me an insight into the lives of fellow teenagers from various countries. The walk, especially, made me notice aspects of my neighbourhood that would otherwise have been overlooked.
-Tamerslain, 9th grade student, Mumbai, India
Educator Participant Reflections
My students and I got involved in the Out of Eden project because even though it meant ‘straying’ away from our specified curriculum, the project focuses on things that will be important for students – citizens – to know ten years from now, when they have long since left school...I would say that my students now have a new perspective on an old human story of movement, progress, knowledge, and discovery from having participated in this project. The learning they have gained is above and beyond the history curriculum.
-Brenda Ball, Social Studies Teacher and Assistant Principal, Vancouver, Canada
The social learning aspects to this online community are significant and I think the communication with other students might have pushed my students’ conceptual thinking well beyond what we would have achieved just in our own classroom…it has been interesting to observe the development of their thinking as they compare and contrast their thoughts with the ideas of other students around the globe.
-Cameron Paterson, Director of Learning & Teaching at Shore School, North Sydney, Australia