The journey began with the help of Tracy Crowley, manager of Out of Eden Walk-Chicago. Tracy and Sharee shared an experience exploring Antarctica through the National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship (GTF, 2019). Tracy provided slow journalism support throughout the To Main Street and Back project. With adventurous spirits, students slowly peeled apart elements of a war story Paul Salopek shared while walking through the arid Rift Valley of Ethiopia. (Cracked World)
(click DAY 1 SLIDE DECK for lesson outline)
Day 2 wove in an additional classroom slow journalism activity. Students asked questions and formed their own opinons about the ethics of human and elephant interation using Salopek's walk through Burma and the article Trailing Ghostly Giants.
(click DAY 2 & 3 SLIDE DECK for lesson outline)
In a year that has been characterized by sensationalistic press, students understanding of journalism evolved. They were drawn to stories that document a more humanistic and authentic style of reportage.
After defining six specific blocks on Main Street, groups were formed and began exploring from the classroom using Google Maps, Google Earth, and the City of Rexburg Maps. As students slowed down for a deeper dive, they asked the following questions:
1. What is it?
2. Why is it there or what does it do in our community?
3. What would happen if it were not in our community?
On a warm fall day the group took cameras and journals as they walked into town. In each of the six groups, individuals were assigned to be
as they continued to look for ways the community connects.
As with most research, after the walking field trip, students had many answers but also a long list of additional questions. Pondering if the driving question was going in the best direction for the information gathered, alternative ideas began to percolate. Students learned the skill of flexibility. Their investment in the project allowed them to be open to embracing new directions.
With much discussion, students voted to change the driving question. They wanted to know more than just how people view their community but how Rexburg connects to the community in positive ways.
In the beginning, students wanted to borrow Paul Salopek's title. They were calling the exeprience "Out of Rexburg Walk." At this point in the project it became more personal to them. With new found ownership, the class wanted to call their walk, "To Main Street and Back."
With the goal of discovering how organizations connect to the community, students brainstormed a list of businesses, organizations, charities, and community groups in Rexburg.
Students made a concept map of story telling modalities and considered different audiences that might be interested in hearing their stories.
Sharee reached out to professional podcast creator Paul North, who she met in Antarctica, for support with audio story telling.
Creating podcasts became the storytelling platform choice for Ms. Bargabos' students.
Ms. Bargagos' group presented their slow journalism experience to Chris Mann, President of the Rexburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and asked the chamber to partner with them by attaching student produced podcasts to http://rexburgchamber.org/.
Bradley explained, "When people are planning to move to Rexburg or visit our community, we would like them to see our podcasts on your webpage sharing the positive things we've learned about Rexburg."
Brooklyn shared, "There is enough negative in the news. We want to focus on the positive."
The Rexburg Area Chamber of Commerce agreed!
With the anticipation of genuine listeners finding interest in their work and the mode of storytelling decided, research pairs naturally stepped up their game. They found historians, contractors of buildings, store owners, and many more primary sources to help authenticate their data collection.
Ms. Bargabos' class found one of the biggest hurdles was interviewing. Even with scaffolding and practice, it was intimidating for ten-year-olds to call people they didn't know. Sometimes it took days to finally contact the person best suited to provide the correct information. Students recorded interviews to refer to while creating their podcast stories.
A 5th-grade writing skills rubric provided scaffolding for the podcasts. Expectations not only included an engaging script with a storytelling voice, students also had to use factual and accurate information along with solid writing techniques.
Each student podcast concluded with an invitation for listerners to create their own connections to their communities.
Taking Paul North's advice, students created small spaces that would better control sound while recording. Apps on cell phones and a Zoom H1n Portable Recorder captured scripts.
Soundtrap was a magnificent and user-friendly tool for middle schoolers to produce podcasts complete with intro/outro music and sound effects.
TO MAIN STEET AND BACK
Twelve different podcasts were produced by ten-year old students. The recording and production was 100% student composition. You can listen to all 12 stories at http://www.exploreyourimpact.org/to-main-street-and-back.html
5th-grade students Sharee Barton