1. Paul's Welcome to Students
  2. Salopek Map
  3. Middle School Lesson Plan
  4. Trip Update: Walking Out of Digital Africa
  5. Independent Activity
  6. Warmup Photos - 6-8
  7. Credits
Pulitzer Center

Out of Eden: 6-8 Lesson Plan

Capturing Emotion in Words

Out of Eden: 6-8 Lesson Plan
Capturing Emotion in Words
Paul's Welcome to Students

Transcript of Paul’s Welcome to Students (Sent in August 2013)

“My name is Paul Salopek and I’m happy to invite you along on the Out of Eden Walk. One of the interesting things about this project, at least to me, is that it doesn’t belong to me. It’s not Paul’s walk. Scientists say that if you go far back enough in your family tree, there will have been someone who’ll have walked at least a small part of our ancestor’s immensely long route across the ancient world. This project, then, is one that belongs to all of us. It belongs to you.

I’m looking forward to sharing the stories that I find as I walk across the earth for the next seven years, from the cradle of our ancestors in the Rift Valley of Africa to the last continental horizon that they reached thousands of generations later in South America.

But I look forward to hearing your stories too because learning about the world and how we’re all connected within it doesn’t mean you have to pull on a pair of boots and walk 25 miles a day.

You can do this from home by just slowing down and paying attention. Slowing down opens your life to new possibilities. It allows you to make new discoveries, even in your own backyard. All it takes is a little more time and curiosity.

Think about the difference, for example, between riding to school in a bus or a car and walking. When you’re hunkered inside of a glass and steel vehicle, you are looking at the world that is blurred by speed and flattened through the windshield. Or more likely, you’re staring down into a mobile device and ignoring the world altogether.

But walking requires alertness; it requires you to be fully awake. You may see the pattern of leaf shadows moving on a sidewalk. You might feel the cool autumn wind on your skin. You might smell a neighbor’s cooking wafting through an open window, or you might even meet that neighbor and have a brief, passing conversation.

So while I look forward to sharing the stories that I find across the world as I inch my way through African deserts, or over the Himalayan Mountains of Central Asia, or through the jungles of Burma. I also look forward to hearing about your own walks as well, about your own discoveries.

We are walking together on a journey of learning. We’ll draw maps together, helping each other to move forward. I look forward to seeing you down the trail.”

Middle School Lesson Plan

“Capturing Emotion in Words” (45-60 minutes)

COMMON CORE STANDARD: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

OBJECTIVE: SWBAT analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone in blogs written as part of the Out of Eden Project

Essential question:

  1. How does an author’s language depict his/her attitude about a subject?


  • Warm up photos from the Out of Eden Walk
  • Warm up descriptions for matching to photos
  • YouTube video or press release explaining the Out of Eden Walk (optional)
  • Blog entry “Trip Update: Walking Out of Digital Africa”
  • Independent Practice activity “The Emotional Journey of the Out of Eden Walk”
  • Transcript of “Paul’s Message to Students”
  • Audio of “Paul’s Message to Students”

ENGAGE: Image, Description and Emotion.

SAY: Today we are going to talk about the Out of Eden walk, a new project currently being reported by journalist PAUL SALOPEK.

ASK: What is a journalist? What is a journalist’s job?

SAY: One important part of a journalist’s job is to communicate what it feels like to be in a certain place or situation. Is it joyful, hopeless, melancholy, etc.? (Brainstorm more emotion words with your students if you think they will need a reminder of emotion vocabulary. You will come back to these words throughout the lesson, so it might be helpful to write them on the board.)

SAY: One way that journalists can express the emotion of a place is through photographs.

ACTIVITY: The Emotion of Images

Part 1: Describing how images make us feel emotions

  • Display three images from the attached “Emotion of Images” resource on a projector, or by passing the printed images amongst pairs in the class.
  • One at a time, ask students to define what they see in the picture.
  • Guide them to attach an emotion word to each picture.  Explain how the journalist that took the photo is helping communicate the emotion of a place through the image.
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Example: “Loving, Compassionate, Sweet, Hopeful”Part 2: Guessing which description goes with which image

  • Read, and post if possible, the descriptions that go along with the photos you selected.
  • Ask students to match the description to the photo. (It can be done first in pairs, or as a whole group activity based on your class.)
  • ASK: How did you match the description to the picture? (The language in the descriptions!) Guide students to process which particular words and phrases helped them identify the picture.
  • SAY: When an author uses language to express an attitude or feeling about a subject, that is called TONE.

The Point: Just like some journalists use photos to help an audience understand what it feels like to be in a certain place, other journalists can use specific language to help an audience understand the emotion of a place/situation.  When journalists express their attitude about a subject through specific word choice, it is called TONE.

INFORM: Different tones in reporting the Out of Eden Walk

SAY: The images and descriptions we just saw come from the Out of Eden Walk, a project from journalist Paul Salopek. Over the course of seven years, Paul will be walking the 21,000 miles many scientists believe humans migrated from Africa to South America starting nearly 160,000 years ago. (Show or pass the map describing Paul’s journey) Along the way, he will be using photographs, videos and writing to report what he sees. The result will be a slowly, carefully reported document of the world, and the pictures and descriptions we just observed were some of the first documents of his journey.

Describe the Out of Eden Project

Choose one of the options below to explore the following aspects of the Out of Eden Walk: The logistics of the 7-year, 21,000 mile journey (Where will Paul go and how will he be reporting?), the reason Paul has taken on this project, what themes he hopes to explore, and what he hopes readers will take from the journey. What interests the students? What questions do they have?

Option 1: Watch the following YouTube video with your students to introduce them to the Out of Eden Walk- http://youtu.be/zVKlyb3iMI0

Ask students to listen for the following as they watch:
    1.    Where will Paul be traveling to and for how long? How will he be traveling?
    2.    Why has he chosen to travel this way? Why has Paul created this project? (Emphasize Paul’s mission to slow down readers and their observing of the world.)

Note: For a brief project description, you can stop at minute 1:30. If you continue, students will also learn about Paul’s anticipated challenges, how he plans to balance walking and reporting, and more detailed descriptions of the themes that Paul hopes to explore throughout the journey.

Option 2: If you do not have access to video, you can use one of the texts pasted below as a read-aloud/independent read.  Be aware, though, that this text will not the focus for tone. The description should last no longer than 10 minutes.

For higher level readers: http://media.outofedenwalk.com/resources/out_of_eden_walk_outline.pdf See Page 1 for a trip and mission description and Page 6 for details.

For struggling readers: Use the attached excerpt from Washington Post Kids. Explore how Paul uses specific language and tone to describe the journey.

Display Map

SAY: Paul has been traveling since last January, and has been communicating along the way through videos, pictures and writing like we saw in our warm up. (Option: Present National Geographic’s Out of Eden page to show how Paul has been communicating in the field. The text we will analyze also came from this page!) http://outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/21/new-world/)

Text Analysis Modeling

How does Paul use specific words to describe the feeling of certain parts of the walk? (Remind students that using language to express an emotion is called TONE!)

As a class, analyze the attached text “Trip Update: Walking Out of Digital Africa”, a blog from National Geographic’s “Out of Eden Walk” page.

Here are some examples of places that can model tone for the students:

    1.    After the first three lines, ask how does Paul feel at the start of the journal? Does he sound comfortable or uncomfortable? Why does he include the detail about the powered milk? How do words like “grizzled” and “taciturn” impact the emotion of the start?
    2.    What is the effect of the word “yapping” when describing the nomad guides in paragraph 4?
    3.    Where is the tone comedic? (example: paragraph 4 “It was like walking out of Africa with valley girls.)
    4.    Where is the tone serious? Where is the tone suspenseful?

The Point: Journalists can describe the emotion of being in a place by carefully selecting words that convey that emotion.

EXPLORE MATERIAL: Evaluating tone in reporting throughout the Out of Eden Walk

Activity: The Emotional Journey of the Out of Eden Walk

Part 1: Independently or in pairs, have five short excerpts from Paul’s journals to identify the tone of each passage. Challenge students to use tone to help them understand the emotion Paul is trying to convey along the journey. Where is the trip difficult and annoying? Where is it magical and inspiring? Make sure students can use Paul’s words as evidence when identifying the tone!

KEY: 1. B, 2. D, 3.E, 4. C, 5. A

Part 2: Independent practice of identifying tone using the audio “Paul Welcomes U.S. students” and its accompanying transcript.

  • Where is the tone inclusive or inspiring?
  • Where is the tone comedic? (Does he use jokes or irony?)
  • How does Paul’s voice impact the tone?
  • What is the tone when Paul describes moving quickly in a car? How is it different when he describes walking?


INDEPENDENT PRACTICE EXTENSION: How did reading/listening to Paul directly make YOU feel about slow approach to storytelling?

SAY: In addition to trying to convey a tone through words, journalists/authors may also use a tone to get the reader to feel something.

ASK: How do you feel about a slow approach to storytelling after reading/listening? At the end of the piece, what did Paul ask for you all to do to help with his mission of slowing down storytelling around the world? Were you inspired to do that? What words or phrases inspired you?


Describing Tone:

  • Tone Language- http://www.poetryinvoice.com/teachers/lesson-plans/tone-map/tone-list- words for describing tone
  • Ideas for teaching tone- http://www.brighthubeducation.com/middle-school-english-lessons/12268-four-steps-to-teach-tone-and-mood/

The Out of Eden Project:

  • http://media.outofedenwalk.com/resources/out_of_eden_walk_outline.pdf - Press Release written by Paul
  • www.outofedenwalk.com – Find all the Milestones Paul has documented here
  • http://walktolearn.outofedenwalk.com/- See how teachers are connecting their curriculum to the Out of Eden Walk throughout the school year
Trip Update: Walking Out of Digital Africa

Journalist Paul Salopek reaches the Red Sea as part of his planned seven-year, 27,000-mile trek.

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Caption: Modaita, the yawning camel, is unimpressed. Image by Paul Salopek/Courtesy of National Geographic. Djibouti, 2013.

Published May 6, 2013 by Paul Salopek for NPR

This winter I walked 400 miles up the Rift Valley of Ethiopia in the company of three grizzled Afar nomads, two taciturn camels and a barrel of powdered milk.

The milk was a tragedy.

Early on, I had asked a friend from Addis Ababa, via satellite phone, to resupply us with food — scarce vegetables in particular. But he was a thoroughly modern African, an urbanite. His idea of the outdoors was absorbed largely from TV commercials. So he brought us instead a 10-quart drum of powdered coffee creamer.

My nomad guides were livid. They used the seemingly inexhaustible milk can as a soccer ball. As a stool. As a drum. They broadcast tales of the city slicker's witlessness far and wide across the desert Rift — using cellphones clipped next to their dagger belts. The camelmen were, in fact, yapping on their mobile phones during much of the trek. It was like walking out of Africa with valley girls.

The world is changing blurrily fast. So I have decided to ratchet back the speed of my own reporting to try to see it in slow tableaux — to inch through the global stories of our day, big and small, at a more human pace.

Over the course of the next seven years, I am retracing, on foot, the pathways of our species' first great diaspora from the mother continent to the uttermost end of the Earth, the southern tip of South America.

I'm calling this narrative journey the Out of Eden Walk. And along the way, I'll be traversing what is probably the greatest transformation in human consciousness since the invention of agriculture: the wiring of the world.

Today, about a third of humankind is interconnected through information technology, primarily via mobile devices, to the Web. By the time I plod onto a finish-line beach in Tierra del Fuego in 2020, that connectivity will be complete.

Walking through Ethiopia, I have witnessed the raw edges of this extraordinary digital revolution.

Our mini camel caravan veered as often toward remote villages with grumbling generators — "electronic oases" essential for charging the Afar nomads' mobile devices — as we did to real waterholes.

As a National Geographic fellow, I sometimes carry a bauble called a "dazzler," a gold-stamped letter of introduction on the organization's letterhead, intended to awe local functionaries into rendering assistance. (Or at least restrain them from blocking forward progress.)

On this trip, however, the rural officials I dealt with often had seen my published Web dispatches before I did; one even read my work to me from his Chinese-knockoff iPhone. Beribboned letters of introduction now seem as absurd as a pith helmet.

For 43 days my Afar friends and I rambled the Rift. We trudged across cloud-white salt pans. We marched over thorny plains. We pinballed down zigzag mountain trails to coastal Djibouti, where my walk abruptly stalled for a month.

I was waiting for a cargo ship to carry me across the pirate-infested Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. Day after day, I haunted the steamy docks and dim traders' offices, needling marine logisticians for tips. I drank gallons of sugary tea from shot glasses. I inhaled billows of cigarette smoke. I retold the same stories — leaving the loathed milk drum at the Djibouti border, perched on a rock. (For all I know, it's still there, unconsumed.)

But this was merely an antidote to loneliness. I could track any vessel in the world that I wished from my quiet, borrowed room — from my laptop.

You can follow Salopek's journey at www.outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com and www.outofedenwalk.com

Independent Activity

How has Paul’s journey been so far? Use the tones of his writing and photographs to determine for yourself!

Directions: Match the picture with the corresponding description below. Describe the tone of each picture and what words helped you determine the matching picture. In your own words, describe the tone of Paul’s journey so far.

  1. 1/29/13- The Afar Region, Ethiopia: “They wake to them. They walk past them. They play, argue, and camp next to them.  They use the dead to navigate by. Tens of thousands of dusty funerary markers, some new, many very old, crowd the landscape.”

Which picture? ______

What is the tone?___________________________________________

What words or phrases express the tone?___________________________________________

  1. 3/10/13- Afar Triangle, Ethiopia: The view is sterile, alien, like those grainy photographs captured by robots on another world. And then . . . a woman’s shoe.

Which picture? ______

What is the tone?___________________________________________

What words or phrases express the tone?_________________________________________________

  1. 4/10/13- Leita, Djibouti: There is no relief here.There is no sleep—at least not for outsiders, not for dusty wayfarers like us. No refuge. No relaxation. No peace. No rest. It is the wind.

Which picture? ______

What is the tone?___________________________________________

What words or phrases express the tone?_________________________________________________

  1. 5/3/13/ Djibouti City, Djibouti- “The sea is black. But the shore glows with orange light: a port on fire”.

Which picture? ______

What is the tone?___________________________________________

What words or phrases express the tone?________________________________________________

  1. 7/26/13- Near Dahaban, Saudi Arabia: “Humans leave echoing imprints across the surface of the Earth. We feel compelled to reshape our environment in systematic ways. Familiar shapes have begun to appear and reappear on the long walk. The most striking is the mound.”

Which picture? ______

What is the tone?___________________________________________

What words or phrases express the tone?_________________________________________________
















Warmup Photos - 6-8



  1.  Print the three photos below and show them to students one at a time (you can also project them!)

  2. Ask students to identify an emotion they feel in each of the photos.

  3. Print/Project the descriptions at the bottom of the page to the correct photo.












  1. It is a crude but effective killing machine consisting of some dozen moving parts. (Depending on the model.) Weight: roughly ten pounds. Easy enough for a child to operate.- 2/18/13- Logia, Ethiopia
  2. Dawn. A sun pale as honeycomb wax. The desert holds us in two dimensions. We walk it. We leave our mark. Our bodies draw their stories.- 8/16/13 near Near Rabigh, Saudi Arabia
  3. More than 3,000 Ethiopian rigs sit idling at PK-12, a raw scar scraped from the desert. They await cargo offloaded from ships. They rumble. They exhale black exhaust. They squeal and hiss. 4/10/13- Djibouti City, Djibouti ( a country in northern Africa)

Answer Key: Picture A- Description 2, Picture B- Description 1, Picture C- Description 3)


lesson plans prepared by

Fareed Mostoufi

Jason Huang and Caroline D'Angelo


The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit organization, promotes in-depth engagement with global affairs through its sponsorship of quality international journalism across all media platforms and an innovative program of outreach and education.

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