While fans of photojournalism sought out the arresting images featured in the Pulitzer Center’s Fotoweek DC exhibition space last week, four of the photographers whose work was on display descended on more than 20 Washington, DC area schools, bringing discussions on topics as diverse as deforestation in China and Malaysia, community building in Haiti and Liberia, and public health in eastern Europe to auditoriums, classrooms, and libraries.
James Whitlow Delano, Sean Gallagher, Andre Lambertson, and David Rochkind presented their work to almost 1,000 students, including a panel discussion at George Washington University with a packed house of adults on Monday night, middle and high schools in Landover, MD, Washington, DC, and Reston, VA throughout the week, and even a class of pre-kindergarteners on Tuesday morning.
The school visits, an ongoing part of the Pulitzer Center’s Global Gateway educational program, provided students in all four quadrants of the city and its suburbs with an opportunity to have eye-level conversations about global issues that do not often find a voice in their classrooms or communities.
China work sweetened with some charming bears
Beijing-based photojournalist Sean Gallagher found out last week that when you want to engage a distracted middle school student on the subject of environmental degradation in a faraway land, panda pictures help. A lot.
Gallagher, a three-time Pulitzer Center grantee, presented his work on deforestation, wetlands destruction, and desertification in China, challenging students to recognize the far-reaching consequences of modernization in the world’s most populous nation.
His giant panda photographs, which highlight the decimation of the creature’s bamboo forest habitat to satisfy China’s appetite for disposable chopsticks, put a popular face to a creeping problem that has quietly changed the environment not only of China, but of much of the rest of the world as well, including that of the United States.
Students in public and independent schools, in classes with as few as 10 to as many as 300, discussed the forces driving broad-based environmental change with Gallagher, and reflected on the ecological health of the Washington area, their backyard, which faces similar pressures.
A wide range of learners engage with photographers
Multiple grantee Andre Lambertson used his work on earthquake survivors in Haiti and former child soldiers in Liberia as a framework for a discussion of approaches to crisis photography with a class of international journalism students at American University, middle school students in Northeast and Southwest Washington, and an after-school meeting of high schoolers organized by the “hero club” life skills group at Thurgood Marshall in Southeast.
James Whitlow Delano’s work documenting the rapid growth of palm-oil plantations in Malaysia found perhaps its youngest audience ever in the three-year-old students at Francis Stevens Education Campus in Northwest. Delano, who also spoke to middle schoolers in Landover, MD and Washington, DC on Monday and Tuesday, engaged in a question-and-answer session with the tots that helped them understand the plight of indigenous peoples whose homes are under threat from logging in the rainforests.
With back-to-back sessions on Thursday, David Rochkind shared his multi-country experience covering the tuberculosis pandemic with students at South Lakes High School in Reston, VA. The two classes of journalism students were curious to hear how Rochkind handled the delicate balance between showing respect and gaining trust among the ailing people he photographed, and the need for personal safety in the face of a highly contagious airborne disease.
The Pulitzer Center seeks teachers, administrators, and students in the DC area, and elsewhere, who are interested in partnering with us to expand discussions of systemic global issues in the educational environment. Global Gateway resources are also adaptable to general public and community events. To request more information, please contact globalgateway(at)pulitzercenter.org