Geoliteracies and Place-Based Language Learning

“Slow Journalism – Urban Slow Walks” Border Crossings Everyday

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Learning Objectives

First, let’s read the learning objectives for this activity:1) Students will learn to observe and document hidden borders and boundaries in their community, and in the target language environment; 2) Students will learn to reflect on the cultural and social meanings associated with each invisible and visible boundary. 

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this activity, students will be able to write a reflective entry describing their feelings, perceptions, and senses associated with walking slowly across cultural spaces with the goal to observe, notice, document, and reflect social and cultural practices. 



In this activity, you will learn to be observant and notice critical cultural and social moments and practices in your everyday environment by engaging in what is known as “slow journalism.”

  • (6 min) Before you begin this activity, gain some inspiration: Are you familiar with Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Project? The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is walking across the world mapping milestone marks using GIS to document his journey and capture the human stories. Here is a link to the video where Paul is walking the land accompanied by a group of students –  Here is a link to his ArcGIS Online Milestone Map from his own walk across the world – 

We are curious to learn what you think of this project. Does it provide inspiration for your teaching? Share your thoughts with your group. 


(5 min) Footstep 1 : This footstep invites your group to consider borders or boundaries in your community. To get started, we invite you to ponder over the following questions: 

  • Have you ever been stopped from entering or visiting a place? If so, what did it feel like? 
  • If not, how do you think it might feel to be prohibited from entering a place or crossing a border? These could range from country or state borders to more everyday borders like fences, gates, walls, or even social borders that are invisible. 
  • How, if at all, is your movement restricted in your everyday life?

Prep: Before you leave the room, open this link on your phone – 


(30 min) Footstep 2 : Take a slow walk with your group. As you walk, ask yourself: what kinds of borders and boundaries am I crossing in this urban space? How is my movement restricted or enabled? Are there any ‘invisible’ borders: places where not everyone feels able to go even if there is not an explicit sign blocking their entry? Are there places where I don’t feel welcome or don’t like to go?

  • While walking, look around you, photograph, film or sketch 3-4 borders or boundaries that you and your group partners will notice. Think about “Encounters”, “Glances”, “Obstacles – visible or Invisible, surmountable-insurmountable”. 
  • Interact with your walking partners: Start getting to know your walking partners!
    • APPRECIATE: ​Share what you find interesting or striking in your walk. Be specific in your walk
    • EXTEND: ​Share how the photos you have taken extend your thinking or give you a new perspective.
    • CONNECT: ​Do you feel a connection with anything another participant noticed or shared on the story map? If yes, go to that student’s post and comment on it.


(20 min) Footstep 3 : Produce a story map of your slow walk that features the borders your group have identified during your walk (Include at least 5 border crossing).

  • Upload your walk itinerary, your photos, sketches, or map to this ArcGIS Story map – 
  • Prepare a short blog/reflection entry for each image, sketch and photograph you will upload to the map.