Dr. Kristina Harvey Brings Real-World “Learning Network” of ‘New York Times’ to WHS Journalism Students

At the Dec. 16 Board of Education meeting, Wilton Public Schools Superintendant Kevin Smith took a moment to recognize Wilton High School English and journalism teacher Dr. Kristina Harvey, whose work had been highlighted in a Dec. 2 article in The New York Times.

Harvey, already known as an outstanding educator, is an active participant in The New York Times’ Learning Network, an education resource for teachers and students aimed at “bringing the world into [the] classroom.”

Most recently, Harvey helped to develop a new Learning Network contest for students that was launched by The New York Times under a banner that read, “Putting Personality on Paper: Our New Profile Contest.”

Contestants are instructed to “interview and photograph an interesting person in [their] community, then tell us about that person in a question-and-answer format.”

The contest is open to middle school and high school students anywhere in the world, until Feb. 16. Students in Harvey’s journalism class will submit entries as part of their coursework.

The Learning Network offers a host of resources for teachers and students participating in the contest, including an on-demand webinar with two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, help with brainstorming ideas, lessons on photojournalism, and more.

An “Incredible Resource” 

GOOD Morning Wilton reached out to Harvey for more details on her innovative work and her role in helping to develop the latest contest.

“The Learning Network is this really incredible resource for teachers and for students,” Harvey said. “It’s so rich with materials, and they started these contests for students [that] ranged from writing editorials to personal narratives to reviews and a whole variety of contests so that students can write towards audience.”

Harvey hopes the new contest will impact more than just students’ writing skills.

“Ultimately, I hope that students will recognize that everyone has a story to tell, no matter [their] age or background,” Harvey said.

To help develop the new Q&A contest, Harvey worked with Katherine Schulten, a Learning Network editor since 2006.

Harvey invited WHS senior Lora Simakova to join her in discussions with Schulten. Simakova is the editor-in-chief of the WHS student newspaper, The Forum, for which Harvey serves as faculty advisor.

Harvey says Simakova helped Schulten with troubleshooting and making suggestions from a student’s perspective for ways to improve the project.

Progression of Projects

The new Q&A profile contest is not Harvey’s first collaboration with The Times.

In July 2020, Harvey was one of 60 educators selected from among hundreds of applicants for the inaugural The New York Times Teaching Project. Under the auspices of the Learning Network, the Teaching Project is a year-long, multi-disciplinary collaboration of educators who are “passionate about bringing the mission of The Times — helping people understand the world through on-the-ground, expert and deeply reported independent journalism — to their school communities.”

Through that collaboration, Harvey designed a project called, “Documenting A Year: A Record of Now.”

Students participating in the project — including Harvey’s 10th-grade journalism class — responded to a series of weekly prompts and developed a record of their experiences, observations and reflections as the 2020-2021 school year unfolded.

Harvey said the completed “Record of Now” projects were incredibly powerful, because “now” was such an unprecedented time in history, with the COVID-19 pandemic still in its relatively early stages.

Harvey presented her students’ work to her cohort of teachers in the Teaching Project.

“It turned out to be a phenomenal record of their experience in one of the most disruptive school years,” Harvey said. “[The students] had about 40 prompts over the course of the year that they put together in a final project, and I’m telling you, it was extraordinary work.”

Harvey’s work is obviously well regarded by the editors of the Learning Network. Harvey was cited in the FAQ‘s about the new Q&A profile contest, as a good example to educators who might be wondering how to use the project across subject areas.

“We imagine that some schools may do this project for purposes that go beyond the needs of any one subject area. For example, Kristina Harvey, an English and journalism teacher at Wilton High School and a Teaching Project alumna, once had her students visit an assisted living facility where they each interviewed a different resident. After her students had written their profiles, they were posted in a gallery in their auditorium along with portraits of the residents taken by AP Photography students. The subjects of the interviews came to mingle with the students while food was served (catered by the culinary class) and the student jazz ensemble played. ‘It was a remarkable community building experience,’ Dr. Harvey said.”

Not Just For Journalism Students

Harvey encourages all middle school and high school students to submit entries to the new contest.

“The contest is designed for all students, not just journalism students,” Harvey said. “My advice is for students to think about a person from their community whose story they want to tell. Students should also familiarize themselves with the rules and read some of the examples of profiles posted in the contest details.”

All contest details, including the submission form, step-by-step guides for entries, and the rubric for judging them, can be found on the Learning Network’s website.

The contest is open until Feb. 16.