The National Geographic Hands-On Explorer Challenge 2008 offers a great way to encourage U.S. students to develop their love of science and learning, as well as their natural curiosity to discover new things about our world. To enter students must submit a 300 word essay telling “us what you discovered as a hands-on explorer in your world and why you find it interesting.” A photo that illustrates the essay must be included as well. Any student who will be 9 through 14 years old during the expedition winners will take (with a parent/guardian to Australia) in July 2008 can enter, and the entry deadline is February 15, 2008.

Current teachers in grades 3-8 can “conduct a hands-on activity related to Australia” in their classroom, submit a 500 word essay about “the best practices you use to increase students’ knowledge and appreciation of the geography of Australia,” include “a detailed description of at least one innovative hands-on activity related to this instruction” along with a photo and letter of support from the campus principal. More details are available on the official rules for teachers.

2 grand prize trips to Australia will be given away for teachers. 15 grand prize expedition trips will be given away to winning students with their parent/guardian.

What fun! Whether you win or lose, this sounds like a GREAT project to support student scientific inquiry! 🙂

Picture yourself and your own child, or one of your students, in Australia “on assignment” with National Geographic! What fun!

Sydney Opera House

I love the encouraging lines at the bottom of the official student contest page:

Be a hands-on explorer right where you live. Collect stones, shells, leaves, bugs, and look at them under a magnifying glass or microscope. Or try exploring a creek or pond to spot frogs, turtles, and fish.

Let’s hear it for hands-on science, and encouraging learners of ALL AGES to engage in inquiry-based scientific experiments!

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2 Responses to Encourage hands-on science inquiry!

  1. Wes,

    Thanks for this. I wrote a response on my blog at

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    I posted this reply over on your blog Gary….

    Gary: I agree this would be a perfect opportunity for NG to provide teachers and parents with more guidance on what “hands on science” is. I also agree the encouragement to use a hand sanitizer at the bottom of the homepage is rather silly. It is still refreshing to see students being encouraged to actually DO science (rather than just memorize facts about real scientists who got to “do science” as adults in previous years) and are in the textbook.

    I think the best clue about what students are expected to do is at the bottom of the project homepage, above the hand sanitizer exhortation:

    “Be a hands-on explorer right where you live. Collect stones, shells, leaves, bugs, and look at them under a magnifying glass or microscope. Or try exploring a creek or pond to spot frogs, turtles, and fish.”

    A teacher or parent doesn’t have to be certified and “highly qualified” to teach science in the eyes of NCLB auditors to participate. Encouraging children to go outside, explore their environment, and learn more about things which interests them seems to be the basis of this contest. I really wonder how many kids will actually enter. Where I live, it seems like many families are so busy with after-school activities that kids don’t have much unstructured time in natural environments to just play and explore, which is the ethic this contest seems to encourage.

    I would like to see the NG Society provide more ideas and support for learners regarding “hands on exploration” and inquiry based science as well. Perhaps we can make that suggestion directly to them and they’ll listen. Hand sanitizer ads aside, I think the society is sincere in wanting to promote the types of ACTIVE science activities which can be both intrinsically rewarding as well as cultivate an interest in further scientific learning. We certainly need more kids, parents, and teachers excited about science and engaged in hands-on science in the U.S., in my view.

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