I love watching a good nature documentary, playing some brain games with my family, or binging on weirdly graphic Dr. Pol veterinary episodes even as I eat dinner. So I would clearly have a bias towards the wonderful work of National Geographic even I hadn’t been obsessed with the magazines as a child. But I was. The made me want to simultaneously be an anthropologist, paleontologist, and a photographer. But more than that it helped instill in me a wonder and a respect for the natural world. Perhaps if more of us had that in previous generations, we would be facing fewer environmental challenges today. I am glad to have had even a small role in the work my district is doing to instill that in future generations through our sustainability and Plant, Learn, Grow program which is connected to the city’s larger Grow to Learn initiative.
That’s my background, but I think most educators are familiar with National Geographic as a world leader in geography, cartography and the exploration of the world. We have read the magazine for insights into the natural world and some of us have shared the Kids Magazine or Explorer Editions with our students. But Nat Geo offers much more for educators too that I don’t believe they are aware of.
One of those resources is the worldwide perspective that National Geographic can bring to so many of us educators whose scope and understanding is dimmed by our limited experiences. They pride themselves on helping educators take a broader view of interactions between the human and natural world while considering multiple disciplinary perspectives from cultural to political to ecological zones and more across local, regional, and global scales. If you want to see that concept in greater depth, you can look at NatGeo’s Learning Framework. It gives a structure and guidelines for teachers across grade levels to guide their student towards improved attitudes (curiosity, responsibility, and empowerment), skills (observation, communication, collaboration, and problem solving), knowledge (the human journey, our changing plant, wildlife, and wild places) for whole student focused approach. I really like that it directs teachers towards instructing in the 21st-century skills necessary for future student success while simultaneously cultivating a curiosity and responsibility for the natural world.
A great spot for a birds-eye view of what Nat Geo offers is their Education Blog where you get stories from educators exploring the natural world with their students or interviews with Geography Bee champions. Make sure to join the Educator Network as well to connect with other dedicated educators and the resources they share. That includes opportunities sharing stories and in-person learning like their STEM Conference.
Of course the magazines and the National Geographic website are filled with a massive collection of knowledge, but National Geographic Kids is an amazing spot for younger learners with videos, exploration zones, animal guides, and fun games to make learning playful. Beyond that though you can explore the large array of Nat Geo Classroom Resources with media, articles, and full lessons for teachers. Our favorite though are the mapping resources which include individualized maps and giant ones that can be ordered.
A lack of prior knowledge is one of the biggest challenges facing many of my students who haven’t experienced much of the world outside their neighborhood, but that’s a challenge for many educators too. To help address that Nat Geo offers an array of PD options including teacher certification. The National Geographic Certification winter cohort will begin on January 6th, so be sure to register soon. It is a serious program that will meaningfully improve your practices. Doing so will also also make you eligible for various Educators Grants including the Grosevnor Teacher Fellowship which is a two-year leadership and professional development opportunity that includes an all-expenses-paid expedition with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions to places like the Galápagos Islands, Arctic Svalbard, Southeast Alaska, and Antarctica! If you’re open to learning more about the world so you can share it with your students, there’s no better time than now.