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National Geographic Explorer Mindset Framework

National Geographic Explorers are infinitely curious people who are passionate about our planet and making it a better place.

National Geographic believes that every person has the potential to develop the same Explorer Mindset that drives Explorers to inquire, explore, seek knowledge, and work to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

National Geographic Education

National Geographic presents the Explorer Mindset Framework: a competency-based framework that outlines the unique Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge (ASK) that Explorers embody.

Whitney Goodell, a marine ecologist and geospatial analyst, and a National Geographic Explorer, describes how she approaches her work. Whitney embodies what National Geographic recognizes as the “Explorer Mindset.”

What is the National Geographic Explorer Mindset Framework?

The National Geographic Explorer Mindset Framework is a guide to developing the Explorer Mindset in the next generation of planetary stewards.

It communicates National Geographic’s core beliefs and values about the role of inquiry and geography in engaging with the world to foster curiosity, build knowledge, and inspire informed action to protect the wonder of our world.

The Explorer Mindset Framework provides a way to model for and teach people to engage with the world around them. The Framework contains three levels of information:

  • Attributes embodied by those with an Explorer Mindset
  • Competencies that can be learned, demonstrated, and assessed as people engage with the world around them
  • Descriptors of what each attribute and competency look like in action


The Explorer Mindset Framework was developed by a collective of geography experts; educators; organizations specializing in global competence and citizenship, environmental education and conservation, GIS; competency and performance assessment experts; National Geographic Explorers, and National Geographic Educators.

The National Geographic Learning Framework (retired) was used as the starting point, and a competency-based framework was developed from that base in order to provide opportunities for targeted teaching and learning of the Explorer Mindset attributes.

The Explorer Mindset Framework is aligned to and cross-walked against at least 12 global frameworks, including the US Geography, NGSS Science and C3 Framework for Social Studies Standards, ESRI’s Geographic Approach; OECD, WEF, Asia Society, World Savvy, and Nature Conservancy’s global competencies; and National Geographic’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Guiding Principles and National Geographic DEI Content Design Principles.


The mindset of an explorer:
Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge


Key attitudes that encompass the mindset of any explorer, child to youth to adult.

Explorers are:

Curious and able to ask questions about how human and natural systems work. They wonder about why things are where they are and ask questions to explore possible answers.

Empathetic and able to care about human and natural systems. They care about their own and others’ perspectives. They consider and acknowledge differences across social, cultural, and environmental perspectives. 

Empowered and able to recognize their own capacity to impact human and natural systems. They accept responsibility for planetary problems and show initiative, confidence, and leadership in trying to solve those problems.





Key skills used and demonstrated by any explorer, child to youth to adult.


Apply Geographic Perspectives, diverse geographic lenses, and analyses to local, regional, and global questions. Lenses include the geological, ecological, historic, economic, political, cultural, and spatial.

Use Geographic Practices by applying them to observe, investigate, and problem-solve. They use geospatial mapping, inquiry, data literacy, and citizen science to explore questions, create insights, and seek solutions.

Collaborate by cooperating and networking openly and effectively across fields, countries, cultures, and locales. They engage multiple stakeholders to inclusively solve problems and achieve goals.

Think Critically by synthesizing and analyzing relevant evidence. They become informed and inform others, make well-reasoned decisions, critique issues, and find alternatives in order to generate, evaluate, and implement solutions to problems.

Communicate geographic information and stories. Explorers are storytellers who use a variety of methods and media to inspire others to move from knowledge to empathy to action.

Take Informed Action by transferring knowledge, ideas, concerns, reflections, and/or findings into individual or collaborative action. They are adventurous, seeking and designing solutions to improve local, regional, or global conditions. They strive individually and collectively to protect the wonder of our world.






Key geographic knowledge investigated, built, and used by any explorer, child to youth to adult.


Acquire Geographic Knowledge as they build knowledge and meaning about human and natural systems. They study the diverse creatures we share our world with and seek to understand where things are found, why they are there, and how they change and develop over time.

Seek Geographic Connections as they build knowledge and meaning about the complex interdependencies between human and natural systems. They strive to understand how our changing planet works, and the ways places and people impact each other.

National Geographic focuses on exploring in five critical areas: Ocean, Land, Wildlife, Human History & Culture, and Human Ingenuity.

Teach In Canada?

Read about the correlation between National Geographic's Learning Framework and the Canadian Geography Framework.

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