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Guide for Educators to the National Geographic Society Grants Program

Picture of teacher with students

Photograph by Angelica Isa

Summary

The National Geographic Society is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization that pushes the boundaries of exploration to further our understanding of our planet and empower us all to generate solutions for a more sustainable future.

At the National Geographic Society, we invest in bold people and transformative ideas. All proposed projects must be novel, innovative, and exploratory, aligning with our mission and one of our focus areas: Human Journey, Wildlife, or Changing Planet.

We consider all grantees to be National Geographic Explorers, sharing a common set of values that guides them as they pursue a better understanding of our planet and its critical interconnections. We expect our Explorers to wield their collective power to change the world and we actively seek to help them network and connect more deeply with National Geographic and each other.

Education-focused grants aim to help educators teach people about the world and how it works, empowering them to make it a better place. Projects may introduce innovative instructional strategies for students of any age and in any location. Other projects may take proven ideas and scale or replicate them for larger audiences or different geographical areas. Projects may also measure what is working in education and add to the body of knowledge about how people learn.

Definition of a Grant Project

A grant project is a temporary or short-term endeavor designed to reach a specific goal or address a defined problem.

For our purposes at National Geographic, an education project:

  • involves multiple participants;

  • engages learners in some new way of learning, and brings about (or evaluates) some change in the learner; and

  • may be carried out at any scale: one classroom, an after-school program, a whole school, a group of schools or district, or an entire community.

 

Examples of previously funded education projects:

  • Using a Giant Map of Montana to help students in a Crow Indian Reservation school relate geography to their culture

  • Developing interdisciplinary curricula that feature a virtual field trip to National Parks of the American West for hospitalized pediatric patients and other students who are unable to experience such natural sites firsthand

  • Engaging three generations of refugee families in learning STEM concepts while sharing their stories

  • Involving high school students and educators in developing a conservation plan for a threatened coastal archaeological site

  • Investigating the effectiveness of tactile and immersive ocean education for middle school students, using a variety of emerging technologies such as 3-D modeling, 3-D printing, and virtual reality

  • Creating a monthly newspaper for elementary school students that is focused on biodiversity conservation and climate change, and supplements limited school resources on these topics

THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY CURRENTLY OFFERS THREE TYPES OF GRANTS:

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Early Career Grants are designed to offer less experienced individuals an opportunity to lead a project in the areas of conservation, education, research, storytelling, or technology.

Early Career Grants are typically funded for between $5,000 and $10,000, but you can apply for as little as a few thousand dollars.

There is no age limit for Early Career Grant applicants. However, applicants must be at least 18 years old at the time of application submission. Applicants are not required to have an advanced degree. Anyone with more than five years of professional experience in the field of their project focus does not qualify for an Early Career Grant and should apply for an Exploration Grant instead.

As an educator, you should consider applying for an education-focused Early Career Grant if the following apply to you and your project:

  • You have been teaching for five years or less.

  • You are seeking no more than $10,000.

  • This would be your first experience leading a project. (You may have participated in several, but have never actually led a project from idea conception to implementation to evaluation.)


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EXPLORATION GRANTS are opportunities for an experienced project lead in the areas of conservation, education, research, storytelling, or technology.

The applicant and his or her team members are expected to demonstrate successful completion of similar projects with measurable and/or tangible results.

Exploration Grants are typically funded for between $10,000 and $30,000, but you can apply for as little as a few thousand dollars.

As an educator, you should consider applying for an education-focused Exploration Grant if the following apply to you and your project:

  • You have been teaching for more than five years.

  • You are seeking no more than $30,000.

  • You can demonstrate, via resume and/or the application narrative, that you have experience leading one or more projects in the past.


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REQUESTS FOR PROPOSALS

REQUESTS FOR PROPOSALS (RFPs) are intended to focus our funding on addressing more specific key issue areas in science, education, and storytelling. Several of our RFPs seek innovative education projects that address the focused issues. For example, one RFP focuses on the growing problem of marine plastic pollution, and another on increasing understanding and acceptance of migrants. Highlighted below are three that lend themselves most directly to education projects, but feel free to read about all of the RFPs at NatGeo.org/grants.

 

Documenting Human Migration (RFP)

We seek proposals from around the world that use storytelling and education to inspire empathy and action from citizens of all ages and policymakers around migrant and refugee communities.

The goal of this RFP is to support impactful projects that—through education or storytelling—seek to increase understanding and acceptance of migrants and migrant communities. Types of human migrations include (but are not limited to) nomadic communities, refugees of all kinds, migrant labor, victims of human trafficking, and people exploring the planet and beyond.

Priority will be given to projects that aim to do one or more of the following through education or storytelling (the item in bold is especially pertinent for education-focused projects):

  • Document the causes and effects of one or more examples of present-day human migration

  • Document the lives of present-day migrants, their journeys, and their receiving communities

  • Develop and test out classroom resources, curricula, or public outreach materials that aim to increase understanding of the migrant experience and acceptance of  migrant communities

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Reducing Marine Plastic Pollution (RFP)

We seek proposals from around the world that aim to reduce plastic pollution before it reaches the ocean, and are especially interested in nimble and innovative solutions that have the potential to scale.

Recent estimates predict that by 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by weight. We seek to support scientists, educators, and storytellers working to fill key knowledge gaps on the effects (ecological and social) of marine plastic pollution, and conservation managers and technological innovators seeking possible solutions to marine plastics.

Preference will be given to projects with higher potential for scaling and impact, and to applicants who are residents or citizens of the country where the work will be conducted. Priority will be given to projects that aim to do one or more of the following:

  • Develop innovative solutions to help stop plastic from reaching waterways through improved recycling, waste management, or other means

  • Implement innovative methods that engage stakeholders to create solutions that dramatically reduce plastic use and/or input into watersheds

  • Focus on geographic gaps in knowledge or on known hot spots that contribute most to the marine plastic pollution problem

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Participatory Science (RFP)

We seek to support participatory science through the development or innovative use of data-driven, technology-powered tools that will increase the understanding, preservation, and protection of our planet. Applicants should design and/or implement tools that support citizen science work, particularly data collection or data analysis, in ways that create learning experiences for citizen scientists, including students.

Priority will be given to research, education, and technology projects that create and execute new digital applications, transform existing applications and products, or use current technologies to do one or more of the following (the items in bold are especially pertinent for education-focused projects):

  • Teach students and other citizen scientists about the planet using experiential, crowdsourced technology
  • Encourage students and other citizen scientists who engage with these technologies and projects to build the attitudes, skills, and knowledge necessary to become stewards of the planet and contribute to solving real-world issues
  • Generate data and/or develop open-source technologies that contribute to scientific inquiry and advance our understanding of the planet

Additionally, all applicants should include a technologist on the project team and

  • detail how applicants will share regular feedback from the project with citizen scientists;
  • document a basic outline to create, implement, and evaluate participation; and
  • note any scientific or educational outputs, technology used and/or created, data quality, participant experience, outreach plans for activating the public (including students), potential planetary impacts, and considerations for legal and ethical issues surrounding intellectual property, data sharing, and attribution.

Participation and data generation are of equal importance. Participation must be free for all users and cannot incorporate for-profit activities. Technologies might include mobile applications, web-based applications, or hardware and sensors with direct citizen science usage. Projects should create learning experiences through the collection of data and/or ground-truthing of data relevant to the trends or status of threatened and poorly known species, ecosystems, or human cultural/linguistic diversity.

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