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Requests for Proposals

Middle School Planetary Stewards

Preparing Middle School Students to Become Stewards of the Planet

Photograph by Getty Images

Young adolescents are explorers by nature—and we want them to stay that way.

National Geographic Education is focused on building geographic competency in middle school students and educators in the United States, Mexico, and Canada by fostering an explorer mindset and building understanding, appreciation, and value for the natural and social sciences at the local, regional, and global levels. We believe that students who become explorers set off on a path to lifelong stewardship of the planet.

Our education programs are aligned with the National Geographic Learning Framework, which is built upon a foundation of learning outcomes that are developmentally appropriate for various ages and are geared toward building an explorer mindset. The Learning Framework encourages the attitudes of Curiosity, Responsibility, and Empowerment; builds the skills of Observation, Communication, Collaboration, and Problem Solving; and increases content knowledge in National Geographic’s three focus areas of Human Journey, Wildlife, and Changing Planet.

To make smart decisions, today’s students need to understand how the complex and dynamic human and natural systems interact. Using the geographic perspective provided by the Geo-Inquiry Process—a project-based learning experience built on the Learning Framework—students begin to connect complex components, see patterns among them, and make connections that can change their communities for the better.

National Geographic invites middle school educators in the United States, Mexico, and Canada to submit proposals for creative projects that maximize the kind of learning exemplified by the Learning Framework and the Geo-Inquiry Process in classrooms or informal education settings. (Note: Proposed projects need not rely only on National Geographic resources.)

Please note that July 10, 2019 will be the last deadline for the RFP focus areas described below.


Eligible projects should address one of the focus areas of Human Journey, Wildlife, or Changing Planet, and be designed to build geographic competency in students through one or more of the following:

  • Developing a particular attitude and/or skill of the Learning Framework (curiosity, responsibility, empowerment, observation, communication, collaboration, problem solving) or a cluster of these attitudes and skills

  • Using the Geo-Inquiry Process to identify a local, regional, or global problem and taking action to address it

  • Providing learning experiences that will increase students’ understanding of the interconnections between natural and human systems at local, regional, or global levels

  • Incorporating citizen science activities in student learning to get them involved in their physical environment

  • Incorporating civic action activities in student learning to get them involved in their civic and cultural environment

Potential outcomes might include increasing students’ appreciation of the natural world, exhibiting increased cultural empathy and understanding, and recognizing the issues and connections between the natural and human systems on the Earth that lead to a planet in balance. Projects should move students from engagement to inspiration to action, and indicate evidence of growth in students’ understanding of the world around them and their ability to effect change at local, regional, or global levels.

Proposed projects may be carried out at various scales—for example, in one classroom or with one group of learners, with a collection of classrooms or groups, in an after-school program, or in an entire school.

The following are a few examples of middle school topics and subjects that may align with the focus areas:

  • Human Journey – Human Geography, Ancient Civilizations, US History, World History, Culture, Human Migration, Human Environment Interaction, Sustainability, Resources (distribution and use)…

  • Wildlife – Physical Geography, Evolution and Adaptation, Conservation, Human Environment Interaction…

  • Changing Planet – Physical Geography, Ecology, Ecosystems, Plate Tectonics and Earth Structure, Weathering and Erosion, Energy in Earth’s Systems, Weather and Climate, Space and the Solar System, Energy and Matter, Human Impacts (e.g., pollution and waste)...

Applicants may request up to US $15,000, although grants are typically between US $5,000 and US $10,000. Please see the Preparing Your Proposal page regarding budgetary guidance. Projects may take place in a traditional classroom or in an informal or out-of-school setting for middle school students. Applicants should clearly indicate the target age range and number of students to be impacted.

In the application form, please select Education as the primary focus.

Sample Applications

Click below to view and download a sample application for each primary project focus supported by the Middle School Planetary Stewards RFP. 

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