Piquing Curiosity: The Blog of National Geographic Education

Photo courtesy of National Geographic Education.

At National Geographic Education, you’ll find an archive of teaching resources, maps, and reference materials galore. Its complementary WordPress.com blog publishes practical tips and ideas that educators can take back into their classrooms. Here, the blog’s digital team tells us about the benefits of blogging for their organization.


What’s the goal of the blog? How does it fit within National Geographic Education’s online universe?

We want to provide educators with inspiring stories of their peers and deeper dives into ideas on how to use our free resources with their students. We highlight sets of resources — particularly maps, media, activities, and reference content — multiple times a week while reflecting on both current events and major events in history.

nat geo homepage
The blog of National Geographic Education uses the free, versatile Oxygen theme.

How might educators use the blog’s content?

Our daily column, Current Event Connection, provides a learning framework around a major issue in the news, from the Refugee Olympic Team at the Rio Olympics to France’s burkini ban to the real size of a blue whale’s heart to the way national parks are planning for climate change. Online resources, in-depth discussion questions, and all media are provided in each post, so educators have a one-stop shop for bringing news from the headlines to their classrooms.

Teacher Lisa Carpentier introduces map-reading skills to her students.
Teacher Lisa Carpentier introduces map-reading skills to her students.

One of our recent projects highlighting educators involved working with local DC-area teachers who volunteered to be matched with a National Geographic explorer and to develop a self-directed project idea for their students. The results not only brought some of us softies to tears, but blew away the explorers who were thrilled to see their work take on new shapes in the eyes of their young beholders: first graders responded to the illegal ivory trade through art, elementary students jumped into the maker movement with models of underwater ROVs, and middle-schoolers used a podcast to focus on the threats facing big cats.

A teacher (and recipient of the organization's professional development program, the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship) explores a globe.
A student and teacher (who is also a recipient of the organization’s professional development program, the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship) explore a globe.

Nat Geo Education is active on other social platforms. What are the blog’s advantages over the organization’s Facebook page or Twitter account, for example? What are its limitations?

We live in a world of clickbait, and finding a balance between quick-and-informative and more thoughtful platforms is a challenge.

It’s a chance to dive deeper, in longer form, and a chance to be more conversational and instructional. You can’t provide a step-by-step discussion guide with maps in 140 characters.

While having the space to develop media-rich discussion platforms is a benefit of blogging, it can also be a limitation. We live in a world of clickbait, and finding a balance between quick-and-informative and more thoughtful platforms is a challenge. It’s a good challenge, though — working within each platform’s limitations forces us to look at the issues we cover from a variety of perspectives. In other words, we think Facebook, Twitter, and blogs can complement each other, not detract.

What’s one challenge of editing and maintaining the organization’s blog?

It takes time and effort to . . . respond and adapt in order to create a resource that is both dynamic and reliable.

Our biggest challenge surrounds commenting; we just don’t see the comments we’d like to, but that could be the result of many things — design, user expectations, solicitation strategy.

Another major challenge organizational bloggers might face is finding their audience and balancing their interests and investments with those of the organization. It takes time and effort to respond and adapt in order to create a resource that is both dynamic and reliable.

What’s your favorite thing about working on this blog?

Providing educators with resources to help them “increase understanding of the world and all that’s in it” — a classic Nat Geo motto.


How do you promote engagement and discussion on your own blog?

September 12, 2016Education, Exploration, Nonfiction, , ,