What Does it Take to Be an Explorer?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at National Geographic. This week is the 8th annual Explorers Symposium, and campus is buzzing with some of the brightest minds on the planet. The National Geographic Explorers are back in town, and this year we’re celebrating a new group of visionaries in addition to welcoming old friends back.

You might think an explorer looks like this guy:

A painting depicts the explorer, Christopher Columbus. Photograph by Victor Boswell and Otis Imboden, National Geographic Creative

A painting depicts the explorer, Christopher Columbus. Photograph by Victor Boswell and Otis Imboden, National Geographic Creative

Or this guy:

This is part of a painting titled "The Discoverer," which hangs in Hubbard Hall at National Geographic in Washington, D.C. It is one of three paintings in a series called "The Romance of Discovery By Land, Air, and Sea." This paining depicts explorers discovering a new land. Painting by N.C. Wyeth, Photograph by Victor R. Boswell, Jr., National Geographic Creative

This is part of a painting titled “The Discoverer,” which hangs in Hubbard Hall at National Geographic in Washington, D.C. It is one of three paintings in a series called “The Romance of Discovery By Land, Air, and Sea.” This paining depicts explorers discovering a new land. Painting by N.C. Wyeth, Photograph by Victor R. Boswell, Jr., National Geographic Creative

Or maybe even this guy:

A portrait of Robert E. Peary, famous polar explorer. Photograph by Robert E. Peary, National Geographic Creative

A portrait of Robert E. Peary, famous polar explorer. Photograph by Robert E. Peary, National Geographic Creative

 

But really they look like this: 2014 Emerging Explorers

 

Explorers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders. They work in traditional scientific fields like conservation, biology, or physical exploration, but they also work in areas you might find surprising. Explorers are artists, DJs, and entrepreneurs; they’re scientists, engineers, and authors.

Above all, explorers are people who ask questions. Why do we plant annual crops instead of perennial ones? Why do sandwich shops never sell sandwiches that use the “butts” of bread loaves? What can I learn from nature? How can I reframe a conservation issue? How can I help my family? What did dinosaurs look like? How can I make this better? Why? What next?

In asking questions, Explorers raise awareness about issues and causes. In trumpeting the answers they find, or the process of finding even half the answer, they shine light on new understandings and discoveries. In doing so, they inspire us to become explorers by asking questions of our own.

In short, explorers are educators. By sharing what they’ve learned, we in turn have the privilege of learning from them.

Our explorers are one of National Geographic’s greatest resources, and we hope they will be yours, too. Integrate their work into your classrooms using our free resources. For example, here are some videos that can be used as examples of career paths.

Learn more about this year’s exciting class of Emerging Explorers, and the explorers that came before them. Listen to their stories. Champion their causes. Then, adopt your own. Tap into your own inherent curiosity and ask yourself, what question is inside you?  What do you need to ask? Then, go out there and discover for yourself. But, don’t forget to tell others all about it.

 

 

If you’re over the age of 21, you can enter to win $50,000 from National Geographic to pursue your dream or passion project in our new Expedition Granted contest. Visit expeditiongranted.com to learn how. 

 

Written by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic’s Center for Geo-Education

 

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