Nature Photographer

Tales of Exploration

Thanks to a National Geographic California Geography Education Grant, the MERITO Foundation

 enrolled fifteen 4th-12th grade teachers and afterschool program educators to participate in a new 6-months project titled ‘Tales of Exploration.’

About Tales of Exploration

Exploring Wetlands.JPG

Students explore and identify bird species at Ormond Beach, one of few remaining wetlands in Southern California. Photo: Rocío Lozano-Knowlton

This project is a world-class, student-centered learning opportunity using the National Geographic Storytelling Tools and Framework. The project's objectives were to provide 4th-12th grade educators the tools to empower their students to explore their natural world through geo-inquiry and share their knowledge and the impacts of their research projects through storytelling. 

Learners developed the attitudes, skills, and knowledge of an explorer (learner) while building science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) application skills. Gains in learner independence, self-regulation, motivation, self-efficacy, learner satisfaction, and community connection were promising.

'Tales of Exploration' is designed to build upon the ‘Co-LAB-Orate' project, also funded by National Geographic and initiated in 2020 at the Ventura County Office of Education with middle school teachers. This project aimed to bring teachers & afterschool educators from a wider geographical range, students from multiple grades, and to facilitate outdoor exploration. 'Tales of Exploration' project included funding for students' outdoor exploration, toolkits for teachers and students on how to easily create stories for impact, access to ocean science content, activities, or project-based learning challenges. The results were student projects focused on ocean conservation co-designed in teams that include exploration and digital storytelling, to view the 2022 winners, see below!

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Sophia Turner from Mesa Union School was awarded 1st place winner for her storytelling project. Photo: Rocío Lozano-Knowlton

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What did ‘Tales of Exploration’ offer participating educators and their students? (Benefits)

  1. Access to and training on National Geographic’s Storytelling for Impact tools

  2. $750 stipend per educator for: Completion of National Geographic’s ‘Storytelling for Impact’ course; Participation during at least two of three ‘‘Tales of Exploration’’ webinars; and for mentoring their students in their “‘Tales of Exploration’’ project (to be completed by June 15, 2022)

  3. Optional $250 for transportation per educator participating in the project to Ventura River, a beach, or departing harbor, or for covering the cost of substitute teachers

  4. Optional $1000 for students' transportation to the Channel Islands within the school year (for Ventura County students)

  5. Access to youth virtual field trips, field exploration applications, activities, and guides

  6. Toolkit for educators to mentor teams of students on their ‘‘Tales of Exploration’’ project

  7. Webinar and Toolkit for students on 'how to create their storytelling projects' by professional environmental media producer

  8. Cash prizes for students’ teams: $500, $350, and $200 for the top projects selected and broadcast on June 8, 2022, during Ocean’s Day event

Note: Benefits 3 & 4 above were optional only for the educators who choose Outdoor exploratory experiences for students at a River, Coast, or the Channel Islands, but nature experiences can also occur in their backyard.

'Tales of Exploration' Project Timeline

Dec 15, 2021
Educators Webinar #1 ‘Explorer Mindset’ (1 hour):
Introducing educators to ‘Tales of Exploration’ Project, National Geography’s Explorer Mindset mini-course for students the Storytelling for Impact courses for educators.
December 15, 2021 – January 31, 2022
‘Storytelling for Impact' online training (7-8hrs within 6 weeks)
Educators participate and complete one National Geographic ‘Storytelling for Impact in My Classroom course'. There are four options to choose from: Photography, Video, Audio or Graphics.
January 31, 2022
Educators Webinar #2 – ‘Explorer Stories that Inspire!’
This interactive session will engage educators in the Storytelling for Impact content from National Geographic courses through facilitated conversation and discussion on use with student project development and assessment.
February 8, 2022
Educators Webinar #3
Incorporation of National Geography’s ‘Storytelling for Impact’ strategies in the communications section of projects authored by students entering the EECCOA Challenge 2022.
January 13 –
May 13, 2022
Student Exploration and Investigation
April 14, 2022
Students Webinar #1
Jim Knowlton, Director of Blue Ocean Productions, will present ‘Tales of Exploration Tool Kit for Students’. National Geographic resources will be woven into the session.
May 16, 2022
Submission of student teams' stories, with project titles and brief descriptions.
Students will know what projects were chosen on June 1st. 
June 8, 2022
The culminating event scheduled during World’s Ocean Day is likely to be delivered virtually. The event will showcase students learning through storytelling using various formats with prizes for the top 4 stories and possibilities of entries being highlighted by the National Geographic Society

(Grades 4-8) Field Trips as inspiration for their projects -

Day field experiences for youth to be introduced to the Explorer Mindset at beaches, wetlands, rivers, or the Channel Islands, based on interests and distance from their school.

(Grades 9-12) Environmental Topic Exploration/Investigation and Solution Formulation for student projects will include a challenge to explore an environmental problem and propose a solution to address the issue

2022 "Tales of Exploration" Winners!

4-6th Grade Projects

1st Place Winner- Won $500