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Learn About The Work of Four 2019 National Geographic Education Fellows

Hear from four members of the 2019 class of Education Fellows as they share their work and tips for other educators.

The National Geographic Society is committed to educating students around the world, empowering them to succeed and encouraging them to make the world a better place. In order to support this mission, each year the Society selects a diverse group of outstanding educators to serve as Education Fellows — leading impact-driven projects and incubating new ideas for geographic education. Since January, this year’s class of 2019 has been hard at work on goals such as weaving environmental themes across science disciplines and leveraging technologies to support student learning and engagement.

Last week we spoke to four of our Education Fellows and heard updates from their fellowship, what inspired them to be educators and what they’re looking forward to this school year. Next up, we’re checking in with the other four Fellows, Peg Keiner, Rue Mapp, Valencia D. Clay and Kerryane Monahan, to hear about their work and how the fellowship has helped them and their students.


Peg Keiner: As the director of innovation at GEMS World Academy Chicago, Keiner connects students and teachers to experts and tools that allow them to inquire and make a positive impact on their communities. She is also a National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, a speaker at the National Geographic Education Summit, Google Earth Education Expert and Global Goal Ambassador for the United Nations Association Chicago Chapter.

What excites you each day about your work?

When someone comes to me with a new idea, I love generating ideas alongside them to make their vision come to life. The most exciting part of each day is spent diving into our units of inquiry with students and teachers and listening to the subjects that make them curious. Fostering the capacity for curiosity in my school community, creating space for future leaders to make change and connecting them with resources are three thrilling drivers of my daily work.

How has the fellowship helped you and the students you work with?

The fellowship has opened new collaborative opportunities for me through National Geographic. By taking Sciencetelling Bootcamps [which focus on communications and storytelling], I was immediately able to translate photography skills to the students at my school and to our GeoChallenge finalists. At Explorers Festival I connected to photographers and scientists that will serve as experts for our classrooms this fall.


Rue Mapp: The founder of Outdoor Afro, a social community reconnecting African Americans with natural spaces through outdoor recreational activities. By using a multi-media approach grounded in personal connections and community organizing, Mapp is a leading voice in recognizing the importance of diversity in outdoor and shared community spaces.

Explain your work in a sentence.

Celebrating and inspiring African American connections and leadership in nature.

How does spending time outdoors help young people learn about the planet?

Spending time outdoors allows young people to observe the world around them. The smell of the earth, the sound of the birds, the feeling of dew on the grass. It connects us to the core of who we are — people of the earth.


Valencia D. Clay: Dedicated to bringing opportunities and recognition to students and educators in urban school systems in the U.S. Clay is currently a middle school English teacher and critical theory professor in Baltimore. With literature as the foundation, she prompts her students to analyze culturally relevant matters from a critical stance. Clay herself is the author of Soundless Cries Don’t Lead to Healing: A Critical Thinking Guide to Cultural Consciousness, and the co-founder of The Flourishing Blossoms Society for Girls, Inc., with chapters in Harlem and Baltimore.

Do you have any tips for educators on how they can encourage students to explore and connect with the natural world?

The key to exploring the natural world is to teach students to view themselves as advocates and protectors of our environment. Once students understand their role in the natural world, the connections will be meaningful enough to transcend beyond the classroom into their adult careers.

Share a fun fact you learned from your fellowship so far!

Fun Fact: Explorers have such diverse narratives, but the one thing we all have in common, no matter what, is that we are grounded in risk-taking toward solutions to make a better world for the next generation.


Kerryane Monahan: National Board Certified Teacher of biology who focuses on weaving environmental themes across science disciplines and leveraging technologies to support student learning and engagement. She has brought students to Yellowstone National Park to work with scientists studying predator-prey relationships and the impact of wolf reintroduction, traveled to Portugal to study Iberian wolf conservation and recently worked with researchers in Newfoundland to develop curriculum on microplastics in the ocean.What excites you each day about your work?

Doing science! Watching kids grow and develop their scientific and explorer mindset — observing their curiosity and excitement for learning about the natural world. And of course, when they identify action steps they can take to effect positive change for wildlife and wild places, I’m over the moon!

Do you have any tips for educators on how they can encourage students to explore and connect with the natural world?

Get outside. It doesn’t have to be a field trip to a national park. Go outside, sit in the grass and review vocabulary. Lay under a tree and have them look up and take photos with their phones to capture the dappled sunlight. Have them observe a lizard for ten minutes and record its behavior. The human mind is altered in wonderful ways by just existing among nature even for a few moments.

Read more from other members of the 2019 class of Education Fellows on how their fellowship has impacted their work. For additional information about National Geographic’s commitment to education and other opportunities to get involved visit,

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.