WASHINGTON (May 13, 2008)—Fifteen kids ages 8-14, who have demonstrated a passion for exploring, have been selected as members of the third annual National Geographic Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge Expedition Team, sponsored by the marketers of PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer and Tourism Australia. Two teachers also have won places on the 2008 Expedition Team that will travel to Australia in July to explore the natural wonders of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and prehistoric Daintree Rainforest, and to Tasmania, where the explorers will participate in a conservation project to help protect the Tasmanian devil. As part of the prize, each winner will be equipped to photograph their experience with a D60 digital SLR camera from Nikon®.
The winning students are Alexander Bentley, 14, of Salem, Va.; Elisabeth Coons, 14, of Sadieville, Ky.; Casey Densmore, 11, of Inwood, W.Va.; Adam DeSerio, 13, of Cornville, Ariz.; Grace Hubbard, 14, of Whitinsville, Mass.; Mara Klecker, 13, of Sioux Falls, S.D.; Missy McDonough, 12, of Englewood, Fla.; Kat Musen, 11, of Stanford, Calif.; Abbie Faye Olson, 13, of Lewiston, Idaho; Savanna Reid, 13, of Mercer Island, Wash.; Maya Rundio, 10, of Santa Cruz, Calif.; Zach Sherrod, 12, of La Grande, Ore.; Michael Suhey, 13, of Horseheads, N.Y.; Benjamin Wilken, 8, of Honesdale, Pa.; and Veronica Wilson, 12, of Omaha, Neb.
The winning teachers are Joshua Stitzinger, a fifth-grade teacher in Philadelphia, and Wendy Gorton, a fourth-grade teacher from Los Angeles. The Australia trip is scheduled for July 16-28, 2008.
The six boys and nine girls were chosen from thousands of entries nationwide. To enter the National Geographic Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge, kids were asked to write an original essay of no more than 300 words telling National Geographic Kids magazine how they actively explore their world and the most interesting things they have found in it. Students also submitted a photograph, shot by themselves, that illustrated what, where or how they explored the subject of their essay. A panel of National Geographic experts selected 15 kids whose essays and photographs expressed the most interest in and passion for exploring, while adhering to the judging criteria.
The winners include a student who explores the world by experiencing the sights and sounds of nature while walking home from school, another who came nose-to-nose with a mule deer at dusk and a child who imagined the world through the eyes of a wolf in Denali National Park. One girl shares her love of the outdoors with mentally handicapped adults, volunteering her time to help them explore through hiking, while a young curator collects artifacts for a homemade museum. The winners also include several budding photojournalists, whose works show a keen sense of space, time and use of light.
To see the winning entries, go to kids.nationalgeographic.com.
For the Teacher Challenge, educators were asked to conduct a hands-on activity related to Australia in an innovative manner that actively engaged students, and to write an original essay of 500 words or less describing what best practices were used to increase students’ knowledge and appreciation of the geography of Australia.
In addition to learning how to observe and not disturb the places they visit and receiving tips from National Geographic experts on capturing their discoveries in pictures and words, Expedition Team members will have the opportunity to interact with Tasmanian students and support conservation efforts to protect the Tasmanian devil, the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, currently threatened by habitat loss and disease. Paired with a Tasmanian student pen-pal, Challenge winners will take part in various fund-raising activities over the next two months. These efforts will culminate on July 25, when Expedition Team members and the Tasmanian students join together to build new protected habitats for Tasmanian devils in a local wildlife park.
Accompanying the winners on the trip will be National Geographic personality Boyd Matson, host of public television’s “Wild Chronicles” and the radio program “National Geographic Weekend,” National Geographic Kids executive editor Julie Agnone, National Geographic Kids science editor Catherine Hughes, National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths Belt, local experts and a parent or guardian for each young team member.
“Daring readers to explore, National Geographic Kids magazine aims to excite kids about their world,” said National Geographic Kids Editor in Chief Melina Bellows. “The National Geographic Society has a long tradition of identifying and supporting explorers early in their research, and I can see no greater opportunity than the Hands-On Explorer Challenge to seed the next generation of explorers.
Complementing both the magazine and the classroom, this expedition provides an unmatched hands-on learning environment that continues our mission of inspiring people to care about the planet.”
“Hands-on exploration helps kids experience, understand and gain a greater appreciation for the world in which we live, which is why we’re so proud to sponsor this contest,” said Erik Falck, product director, PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer. “Whether they’re discovering the wonders of Australia or the marvels of their own backyard, not everything these hands-on explorers may touch is clean. For those times when soap and water are not available, there is PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer. PURELL® kills 99.99 percent of most common germs that may cause illness.”
“Kids are born to explore,” said Matson. “The natural wonders of Australia — indigenous animals and cultures found nowhere else on Earth — will provide a hands-on experience that the young explorers will remember for a lifetime.”
In Queensland, team members will be invited to become “Guardians of the Reef,” part of a nationwide program that provides Australian students with the skills to investigate and solve issues in the Great Barrier Reef and the rain forest environment. The winners will get hands-on experience through the “Save our Sharks” and “Reef Rescue” campaigns.
The team will have the opportunity to learn the ancient stories and history of the Aboriginal culture — the oldest living culture in the world — with a member of the Kuku Yalanji people and also will interact with Australia’s unique wildlife by cuddling koalas, hand-feeding kangaroos and learning about crocodiles.
In Tasmania they will discover the island state’s rich colonial history at Port Arthur, site of a 19th-century convict prison near the capital city of Hobart. They also will go in search of native wildlife and explore Mt Field National Park.
“Australia is one of the world’s top green and nature destinations. We lead the world in developing green tourism and we have consistently recognized the importance of protecting our unique environment. What we have in store for these very lucky winners is a ‘true blue’ Aussie adventure, where the kids will visit some of the most stunning natural wonders of the world and hopefully meet some new mates too,” said Michelle Gysberts, vice president of the Americas, Tourism Australia, promising the winners an experience never to be forgotten.
NOTE: Hi-res photos of winners are available: http://ftp.nationalgeographic.com/pressroom/hoec_australia
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About National Geographic Kids Magazine
National Geographic Kids, a multitopic, photo-driven magazine for 6- to 14-year-olds, empowers its readers by making it fun to learn about the world. It has received numerous industry awards, including the Periodical of the Year award in 2005 and 2006 from the Association of Educational Publishers. Published 10 times a year, National Geographic Kids has a circulation of 1.325 million and is available by subscription for $19.95 a year and on newsstands for $4.95 a copy. Its Web site is at kids.nationalgeographic.com.
About PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer
PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer kills 99.99% of most common germs that may cause illness. Use PURELL® when soap and water are not available and when hands are not visibly dirty. PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer products are marketed by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company, Division of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc.
About Tourism Australia
Tourism Australia is the Australian federal government statutory authority responsible for international and domestic tourism marketing as well as the delivery of research and forecasts for the sector. Tourism Australia was established on July 1, 2004, bringing together the collective skills and knowledge of four separate organizations: the Australian Tourist Commission, See Australia, Bureau of Tourism Research and Tourism Forecasting Council.
About Nikon, Inc.
Nikon, At the Heart of the Image™. Nikon, Inc. is the world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and photo imaging technology and is globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance for its award-winning consumer and professional photographic equipment. Nikon Inc. distributes consumer and professional digital SLR cameras, NIKKOR optics, Speedlights and system accessories; Nikon COOLPIX® compact digital cameras; COOLSCAN® digital film scanners; 35mm film SLR cameras; Nikon software products and Nikon sports and recreational optics. Nikon D Series digital SLR cameras are recognized as “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Digital SLR cameras,” according to the latest J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Digital Camera Satisfaction Study. Nikon Corporation, the parent company of Nikon Inc., recently celebrated its 90th anniversary and announced the production of over 40 million NIKKOR SLR interchangeable lenses. For more information, dial (800) NIKON-US or visit www.nikonusa.com, which links all levels of photographers to the Web’s most comprehensive photo learning and sharing communities.