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Frequently Asked Questions for the 2019–20 GEOCHALLENGE

What's new this year?

A lot! We’ve expanded the GeoChallenge to include fourth grade and created two competition divisions: fourth through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade.

Whether you are a new or returning coach or coordinator, welcome! Please review the 2019-20 GeoChallenge Rules for updates and changes.

We have a new online GeoChallenge portal for coaches and coordinators. This year, with one log-in, you can do all GeoChallenge functions in one spot. Even better, you can save team uploads in draft form and add/delete team members up until you submit their completed project portfolio.

About teams and registration


  • What is the theme for the 2019-20 competition?

    This year’s GeoChallenge theme is Tackling Plastic! Sound familiar? Last year, we invited students to investigate the urgent issue of plastic pollution in our waterways and we saw some incredible solutions and improvements. But the work is not done and as part of National Geographic’s multiyear Planet or Plastic! initiative to combat plastic waste, Tackling Plastic! continues to provide a great chance for young people to get involved.

  • Does the GeoChallenge align with curriculum standards?

    Because the GeoChallenge is student-led, there are many topics and skills a team might explore across several curriculum areas. At the most basic level, student work on Tackling Plastic! aligns with the following standards.

    Next Generation Science Standards

    Earth and Space Sciences: Human Impacts
    MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

    Life Sciences: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
    MS-LS2-5 Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

    Engineering Design
    MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

    Common Core State Standards

    CCSS ELA-Literacy- Speaking & Listening
    CCSS 6-8.SL.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

    CCSS 6-8.SL.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

  • What sorts of things will the team learn about and do?

    Grounded in science and geography, Tackling Plastic! is a project-based challenge that activates young people to:

    • LEARN about watersheds and plastics in our lives and communities
    • CREATE a solution to prevent plastics from polluting our waterways
    • DESIGN and create a map highlighting the problem and solution
    • PRODUCE a dynamic video about the team’s solution
    • COMMUNICATE about the plastic pollution problem and their team’s solution

    To review the full 2019-20 Program Guide, register today (it’s free!).

  • Can a team do the GeoChallenge but not enter the competition?

    Yes. National Geographic believes that all work done to solve the problem of plastic pollution is important work. All complete portfolios submitted by the deadline will receive feedback from National Geographic appraisers. When a coach submits a project portfolio, s/he can select to receive feedback only and not be considered for competition at the regional or national levels.

  • Who is this year’s National Geographic Explorer for the GeoChallenge?

    We are honored to work with multimedia storyteller and National Geographic Explorer Lillygol Sedaghat this year. Click here to learn more about Lillygol’s work to tackle plastic.


  • What are the prizes for teams that compete in the National Geographic GeoChallenge?

    The GeoChallenge competition has three levels: local, regional, and national. Prizes are awarded at the regional and national levels. At the GeoChallenge national finals, top teams have a chance to win support and guidance from National Geographic staff to implement their Tackling Plastic! solutions!

    LOCAL: Each team that submits a project portfolio by the deadline will receive a recognition packet including a GeoChallenge patch for each student.

    REGIONAL: Qualifying teams will be invited to compete at a regional competition taking place on March 27, 2020. At each regional site, a first-, second-, and third-place team will be named. The first-place team at each GeoChallenge regional competition site will receive a cash prize and support for the team members and their coaches to travel to the national competition in Washington, D.C., in Spring 2020. The second- and third-place teams will also receive a cash prize.

    NATIONAL: First-place teams from the regional competitions will advance to the national finals in Washington, D.C. A first-place, second-place, and third-place team will be awarded during national finals.

  • Where are the GeoChallenge regional competitions being held?

    The GeoChallenge regional competitions will be held March 27, 2020. Last year’s regionals were held in the locations listed below. Watch this space for the announcement of this year's locations.

    2018-19 GeoChallenge Regional Competition Sites

    Arizona (Tucson)Massachusetts (Chicopee)
    California (Fresno)Minnesota (Minneapolis) 
    Colorado (Denver)Mississippi (Oxford) 
    Florida (Jacksonville)North Carolina (Charlotte) 

    Idaho (Rexburg)

    Ohio (Columbus)
    Illinois (Normal)Pennsylvania (Harrisburg)
    Iowa (Cedar Falls)Texas (Bedford) 
    Kansas (Abilene)Washington (Des Moines)

     Teams that qualify for regional competitions will be notified via email in late February 2020. Geographic proximity will be a factor in deciding where qualifying teams compete.

Good to know

  • Does the coach have to be at all of the team meetings?

    No, but if the coach cannot attend, the coordinator or a designated adult must be present.

  • How do I contact the National Geographic GeoChallenge?

    Email the National Geographic GeoChallenge office at

  • How will our project data be secured?

    In order to administer the GeoChallenge, National Geographic Society’s Education Department collects and stores students’ information, along with information about their schools/organizations, teachers, and project sponsors. The information we collect is limited to student name, grade, and gender, which is necessary to administer the contest and enforce the rules. The information is retained for a period of three years for continuity in the administration of the contest from year-to-year. Personal information entered onto the GeoChallenge website is maintained in a secure database and never shared with outside sources for marketing or any other purpose. When creating videos and digital images for GeoChallenge project portfolios, we recommend that student teams and coaches follow their school/organization’s privacy policies. Please visit the NGS Privacy Policy for details.