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2019–20 Rules and Requirements


For a team of students to participate in the National Geographic GeoChallenge, a teacher, a paid school employee, or a representative of a homeschool, an informal education organization, or a volunteer-based community group (e.g., museum, after-school program, Scouting group, 4-H group) must register as the GeoChallenge Coordinator.

There can only be one GeoChallenge Coordinator for a school/organization but a school/organization can have multiple teams and coaches. GeoChallenge Coordinators should register their school/organization at

For homeschools, volunteer-based community groups, and informal education organizations. A homeschool association, volunteer-based community group, or informal education organization can register a team and a parent or volunteer can coach a team. These teams are subject to verification via a form found in the portal.


There is no fee for participating in the 2019-20 GeoChallenge.


Student Teams

A minimum of four and a maximum of six students are required for each team. All student members must be in grades four through eight.

Students from different schools/organizations can participate on a team together, but all team members must live in the same state. Students can only participate on one team and a team can only submit one project.

Children of employees of National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners, LLC, are not eligible to participate in the GeoChallenge.

GeoChallenge Coordinator

The GeoChallenge Coordinator must be a teacher, paid school staff, or representative of a homeschool, volunteer-based community group, or an informal education organization.

The coordinator is responsible for identifying a coach(es) or serving as the coach, monitoring the progress of the school/organization's project(s), communicating with all coaches at the school/organization, and ensuring the National Geographic Explorer's Code and GeoChallenge rules are followed. The coordinator also abides by the Explorer's Code.

After registering, the coordinator will receive online access to the 2019-2020 program guide and competition resources.

GeoChallenge Coach

The GeoChallenge Coach is either the GeoChallenge Coordinator or is identified by the coordinator. (S)he may be an educator, a colleague, or a volunteer (parent or community member) who has been approved by the coordinator. The coach must be an adult.

The coach is responsible for recruiting the team, providing a time and place for the team to work together on a regular basis, making sure students work safely, and submitting materials to the National Geographic Society for appraisal. The coach introduces the National Geographic Explorer's Code and GeoChallenge rules to the students and assures that they are followed. The coach also abides by the Explorer's Code.

After registering, the coach will receive online access to the 2019-2020 program guide and competition resources.

Parents and Volunteers

Parents and volunteers may assist the Coach with recruitment, transportation, and providing space for team meetings. Parents and volunteers must also abide by the Explorer's Code.


Grade Level and Grade Level Divisions

Student teams must participate in either the fourth-to-fifth-grade division or the sixth-to-eighth-grade division. Teams can be comprised of students in one grade or a mix of grades within the division.

School/Organization Eligibility

Any U.S. public school, private school, homeschool, community group, or informal education organization with students in grades four through eight may participate in the GeoChallenge.

A school/organization may have multiple teams and multiple coaches, but only one project may be submitted per team.

Teams from schools located in the U.S. territories or Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools abroad can participate and submit projects for appraisal.

Adult Involvement

Adult involvement in GeoChallenge must be minimal. GeoChallenge Coordinators, GeoChallenge Coaches, parents, and adult volunteers cannot actively participate in the research, design, testing, or building of any parts of the project.

Adult roles include organizing the team, providing meeting places, ensuring safety, and giving encouragement. Adults may instruct students on how to use tools—including mechanical tools, hardware, or software—needed to create the project, but they may not actively work on the project, contribute ideas, or provide solutions. Adults make sure rules are followed and remind students of the Explorer's Code, requirements, and deadlines. Projects exhibiting over-involvement of adults as determined by National Geographic Society will be disqualified and those students will be unable to participate further.

Coach and Coordinator Eligibility

Current employees of National Geographic Society or National Geographic Partners, LLC, may not participate in the GeoChallenge as a coach or a coordinator. If you are a grantee, explorer, or an education fellow currently receiving direct funding* from National Geographic Society, you are not eligible to participate as a coach or coordinator in the GeoChallenge for the term of your current funding plus the following school year. For clarity, this funding exclusion does not pertain to: Grosvenor Teacher Fellows, Geo-Inquiry Ambassadors, Certification Mentors, the Teacher Advisory Council (TAC), and Community Leaders.

*Funding means in excess of $3,000 in one single contract.

Returning student eligibility

Students are allowed to participate in the GeoChallenge for multiple years as long as they meet all eligibility requirements for the current competition year. Returning students are allowed to continue working on their topic and project from the 2018-19 competition, and are encouraged to improve on and expand it based on what they learned last year. Alternatively, returning students can select a new topic for their solution work.

Because members of the teams that placed first, second, or third at the 2019 GeoChallenge national final competition are working to scale their award-winning solutions during the 2019-2020 cycle, they are not eligible to compete in the 2019-2020 GeoChallenge.


In creating their solution and project materials, students are encouraged to use available school/organization materials and supplies or materials from home. Using repurposed or recycled materials is also encouraged. GeoChallenge project materials and videos should be created in a way that they do not require expensive purchases. Spending large amounts of money on a GeoChallenge project will not increase a team’s odds of advancing in the competition.

Appraisal of the projects will focus on design, innovation, and creativity, not on the value of the materials or equipment used to create the project. Basic video equipment, including mobile devices, may be used for the video submission. Appraisal of the videos will focus on creativity and storytelling and not on the image quality or sophistication of recording or editing equipment used.

Project Submission

All complete project portfolios submitted by the published deadline will be appraised by the National Geographic Society. Based on the scores from those appraisals, some teams will be invited to participate at a regional competition.

All project portfolios must be submitted digitally via the portal by the GeoChallenge Coach by January 16, 2020, 11:59 p.m. EST in order to be appraised and considered for an invitation to a regional competition.

Project portfolios must be uploaded by the GeoChallenge Coach only. GeoChallenge Coaches and Coordinators may not give GeoChallenge team members access to the GeoChallenge submission portal.

It is strongly encouraged that teams only use team-created original images, video, and music or materials that are in the public domain in producing GeoChallenge videos and project materials. For clarity, copyrighted materials (with a © or the word Copyright) cannot be included without permission from the copyright owner. All sources must be cited on the images and in the Sources list.

Quotations from materials printed in newspapers, magazines, or books are permissible if an accurate citation is included.

Teams may continue to work on their project after submitting it for consideration to compete in a regional competition.

At all levels of the competition, appraisers' scores are final and are certified by the GeoChallenge competition coordinator whose decisions are final. Teams will not receive scores but will receive feedback on their presentations.

Regional & National Competition Participation

Teams that submit a complete GeoChallenge project portfolio by January 16, 2020, (11:59 p.m. EST) may qualify to participate in a regional competition at which they will give an oral presentation. Invitations to regional competitions will be issued by the National Geographic Society about a month before the regional competition.

For teams in U.S. schools outside of the continental United States, regional appraisals will take place virtually. For clarity, this means public and private schools in the U.S. territories, Hawaii, Alaska, and DoDEA schools abroad.

Teams in the sixth-to-eighth-grade division that excel at the regional level may qualify to compete at the GeoChallenge national final competition in Washington, D.C. The GeoChallenge national finals will take place in Spring 2020 in Washington, D.C. Teams in the fourth-to-fifth-grade division are eligible to compete at the regional level, but not at the national level of competition.

For regional and national level competitions, a team must be able to move and set up their project materials without adult help subject to exceptions based on differing abilities.

It is understood that the gathering of students from multiple regions may expose a child to measles or other infectious diseases. Each child should be up to date on all required vaccines to attend their school. To the extent that a parent or guardian relies on a compliance exception available under state law, the National Geographic Society assumes no liability for any consequences of the parent or guardian’s decision.

Team Attendance

A majority of the team members as listed at the time of project submission must be present and participate fully in all activities associated with the regional competition for the team to be eligible to compete and to advance. If the team has six members, at least four students must be present. If the team has five members, at least three students must be present. If the team has four members, at least three must be present.

The same team member attendance policy applies for the national level competition.

Coordinator or Coach Attendance

Either the GeoChallenge Coordinator or the GeoChallenge Coach must accompany the team to the regional competition and the national competition.


Prizes will be awarded to teams that excel at the regional competitions and the national competition.


Please visit us at for an up-to-date list of questions and helpful answers including data collection, storage, and retention policies.


Please contact us at with all other GeoChallenge inquiries.


THIS CONTEST IS VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. GeoChallenge teams, Coaches, and Coordinators agree that the GeoChallenge shall be subject to and governed by the laws of the District of Columbia and the forum for any dispute shall be in the District of Columbia, United States of America. To the extent permitted by law, the right to litigate, to seek injunctive relief, or to make any other recourse to judicial or any other procedure in case of disputes or claims resulting from or in connection with this GeoChallenge are hereby excluded and any entrant expressly waives any and all such rights. Certain restrictions may apply.

Participants also agree (a) to be bound by these Official Rules and (b) that the decisions of the National Geographic Society are final and binding with respect to all matters relating to the GeoChallenge.

All federal, state/provincial/territorial, and local taxes, fees and surcharges, and taxes (whether foreign or domestic, and including income, sales, and import taxes) on prizes are the sole responsibility of the prize winner. Winner will be issued an IRS Form W-9 with the Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability Release, a Publicity Release (where lawful), and a subsequent IRS Form 1099. In the event that the selected winner of any prize is/are ineligible, cannot be traced, or does/do not respond within ten (10) days to a winner notification, or refuses the prize, the prize will be forfeited and Sponsor, in its sole discretion, may choose whether to award the prize to another entrant.

Right to Cancel or Suspend GeoChallenge

If for any reason the GeoChallenge is not capable of running as planned, due to tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of the National Geographic Society that corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this GeoChallenge, the National Geographic Society reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual(s) who tamper with the entry process or teams that fail to follow the rules, and/or to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the GeoChallenge.