Raising an Explorer: Nora Shawki

The National Geographic Explorer, archaeologist, and Egyptologist gives her tips on inspiring children to explore.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC FAMILY: How did you explore as a child?

NORA SHAWKI: Anything with nature was intriguing. In Champaign, Illinois, where I lived until I was seven, I was always in my backyard digging up something. When it would rain, the worms would come up from the mud and it would be so exciting for me. I also liked playing with fireflies. When my family moved to Egypt, I visited the pyramids and the temples. I always liked camping because I wanted to see the landscape and nature. It was about exploring your surroundings and your environment.

NGF: Why do you think it’s important for children to explore?

SHAWKI: I think it’s good to be curious, to explore both outside your comfort zone and around the place you come from. When you’re aware of what's around you, you’re going to care—and that’s how people end up protecting things that actually matter to them.

Shawki’s tips on inspiring children to explore

Ask questions. Even in a tiny town, kids can go to museums and ask: Where did these artifacts come from, and how did they come here? Kids can also find out about the community in their neighborhoods. They could ask neighbors, “What’s your favorite kind of food, and where did you come from? What traditions do you practice?” You’ll learn how different people who live right next door to you can be, and how you can learn just by asking. 

Find the origin story. There’s a backstory to everything. For instance, when I do archaeology, I want to know: Did the people who lived here have pets? Did they have toys? How did they make a living? It’s important for kids to create that narrative for themselves and put the puzzle pieces together. That way, they can really understand and value their own heritage and the culture they’re in.

Travel. Seeing different cultures is super important because collectively, humanity is connected. We’re all in it together as humans, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. So if you can, travel with your family. It's the best way to learn about the world as well as yourself, instead of being stuck in a bubble. Kids will come back with many more tools to live a better life.

Nora Shawki's work helped inspire some of the science in Nat Geo Kids’ Explorer Academy book series. Check out all seven books.

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