skip to main content

Providence ES Class Participates in National Geographic Explorer Challenge

Students were able to meet mapmaker and activist Hindou Ibrahaim after studying her throughout the school year

Photo of paper quilt made by students of Hindou Ibrahim's life

Photo of paper quilt made by students of Hindou Ibrahim’s life

Emma Zuidema third grade students were filled with curiosity and wonder. When she saw the National Geographic 2017 Explorers Festival, she knew it would be a good match. National Geographic highlighted several emerging explorers across a number of fields and were looking for classrooms to pair the explorers to create a biographical project about the explorer’s life and work. Ms. Zuidema’s class was selected and were matched with Hindou Ibrahim, a mapmaker and activist from Chad.

The students can be seen on the National Geographic video project along with other classes.

Ms. Ibrahim tireless efforts in Chad focuses on expanding and utilizing a 3D mapping system to spread knowledge in order to stop climate change and is also a strong advocate for girls’ education. Ms. Ibrahim spoke at the April 2017 Paris Agreement for climate change.

Ms. Zuidema’s students researched Ms. Ibrahim and read stories that connected them to her part of the world. The students specifically learned about indigenous knowledge, climate change (the water level decrease in Lake Chad), and learned about the importance of education (highlighting education for girls).

The students made a quilt based on their study and research. The quilt, made by paper pictures drawn by the students, tell the story of Ms. Ibrahim and her activism. “We loved learning about Hindou because through her we could share in her story and her hope to change the world,” said Ms. Zuidema.

“When we sent our project to her and to National Geographic, her response was so genuine and supportive. She created a space for each child to feel like they could change the world themselves — her presence was absolutely amazing.”

Students gather around Hindou Ibrahim

Students gather around Hindou Ibrahim

The highlight of the experience for the third graders was getting to meet their new hero in person. In the spring of 2017, Ms. Ibrahim surprised the students in class. “As soon as she walked in the door, Hindou even gave every person in the room a hug,” said Ms. Zuidema. “She shared with us some of her story, her fears for the future, and she asked the class for advice. One of our students in the class responded, ‘Hindou, never give up!’  She invited each child to present their quilt square that showed a piece of her story that stuck with them.  Then, she showed us examples of her 3D mapping project and invited comments and potential solutions from the class.”

As she reflects on the project, Ms. Zuidema is proud of her students and their connection to Ms. Ibrahim. “I am grateful to National Geographic and their outreach to educators for providing the opportunity for our students to make that connection with an amazing individual. I feel confident that they will take their memory of the project forward with them, and apply it in a positive and meaningful way.  I’m really looking forward to creating those moments for my students this year and for years to come – where an authentic connection to an important cause gives each and

Student's picture of Hindou Ibrahim for paper quilt

Student’s picture of Hindou Ibrahim for paper quilt

every student access to true learning and wonderful memories.”

Zuidema continues, “I would also like to thank the supportive Providence ES parent community, especially Kathleen Schwille who pointed out the project to the teachers at PES. We are so lucky to have such wonderful parents in our school.”

The City of Fairfax Schools strives to make our website accessible to all. If you are having difficulties, please call our office at 703-385-7911 or send an email to

© 2018 City of Fairfax Schools