WASHINGTON — National Geographic Kids magazine is sponsoring its third annual "Hands-On Explorer Challenge," in which 15 kids ages 9-14 and two teachers will win an 11-day expedition to Australia, courtesy of Tourism Australia.

To enter, kids must write an original essay of no more than 300 words describing how they "actively explore their world" and the most interesting things they have encountered. They must also illustrate the essay with a photo they've taken. Subjects might include something found in a backyard, park, zoo, pond, or on a vacation with family. Each winner will bring a parent or guardian on the expedition.

For the teacher competition, educators are asked to conduct a hands-on activity related to Australia with their students, and write an essay about it of no more than 500 words. Activities can be original or based on ideas at www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions. Detailed instructions for carrying out the activity, a photograph of students engaged in the activity and a letter of support from the principal or a supervisor also are required.

The contest is open only to full-time teachers in grades 3-8 on any subject matter during the 2007-08 school year and who plan to teach during the 2008-09 school year.

The Australia expedition is scheduled for July 16-28. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15, and received by Feb. 22. Complete rules and details can be found online at kids.nationalgeographic.com/contests/Explorer-trip-2008.