Exploring the possibilities

In the beginning, according to Explore! magazine, there was the C-word: curiosity. But it soon became clear that there’s no end to that curiosity.

The small, multitalented staff of this locally produced, nationally distributed kids’ magazine has a mission: Leave no stone unturned.

Explore! is the brainchild of publisher/founder Nat Belz. The idea was born when he saw the kind of “shorthand, pop-deconstructed communication” methods the media were aiming at his kids.

“I’d like them to know the truth about how the world works and see that there’s deep structure and interrelatedness,” says Belz. So his magazine encourages and teaches kids how to teach themselves. Each issue reveals the history and architecture of subjects related to art, engineering, music, physical science, technology, sports, world travel and more.

Explore! says it aims to “amaze and intrigue 9- to 14-year-olds about this planet.”

But whether you’re 9 or 99, you’re never to old to ask questions — and learning about your environment is never a moot point.

Inspiration at any age

So why 9- to 14-year-olds? Well, Explore! considers this to be a critical transition: These kids don’t have the car keys in their hot ‘n’ sweaty hands, they’re not sneaking in after curfew, and they’re hopefully still trying to sort out “here, there and everywhere.”

But what seems so simple, yet still somehow revolutionary, is that Explore! isn’t just for 9- to 14-year-olds — it’s also for those who have to deal with that age group: parents and educators.

“We don’t kid ourselves,” says Belz. “[We know] these kids are reading Cosmopolitan, and we just would like to hold the parent’s hand and help them pull [children] back for a moment to say, ‘You’re kids still!'”

And what’s wrong with that? Explore!’s September issue, for example, catapults readers skyward in an article that goes behind (and above) the scenes of hot-air-balloon travel. And a related story helps Explore! readers learn about the kind of wet-and-wild weather patterns guaranteed to make any Cosmo-recommended waterproof mascara run.

Too often, a thick line is drawn dividing youth and adulthood. But this magazine erases that line, refusing to segregate kids from the “real” world. As Associate Editor Matt Barker comments, “We’re, I think, a little more subconsciously connected, and we see that being a kid is part of this continuum where you are growing up and turning into an adult.”

Growth is constant evolution, not a discrete, much-heralded event — no fully uniformed, tassel-tossing, bespangled marching band parades through your child’s room one day announcing with a rum-tum-tum that childhood is suddenly done.

“We like to connect the kid’s world and where they are, in a fun and interesting way, with the world that their parents occupy,” Barker explains.

Explore! has recently contracted with Bristol, England’s Aardman Animations, producers of the well-known Wallace and Gromit, two Claymation(TM) characters who shed a humorous light on problem-solving. Wallace is an idiosyncratic inventor who tinkers and takes his time creating quirky inventions, which he then tests on his dog, Gromit. Aardman Animations is building a version of Wallace’s workshop to be photographed exclusively for Explore! magazine, so upcoming issues can feature new inventions.

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