Astrobiologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Kevin Hand searches for life beyond Earth. Based at Pasadena’s world famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he is currently helping plan a NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to investigate evidence of a vast subsurface oceana body of water that could sustain primitive forms of life on this alien world nearly 600 million miles from our planet.

Use the resources in this collection to prepare your students for their upcoming National Geographic Live! student matinee experience. Use the “Before the Show” ideas to introduce students to Kevin Hand and the topics (space, engineering, astrobiology, STEM) that he will discuss during the show. Use the “After the Show” ideas to extend the learning after the event has ended.  

Before the Show:

  • Have students review Kevin Hand’s biography using the article Astrobiologist: Kevin Hand.  Supplement their research with the links on the Explore More tab on this page.
  • Download and print the provided maps to explore the solar system and Antarctica, areas where Kevin Hand works.
  • Have students read The Hunt for Life Beyond Earth page listed in the Explore More tab. Lead a class discussion on the field of astrobiology. After reading, ask: What is astrobiology? What kinds of ecosystems and species on Earth do astrobiologists study? Why? Invite students to locate the different places of interest to astrobiologists on the MapMaker Interactive world map.
  • Watch the Solar System Exploration: 50 Years and Counting video to familiarize students with the progress that’s been made over the past 50 years in space exploration (if you don’t have time for the entire video, just watch Kevin Hand’s segment from 8:12 to 14:00). As they watch, have students make a list of the important scientific advancements and discoveries that have led scientists to study Europa within the context of astrobiology.
  • Discuss ways in which exploring extreme environments on Earth can give us clues about life on other planets, with students using the Exploring Extremes and Adapting Under Pressure activities.
  • Provide each student with a KWL Chart. Introduce the program they will attend and who the speaker is, and offer a brief description of what the speaker’s topic(s) will be. Have students fill out the What I Know and What I Want to Know columns of the KWL Chart. Have them fill out the What I Learned column after the show.
  • Use the graphic organizer collection to select a graphic organizer to help your students organize their questions and new knowledge before, during, and after the program. For example:
    • Download and print the T Chart. Have students label the left column with Questions I Have and the right column with Answers, and then conduct research about the speaker and speaker topic ahead of the program. Have students record answers to their questions during or after the program. Have students conduct research to complete any unanswered questions for homework. Have each student share a question and answer with the class.
    • Download and print the provided Five Ws Chart. Have each student bring a copy of the chart to the matinee program and take notes. Have students share and discuss their notes after the show.

 After the Show

  • Use the Explorer Comparisons worksheet and have a class discussion to help students make connections between themselves and Kevin Hand. Distribute the worksheet to students before the presentation and review the directions with them. Review any terms with which they are unfamiliar. After the presentation, have students share the notes that they took during the show. Have a class discussion about attitudes and skills and how students demonstrate them in their everyday lives. Have students record their personal examples on the worksheet.
  • Review the continents, countries, or planets that the speaker presented. Ask: Which continents, countries, or planets does the speaker work in? Have younger students imagine that these places were characters in the stories that Kevin Hand shared. Ask: What role did place play in Kevin Hand’s story? Why was location important to the story? How did the characteristics of the place influence the story? Note: You may need to introduce the concept of place for your students before they can answer and discuss these questions.
  • Discuss and define any unfamiliar terminology that the speaker used. Ask: What vocabulary words did Kevin Hand use that were new to you? Invite volunteers to write the words on the board, and have the class define them as a group, using information they learned from the speaker or through research. If desired, have students record unfamiliar terminology during the show on one-half of a T Chart. Then, have them write the definitions on the other side following this class discussion.
  • Have a class discussion about the attitudes National Geographic explorers embody. Ask: What attitudes did Kevin Hand talk about today? In what ways does Kevin Hand demonstrate curiosity, responsibility, empowerment, and persistence in his work? Why do you think these attitudes are important for explorers? Students can use their Five Ws Chart for reference and a graphic organizer to organize their ideas.
  • Have a whole-class brainstorm on how students can make changes or support the speaker’s work. Ask: What, if any, call to action did the speaker make? How can you implement any changes in your day-to-day life? What can we work on together as a group?

person who studies the possibility of life in outer space.

astronomical unit

(AU) (150 million kilometers/93 million miles) unit of distance equal to the average distance between the Earth and the sun.


moon of the planet Saturn.


moon of Jupiter.


study and investigation of unknown places, concepts, or issues.

hadalpelagic zone

deepest zone of the open ocean, starting at around 6,000 meters (20,000 feet).

hydrothermal vent

opening on the seafloor that emits hot, mineral-rich solutions.


largest planet in the solar system, the fifth planet from the Sun.

Mariana Trench

deepest place on Earth, located in the South Pacific Ocean at 11,000 meters (36,198 feet) at its deepest.


natural satellite of a planet.


(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) the U.S. space agency, whose mission statement is "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."


large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.

solar system

the sun and the planets, asteroids, comets, and other bodies that orbit around it.

space probe

set of scientific instruments and tools launched from Earth to study the atmosphere and composition of space and other planets, moons, or celestial bodies.