In 2004, the successful deployment of the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity launched a new era of scientific investigation of our nearest planetary neighbor. NASA engineer Kobie Boykins helped design and build the solar arrays that enabled the rovers to keep roving—the Opportunity had a 90-day life expectancy and is still exploring 11 years later! Today Boykins is also still exploring, as the supervisor of the mobility and remote sensing mast teams for the Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover.

Use the resources in this collection to prepare your students for their upcoming National Geographic Live! student matinee experience. Use the resources before the show to introduce students to Kobie Boykins and the topics (space, exploration Mars, STEM subjects) that they will discuss during the show. Use the resources after the show to extend the learning. 


Before the Show

  • Have students review National Geographic’s interview with Kobie Boykins using the links provided in the Explore More tab on this page.

  • Download and print the provided Martian map to explore the planet of interest to Kobie Boykins’ work.

  • Have students read the planet encyclopedic entry. Lead a class discussion about planets in our solar system. After reading, ask: What do we know about Mars? What gives Mars its distinctive red color? Why do scientists send rovers to the surface of Mars? Why is exploring Mars important to scientists like Kobie? Invite students to brainstorm different reasons as to why scientists are so interested in exploring Mars.

  • Watch the video Daring Mighty Things: Curiosity Lands on Mars for inspiration. After the video, assign students to teams and use the Landing a Space Probe or Rover activity to learn about the engineering process and how to land a fragile item safely. For younger students, do the activity as a class.

  • Watch the Mars Rovers video in the Explore More tab to familiarize students with previous rover missions to Mars. After the video, have students review some of the features that make Mars similar to Earth and those that make it so scientifically attractive for exploration.

  • 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 Questions I Have and the right column 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 their copy 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 Kobie Boykins. 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 planet that the speaker presented on. Ask: In what places does the speaker work? Have younger students imagine that these places were characters in the stories that Kobie Boykins shared. Ask: What role did place play in Kobie Boykins’ 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 Kobie Boykins 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 Kobie Boykins talk about today? In what ways does Kobie Boykins 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?

artificial satellite

object launched into orbit.

astronomical unit

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


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


fourth planet from the sun, between Earth and Jupiter.

Mars Exploration Rover

one of two robots (Spirit and Opportunity) sent by NASA to explore the surface and atmosphere of Mars.

mechanical engineering

study of the design, production, and operation of tools and machinery.


(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.


vehicle that remotely explores a region, such as the surface of a moon, planet, or other celestial body.


object that orbits around something else. Satellites can be natural, like moons, or artificial.

satellite imagery

photographs of a planet taken by or from a satellite.

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.


device for measuring the frequency, wavelength, and refraction of radiation.