National Geographic grantee and marine biologist Dr. Erika Woolsey is investigating how the warming oceans affect the growth and development of coral after spawning events on the Great Barrier Reef. She has been exploring the ocean for more than 15 years. She is also dedicated to helping others understand the ocean and protect the ocean. She asks “How do we care about something we never see or experience?” This question drove her to start The Hydrous, a nonprofit organization. Through this organization, Erika and her team use technologies, such as virtual reality and education kits, to educate others about the ocean.

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 Erika Woolsey and the topics (coral, geography, marine ecosystems) that she 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 Erika Woolsey’s biography using the links in the Explore More tab on this page.

  • Download and print the provided maps of Australia, or use the MapMaker Interactive, to explore the area where Erika Woolsey works.

  • Have students read the “ocean” encyclopedic entry. Lead a class discussion about the ocean. After reading, ask: How does the ocean impact Earth’s climate? What are the different life zones of the ocean? What are some of the ways people depend on the ocean? Then examine this map of the world’s oceans featured in the September 2012 edition of the National Geographic Magazine.

  • Explore some of the ocean’s biggest creatures with the Marine Megafauna infographic.

  • Learn more about marine ecosystem food chains by watching the video Plankton Revealed (6:50) and then examine the Coral Reef Food Web infographics.

  • As a class, compare the percentages of protected land and protected ocean with the Protect the Blue: Marine Protected Areas (15 minutes) activity.

  • Much of Erika’s work focuses on coral reefs. Review what your class knows about these systems with this coral reef article and photographs of coral polyps and a reef in Sogod Bay in the Phillippines.

  • Need more resources on marine ecosystems? Check out this collection!

  • Provide each student with a KWL Chart. Introduce the program they will attend and, who the speaker is, and offer a brief description of the speaker’s topic(s). 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 their 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 Erika Woolsey. Distribute the worksheet to students before the presentation and review the directions with them. Review any terms with which they are unfamiliar with. 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 areas that the speaker presented. Ask: What continents, countries, or areas does the speaker work in? Have younger students imagine that these places were characters in the stories that Erika Woolsey shared. Ask: What role did place play in Erika Woolsey’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 Erika Woolsey 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 the 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 Erika Woolsey talk about today? In what ways does Erika Woolsey 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 speakers’ work. Ask: What, if any, call to action did the speakers make? How can you implement any changes in your day-to-day life? What can we work on together as a group?


all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.


tiny ocean animal, some of which secrete calcium carbonate to form reefs.

Great Barrier Reef

large coral reef off the northeast coast of Australia.

marine biologist

scientist who studies ocean life.

nonprofit organization

business that uses surplus funds to pursue its goals, not to make money.


large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.


to give birth to.


the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.


very close to being something without actually being it.