As a child, bioengineer Kakani Katija dreamed of being an astronaut, but as an adult, she became captivated by an even less explored environment than space: our Earth's ocean. Kakani will take students on a virtual journey into the midwaters of the ocean—one of the least explored ecosystems on our planet—and share how its inhabitants could lead to breakthroughs in new bio-inspired technologies!

Use the resources in this collection to prepare your students for her upcoming National Geographic Live! student matinee experience. Use the “Before the show” ideas to introduce students to Kakani Katija and the topics (STEM, exploration, engineering, ecosystems, ocean) 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 Kakani Katija’s biography using the links in the Explore More tab on this page.

  • Download and print the provided maps of Hawai’i, or use the MapMaker Interactive, to explore the area where Kakani Katija works.

  • Have students read the ocean exploration timeline. Lead a class discussion about the key discoveries made throughout history. After reading, ask: What surprised you? What do you feel was an important discovery and why?

  • Does your class know how robots move? Experiment with pneumatics and hydraulics with the Exploring How Robots Move (35 minutes) activity.
  • As a class, write an algorithm with instructions for a student acting like a robot with the How to Train Your Robot (35 minutes) activity. 
  • Not all robots are large, learn more about nanotech with the activity Properties of Matter: Macro to Nano Scale (1 hour, 30 minutes).

  • Robots in the ocean have to be able to operate under unique conditions including high pressure. Have students conduct a series of experiments to see how water depth affects pressure with the Exploring Pressure (50 minutes) activity.

  • Some engineers draw inspiration from nature when designing. Have students follow an engineering process to design an underwater vehicle that can withstand both heat and cold with the Engineering Inspirations from Nature (3 hours) activity. Follow this activity up with Dissecting Exploration Vehicles (2 hours) and let students compare how exploration vehicles have changed over time.

  • 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 Kakani Katija. 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 Kakani Katija shared. Ask: What role did place play in Kakani Katija’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 Kakani Katija 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 Kakani Katija talk about today? In what ways does Kakani Katija 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?

set of steps for solving a mathematical problem.


person who takes part in space flights.


person who applies engineering principles to the study of biology.


to hold the attention of.


particular feature of an organism.




to transmit, transport, or carry.


one of the seven main land masses on Earth.


geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.


measure of how deep something is.


to carefully cut apart.


community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.


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


person who studies unknown areas.

adjective, noun

having to do with water or other liquids in motion.


to carry out plans.




having to do with the ocean.


material that makes up a substance.


development and study of technological function and devices on a scale of individual atoms and molecules.


force pressed on an object by another object or condition, such as gravity.


goods or materials (including land) owned by someone.


set of terms used in a specialized subject.


to stand up to or endure.