Paleoanthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger’s 2013 discovery of Homo naledi signaled a profound shift in our understanding of human evolution. In a secret chamber of the remote Rising Star cave system near Johannesburg, South Africa, his team of explorers, assisted by recreational cavers, discovered a massive collection of bones. Their headline-making discovery suggested something unprecedented. And that was just the beginning.

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 Lee Berger and the topics (anthropology, paleontology, evolution) 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 Lee Berger’s biography using the links in the Explore More tab on this page.

  • Download and print the provided map of South Africa, or use the MapMaker Interactive, to explore the area where Lee Berger works.

  • Have students read the Archaeology, Anthropology, and Paleontology encyclopedic entries. Lead a class discussion about different kinds of exploration. After reading, ask: How are the different disciplines connected? Why is exploring this way important? Then have students explore different examples of paleontological discoveries with the Paleontology collection in the Explore More tab.

  • Walk through the Hominin History geostory provided to highlight our human history prior to Berger’s new discovery.

  • Read the New Species of Human Relative Discovered in South African Cave article in the Explore More tab to familiarize students with the most recent work of the speaker. Extend this discussion and have students read This Face Changes the Human Story. But How? Article, also in the Explore More tab. Ask: How do new discoveries alter our human history? What are the pros and cons of these types of discoveries?

  • Engage students in exploring the concept of species adaptation by using the provided Adaptations: Changes Through Time activity.

  • 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 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 Lee Berger. Distribute the worksheet to students before the presentation and review the directions with them. Review any terms with which that 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 Lee Berger shared. Ask: What role did place play in Lee Berger 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 Lee Berger 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 Lee Berger talk about today? In what ways does Lee Berger 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?


a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.


study of human history, based on material remains.


change in heritable traits of a population over time.


study of the fossils of ancient human ancestors. Also called human paleontology.


the study of fossils and life from early geologic periods.