National Geographic Grantee and astrophysicist Munazza Alam has traveled the world to use the biggest telescopes to explore outer space. Her work primarily focuses on investigating the ages of nearby stars and the atmospheres of brown dwarfs, which are celestial objects that are larger than a planet but smaller than a star. When Munazza isn’t look up, she either has her nose in a book or her fork in new-to-her ethnic food.

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 Munazza Alam and the topics (space, science, brown dwarfs) 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 Munazza Alam’s biography using the link in the Explore More tab.

  • Have students read the encyclopedic entry Planet. After reading, ask: How does a planet form? Can you name all of the planets in our solar system? What are some of the differences between a planet and a star? What is an exoplanet? What are some of the challenges of studying space?

  • Watch the video Solar System Exploration: 50 Years and Counting (28:41) and hear from Bill Nye and leading NASA scientists walk us through the history of space exploration.

  • Help students use metric measurement and astronomical units to investigate the relative size and distance of objects in our solar system with the activity Planetary Size and Distance Comparison (~50 Minutes).

  • Introduce students to the unanswered question of is there life in space with the activity The Vastness of Space (~30 Minutes).

  • Looking for more space resources? Check out the solar system or space curated 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 Munazza Alam. 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 Munazza Alam shared. Ask: What role did place play in Munazza Alam’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 Munazza Alam 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 Munazza Alam talk about today? In what ways does Munazza Alam 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?


person who studies the relationship between matter, energy, motion, and force outside the Earth's atmosphere.


layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.


having to do with the sky or heavens.


planet outside the solar system, orbiting a star other than the sun. Also called an extrasolar planet.

outer space

space beyond Earth's atmosphere.


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


large ball of gas and plasma that radiates energy through nuclear fusion, such as the sun.


scientific instrument that uses mirrors to view distant objects.

Articles & Profiles