National Geographic grantee and cognitive neuroscientist Sarah Pope studies problem solving in primates and humans. She also compares how different cultures solve problems. She’s currently studying the ways that the semi-nomadic Himba people in Namibia solve problems differently from western cultures. She found that the Himba are much more flexible in their thinking than western people who are more likely to use the same strategies that have worked before. However, this is only one study and she’s off to do more to confirm her finding.

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 Sarah Pope and the topics (brains, problem-solving, culture, photography) 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 Sarah Pope’s biography. After reading, ask them to write two questions each that they would like to ask her after her presentation about her work.

  • Download and print the provided maps of Namibia, or use the MapMaker Interactive, to explore the area where Sarah Pope works. 

  • The brain is a very powerful organ. Learn how it impacts your senses with the videos Seeing With Your Brain (1:50) and Hearing With Your Brain (3:20).
  • The brain is constantly processing information and helping us make decisions. These videos explain a bit about how that works: Mental Shortcuts (4:21), Creating Order (4:45), The Startle Reflex (3:32) and Marketing to Your Brain (1:27).
  • Finally, as a class explore the concepts of concentration and procrastination with the videos What is Concentration? (1:45) and Procrastination and the Brain (5:07).

  • Provide each student with a KWL Chart. Introduce the program they will attend and, who Sarah Pope is, and offer a brief description of Sarah Pope’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 Sarah Pope. 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 Sarah Pope presented. Ask: What continents, countries, or areas does Sarah Pope work in? Have younger students imagine that these places were characters in the stories that Sarah Pope shared. Ask: What role did place play in Sarah Pope’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 Sarah Pope used. Ask: What vocabulary words did Sarah Pope 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 Sarah Pope 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 Sarah Pope talk about today? In what ways does Sarah Pope demonstrate curiosity, responsibility, empowerment, and persistence in her 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 Sarah Pope’s work. Ask: What, if any, call to action did the Sarah Pope make? How can you implement any changes in your day-to-day life? What can we work on together as a group?

story of a person's life.


measure of the amount of a substance or grouping in a specific place.


to transmit, transport, or carry.


to divide and spread out materials.


to give authority or power.


able to bend easily.


to carry out plans.


physician or scientist who studies the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the brain and nervous system.


lasting, stubborn, or tenacious.


type of mammal, including humans, apes, and monkeys.


people or communities who follow their food source for long periods of time, but can also live settled lives.


set of terms used in a specialized subject.