According to former International Space Station Commander Terry Virts, one of the coolest parts about being an astronaut is getting to do different things. Aboard the International Space Station, Terry had the opportunity to act as a scientist, a mechanic, a dentist, and a photographer. As Terry shares photographs, videos, and stories from his journey in space, students will gain a different perspective of life on Earth and their place as part of the global community.

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 Terry Virts and the topics (space, exploration, science, climate, photography) 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 Terry Virts’ biography using the link in the Explore More tab. Afterward, ask the students to list some of Terry Virts’ accomplishments.

  • Use MapMaker Interactive to explore the areas where Terry has been stationed and the following high-resolution illustrations of space: 1990 Solar System Map, 2000 The Universe Map, and 2002 Milky Way Galaxy Map.

  • Have students read the short article First Crew Docks at International Space Station. Lead a class discussion about different kinds of tasks astronauts complete during their expeditions. After reading, ask: What are some of the challenges to working on the International Space Station (ISS)? What types of experiments do the astronauts conduct aboard the ISS? What kind of experiment would you conduct aboard the ISS?

  • Have students explore the photo galleries featured on Terry's web page (Astronaut, Pilot, Space Station) to familiarize students with the work he’s done as a test pilot and astronaut and give them a peek at life in space.

  • Watch the NASA videos (Eating on the Space Station, Exercise, Hobbies, Space Potty, Sleeping, and Taking Out the Trash) to familiarize students with life aboard the ISS.

  • Help students develop a sense of curiosity and practice their problem-solving skills with the  Design a Space Probe activities provided. Ask: How could your space probe (from the activity) help astronauts like Terry Virts study and understand space?

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


business concerned with the manufacturing and operation of vehicles that fly in and above Earth's atmosphere.

aerospace engineering

branch of engineering dealing with the design, construction, and operation of aircraft and spacecraft.


person who takes part in space flights.


brightly colored bands of light, visible around Earth's geomagnetic poles, caused by solar wind interacting with particles in Earth's magnetic field.

aurora australis

bright bands of color around the South Pole caused by solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. Also called the southern lights.

aurora borealis

bright bands of color around the North Pole caused by solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. Also called the northern lights.


dome-like structure on the top of a building.

Goddard Space Flight Center

(established 1959) NASA space research laboratory.

International Space Station (ISS)

satellite in low-Earth orbit that houses several astronauts for months at a time.


person who builds or repairs machinery and vehicles.

outer space

space beyond Earth's atmosphere.


representation of volume or depth on a flat surface.


person who studies a specific type of knowledge using the scientific method.


vehicle designed for travel outside Earth's atmosphere.

space probe

set of scientific instruments and tools launched from Earth to study the atmosphere and composition of space and other planets, moons, or celestial bodies.

space shuttle

vehicle used to transport astronauts and instruments to and from Earth.

space walk

physical activity outside a spacecraft in orbit.