Orangutans are one of the world’s least understood large land animals because they are solitary and live in hard-to-reach places. Since 1992, biological anthropologist Cheryl Knott and wildlife photojournalist Tim Laman have been using innovative techniques and new technologies to gain a closer look at this intelligent, resourceful—and threatened—species. During this experience, they will give students insights not only into the world of the orangutan but also our own.

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 Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott and the topics (wildlife, conservation, geography, photography) that they 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 Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott’s biographies using the links in the Explore More tab.

  • Download and print the provided maps of Indonesia and Asia, or use the MapMaker Interactive, to explore the areas where Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott work.

  • Have students read the conservation encyclopedic entry. Lead a class discussion about different kinds of conservation techniques. After reading, ask: How are different types of conservation connected to one another? Can conservation be good and bad?

  • Have students explore the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project website under the Explore More tab to learn more about the organization and its mission as well as Gunung Palung National Park.

  • Engage students in research and teach them to make connections with the Threatened Animals and Their Habitats activity provided.

  • Involve students in work like Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott’s with the Protecting Earth’s Wildlife activity. Consider modifying this activity to focus on the plight of orangutans in Indonesia rather than the Western Lowland Gorilla and Okapi. After the activity, show students some of Tim Laman’s orangutan photographs or videos featured on his website linked in the Explore More tab. Ask: How can your ideas for protecting wildlife (from the activity) benefit work like that of Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott? How would you modify it after you viewed the photographs and video?

  • 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 Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott. 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 speakers presented. Ask: What continents, countries, or areas do the speakers work in? Have younger students imagine that these places were characters in the stories that Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott shared. Ask: What role did place play in Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott’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 speakers used. Ask: What vocabulary words did Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott 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 speakers 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 Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott talk about today? In what ways do Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott demonstrate curiosity, responsibility, empowerment, and persistence in their 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?

biological anthropology

study of the evolution and physical development of human beings. Also called physical anthropology.


management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.


environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.


new, advanced, or original.


important goal or purpose.

national park

geographic area protected by the national government of a country.


alone or preferring to be alone.


method of doing something.


the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

threatened species

organism that may soon become endangered.


organisms living in a natural environment.