Scientist-adventurer Dr. Zoltan Takacs will go nearly anywhere and do almost anything to collect DNA and venom samples from snakes. His mission has taken him to 158 countries, through remote jungles, inhospitable deserts, and tropical coral reefs. Back in his lab, he studies the venom samples to determine if they can be used in pharmacology and sequences DNA as part of evolutionary genetics. Join Zoltan as he shares stories of his adventures (and misadventures), photographs, and scientific research.

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 Zoltan Takacs and the topics (wildlife, conservation, habitats, geography, 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 Zoltan Takacs’ biography using the links in the Explore More tab.

  • Download and print the provided maps of Brazil, Congo, and the Philippines, or use the MapMaker Interactive, to explore the areas where Zoltan Takacs works.

  • 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?

  • Watch the video Joel Sartore: The Snake Show. Ask: What do story do you think this video was telling? Did National Geographic Explorer Joel Sartore’s comments at the end of the video change what you thought about the video before he spoke?

  • Engage students in a short research project. Have the students find information on local snakes. Ask: Are any of our local snakes venomous? What habitats are you most likely to find these snakes?

  • Teach students about work like Zoltan Takacs’ with the provided article Snake Charmer. After the activity, show students some of Zoltan Takacs’ photographs and videos with the link to his website.

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


drug or other material that treats the effects of venom. Also called antivenin.


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

coral reef

rocky ocean features made up of millions of coral skeletons.


area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.


(deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule in every living organism that contains specific genetic information on that organism.


change in heritable traits of a population over time.


the study of heredity, or how characteristics are passed down from one generation to the next.


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


offering no shelter or favorable climate.


religious and military outpost, often associated with Spanish Catholic exploration of North America.


science of the creation and effects of drugs.


distant or far away.


animal that breathes air and usually has scales.


reptile with scales and no limbs.


existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.


poison fluid made in the bodies of some organisms and secreted for hunting or protection.


having to do with venom or organisms that secrete venom.