Presentations for K-12 Classrooms

The presentations listed below are ones I’ve actually given to school-age students, both in classrooms and in less formal settings, are offered here as examples of what I do. All those listed can be adapted for students in grades 4-12. “What Do Archaeologists Do?” and “Seeing the Earth from Space?” can also be adapted for students in grades K-3. I am also happy to modify one of these presentations, or develop a new one related to one of the subjects listed on the right, to meet your group’s needs or interests.

What Do Archaeologists Do?
This hands-on, prop-filled talk -- adaptable for audiences ranging from first-graders to first-year college students -- looks at how archaeologists try to understand people's lives by studying the things they left behind. It explains why archaeologists "dig" not just with shovels but with trowels and paintbrushes, and why a garbage pile can be even better than a room full of gold and jewels. It also asks the audience to think about things that don't leave traces . . . and about what archaeologists from the future would find if they dug up the remains of our lives.

How To Read a Rock

Rocks don't come with labels, but they do come with clues that can tell you a lot about them -- if you know what to look for. Ranging from volcanic glass and granite tombstones to prehistoric beaches and the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, this talk shows audiences what simple observations about texture, color, layering, and grain size can tell us about rocks. It also introduces the idea that the Earth's rock layers are like a 3D jigsaw puzzle that can tell you about events that happened millions of years ago.

Life on Other Worlds
Earth is the only planet where we've found life . . . so far. Does that mean that life is very rare in the universe, or that we just haven't looked for it in enough other places? This talk, originally created for middle-school science classes, looks at those questions. It also examines places on Earth where scientists didn't think life could exist -- but it does -- and at the worlds in our solar system (Mars, Jupiter's moon Europa, and Saturn's moon Titan) that scientists think life might have existed (or might still exist).

Seeing the Earth from Space
What do we see when we look down at the Earth from space? How do satellites help us understand rivers, deserts, and the way humans change the Earth? What does the United States look like at night, when all the lights are on? Adapted from my general-audiences talk on the same subject, this version for school-age audiences keeps technical details and historical and environmental context to a minimum in order to focus on how new tools (like satellites) enable scientists to ask new questions, and to see new answers to old ones.

Where's My Flying Car? Why It's Hard to Predict the Future
flying car
Why movies about the 21st century show people with robot maids, jet packs, and flying cars . . . but not cell phones. Starting from that observation, this talk explores why some technologies succeed and others fail. Adapted from the general-audiences version, and using many of the same images, it focuses on the idea that technological change is shaped both by what it's possible to build, and by what people -- as individuals and in groups -- want (or don't want) machines to do for them.

Robots in Space

Robots went to the Moon before humans did, and they've gone places -- comets, asteroids, and every planet in the solar system -- that humans have never gone. This talk, illustrated with NASA photos and film clips and adaptable for audiences in grades 5-12, looks at the history of robots in space (with special attention to the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity) and the challenges of designing a robot that can operate on other worlds. It also asks audiences: Can robots replace humans in space . . . and should they?