Age of Exploration Classroom Essentials for Teaching World Exploration Units

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Age of Exploration Classroom Essentials for Teaching World Exploration Units

Charting the Best Way to Teach World Exploration

If you’re a Social Studies teacher about to embark on your Age of Exploration history units, there’s a lot of ground to cover—literally—and centuries of twists and turns. How can you chart the best course for your World Explorers unit? This post provides World Exploration classroom essentials to help you navigate your way to an engaging and productive World Exploration lesson plan.

A World Exploration unit’s journey involves historical dates, explorers, economies, and political forces, but visual references like maps, primary sources, and artistic depictions are equally vital.

Essentials for Teaching the Age of Exploration

The Age of Exploration, or the Age of Discovery, is a period of extensive overseas exploration in European history, beginning in the 1400s and lasting into the 1600s. Portugal, England, Holland (the Netherlands), France, and Spain all launched their own western expeditions during this time.

World Exploration Maps—Who Went Where?

Many explorers were searching for faster trade routes to Asia, increased access to trade goods, and wealth and glory for themselves and their countries.

Here’s a rich map showing major expeditions of the time.

 3M1415 Explorers of the World Map

Get the World Exploration Map

Why is Spain home to so many explorers? Who traversed the interior of Africa? What routes did circumnavigators take around the globe? Students follow the footsteps of the explorers to answer these questions and more! Analyze the routes of navigators from ancient eras through modern day.

38 x 26 inches. Laminated.

Who Were the Famous World Explorers?

Famous explorers of this time include Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and Marco Polo.

This poster set gives students an in-depth look at World Explorers.

GP3P2669 Explorers of the World Mini-Poster Set

Get the Explorer Biography Poster Set

Set sail on an exploration unit featuring explorers from different continents and centuries! Students learn about each traveler’s nationality, reasons they explored, travel routes, achievements, and a fun fact.

Twenty 11 x 8.5-inch posters. Laminated. All levels.

Digital Activities for Teaching World Exploration

The Age of Exploration led to many changes, both positive and negative.

The era increased trade and made mapping the world possible. However, it also led to the spread of fatal diseases, decades of warfare, the death and destruction of many indigenous peoples and their cultures, and the transatlantic slave trade. Other effects include the spread of religion, economic globalization, and migration of people between Europe, Africa, and the New World.

Good or bad, no one can deny that the Age of Exploration changed the world forever.

Here are over 15 flexible digital activities, from mapping to historical analysis.

3P2669ADL Explorers of the World Activity Packet Download

Get the Explorers Activity Packet: Digital Resource Download

Excellent for independent learning, this 18-page downloadable activity packet includes over 15 activities, such as mapping early voyages, comparing explorers with Venn diagrams, and determining if an explorer is a hero or villain. It also includes a research activity for students to learn more about lesser-known explorers.

All levels. PDF download, 18 pages. All levels.

Age of Exploration Timeline

Here’s a general timeline of important World Exploration events.

  • Early 1400s – Portuguese explorers begin sailing to different parts of the world, including sailing around the Atlantic coast of Africa in search of new trade routes to Asia.
  • 1492 – Italian explorer Christopher Columbus is sent by Spain to find a sea route to Asia, but instead discovers the Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola for Europe. This is the first of his four trips across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 1494 – Portugal and Spain sign the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided up the New World between Spain and Portugal.
  • 1497 – England sends explorer John Cabot to explore North America. He lands in Newfoundland and is the first European to explore the coast of mainland North America in 500 years.
  • 1497–98 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sets sail to become the first European to reach India by sea.
  • 1507 – A German mapmaker names the “New World” America after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
  • 1519 – Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés lands in Mexico and formally claims the land for the Spanish crown.
  • 1522 – Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan completes the first circumnavigation of the globe.
  • 1525 – The first slave ship sails from Africa to the Americas, beginning the transatlantic slave trade.
  • 1526–1528 – Francisco Pizarro and his pilot Bartolomé Ruiz explore the west coast of South America and become the first Europeans to see the coasts of Ecuador and Peru.
  • 1534 – French explorer Jacques Cartier sets sail and maps the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River. He claims Canada for France.
  • 1600 – English merchants found the East India Company.
  • 1602 – Dutch merchants found the Dutch East India Company.
  • 1619 – First enslaved Africans arrive in Jamestown.

Best Value:

World Exploration Full Set

Get the entire World Exploration Set and save.

3F3005 Explorers of the World Set

Get the World Exploration Full Package

Set includes one of each of the following: Explorers of the World Map (3M1415), Explorers of the World Mini-Poster Set (3P2669), and Explorers of the World Activity Packet Download (3P2669ADL).

Map: Students follow the footsteps of the explorers and analyze the various routes of navigators from ancient eras, the Age of Exploration, and today. All levels. 38 x 26 inches. Laminated.

Mini-Poster Set: All levels. Twenty 11 x 8.5-inch mini-posters. Card stock.

Activity Packet Download: A 20-page downloadable activity packet provides over 15 activities, such as mapping early voyages, comparing explorers with Venn diagrams, and determining if an explorer is a hero or villain. All levels. PDF, 20 pages. Adobe® Reader® required to view PDF.

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