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Classroom Resources > Lesson Plans > K-2 > Explorations--Grades K-2
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Explorations--Grades K-2


Students will look at a map showing some early voyages of exploration, discuss their own ideas about exploration, and hypothesize what it might have been like on one of these journeys. Ideally, this lesson will be preceded by a lesson on Native Americans so that students know about the people who lived in North America when the European explorers arrived.


Time Frame: 1-2 class periods


Objectives and Standards

Students will:

  • Explain whether they like to explore, and tell the class about some of their explorations.
  • Look at a map showing the routes of some early voyages of exploration.
  • Discuss what it might have been like to be on a voyage of exploration.
  • Copy some exploration routes onto a blank map.
  • Draw pictures and write captions illustrating what they think it would have been like on a voyage of exploration.
  • Share their pictures with the class.

National Social Studies Standards:

  • 2: Time, Continuity, and Change: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.
  • 3: People, Places, and Environments: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of people, places, and environments.

National Geography Standards:

  • 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.
  • 9: The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface.
  • 17: How to apply geography to interpret the past.


Maps and Materials Needed

Materials Needed:



Ask students to think about what it might have been like for the Native Americans to have these explorers appear in their homeland. Remind them that the Native Americans had been in North America for centuries and didn't consider the land to be "new" at all, but the explorers thought they had discovered new land. What types of things would each group of people have been thinking about when they first met? Have students act out a scene in which a small group of explorers meets a group of Native Americans for the first time.



  1. Ask students whether they like to explore. What places have they explored? Why did they go exploring? How did they feel as they were exploring?
  2. Give each student or pair of students a copy of the Early Voyages of Exploration map, and point out some of the routes the explorers took. Tell the class that these explorers didn't know what they would find on their journeys. Remind them that the Native Americans already lived in North America when the explorers arrived here.
  3. Explain to the class that the explorers were curious about the lands outside of their home countries. They were very adventurous people who were often sent by the King or Queen of their country to explore and report back on what they found. Many of the people who worked on the ships went along for the adventure and/or for the money.
  4. Ask students to describe what they think it might have been like to be on one of these voyages. If possible, show them pictures of ships that were used during the period of exploration. What do they think it would have felt like on the ship? Would it have been very comfortable? What might the weather have been like? What types of things would they be thinking about while on the ship? Why were they on these journeys anyway?
  5. Give each student a World Outline Map without text, and ask them to copy the routes of exploration from the Early Voyages of Exploration map onto this outline map.
  6. Either on the outline maps or on separate pieces of paper, have students draw pictures expressing their ideas about what it would have been like to cross the ocean on a ship and what it would have been like to arrive at a land that no one from their country knew much (or anything) about. They can add written captions to their pictures that explain the things they've drawn.
  7. Discuss the pictures that students have drawn. Have a few students show their pictures to the class and explain what the pictures show.


Assessment Suggestions

Check to make sure that students have:

  • Participated in class discussions.
  • Copied the explorers' routes to the best of their ability.
  • Drawn pictures that express a thoughtful consideration of what the journeys might have been like.
  • If applicable, written clear captions to go with the pictures.
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