Mapping World Explorers

Mapping World Explorers lesson plan

Who explored where? When? Represent travel since ancient times by mapping explorers' routes around the globe.

  • 1.

    Since the beginning of human habitation on Earth, the natural curiosity of humans has enticed them to explore unchartedlands. Invite students organized in small groups to research the kingdoms and nations that sent explorers forth. Find the names of independent adventurers. Look beyond the recent Spanish and Portuguese explorers who have had good publicity. Investigate the amazing places that Chinese explorers visited. Or discover lands where Vikings arrived before other Europeans. Exploration over land counts, too, such as the Silk Road.

  • 2.

    Once research for all groups is complete, groups will create a timeline that illustrates their findings. This can take the form of a 3-dimensional globe.

  • 3.

    Begin by asking students to cover their work area with recycled newspaper. To create their papier mâché globes, students tear recycled newspaper into strips or squares. Mix equal parts of water and Crayola® School Glue. Slide the torn newspaper into the glue. Cover a crumpled piece of recycled newspaper with two or three layers of newspaper, smoothing it as you go. Dry.

  • 4.

    Add more layers of paper until the globe is sturdy. Dry completely.

  • 5.

    Students look at an atlas or globe to find the placement of land masses on Earth. Encourage them to first sketch the continents on the globe with Crayola® Washable Markers. Paint land and sea with Crayola Tempera. Dry.

  • 6.

    With the point of Crayola Scissors, students poke a hole in the globe where their first explorer started. Poke other holes at various stops along the journey. Poke chenille sticks in holes from one to another to mark each explorer's route. Choose a different color chenille stem to represent each explorer's nation.

  • 7.

    Ask students to push another craft stick in their globes to hold a color key. Write down the time period and the people who were exploring on paper tabs cut from recycled file folders. Match the tabs to the appropriate colored chenille stem and tie to a craft stick.

  • 8.

    Student groups prepare a short presentation for classmates where they share important information about their explorers and use their globes as a visual aid. Once presentations are complete, each group will place their globes appropriately along the Mapping World Explorers timeline.


  • LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of grade level text's complexity band independently and proficiently.
  • LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
  • LA: Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • SS: Explore ways that language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements may facilitate global understanding or lead to misunderstanding.
  • SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.
  • SS: Demonstrate an ability to use correctly vocabulary associated with time such as past, present, future, and long ago; read and construct simple timelines; identify examples of change; and recognize examples of cause and effect relationships.
  • SS: Compare and contrast different stories or accounts about past events, people, places, or situations, identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past.
  • SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.
  • VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.
  • VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.


  • Possible classroom resources: A Picture Book of Lewis and Clark by David A. Adler; The Picture History of Great Explorers by Gillian Clements; Explorers Who Got Lost by Diane Sansevere-Dreher; Explorers of North America by Christine Taylor-Butler; National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers, Third Edition by National Geographic;
  • Students investigate and map the emigration of the first people on the continent of Africa. Where did they come from? What may have motivated them to travel to a new home?
  • What motivates people to explore? List and discuss reasons uncovered through your investigation of past explorers.
  • The Space Race, fueled by the 1950s launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, began human exploration of space. As an explorer of the future, what would you like to explore? Is it a distant planet? The great depths of the ocean? Some yet-to-be-determined place? Working in small groups or teams of two, students compose a proposal for a futuristic exploration. Videotape the proposal and upload it to a classroom computer for future viewing.