An Adventure to the New World


Instructions from the King and Queen

You, as an agent for the King and Queen, are hereby authorized to make a journey to the New World on behalf of our kingdom. All of our rivals are competing for land, trade and wealth. Whoever wins will be the strongest kingdom in Europe. It is imperative that you succeed.

Your mission is to claim all land for the monarchy, locate a new trading route across the ocean, look for the Northwest Passage, and bring back gold, silver, metals, spices, new plants, and any items deemed valuable. You will be provided with a ship, crew, and all the necessary provisions for an extensive journey to the New World. Certain precise requirements must be met if you expect to be rewarded for your achievements. In order to fulfill your contract you will make an Explorer's Notebook consisting of the attached items. Good luck on your journey and Godspeed.


The Monarchy



You must complete the journey and return with evidence of your findings in the new land. Create an "Explorer's Notebook" for your journey.

It should include:

  1. Cover with name (one inch letters) and picture of you, the explorer and the crew roster.
  2. A public announcement alerting people to the voyage.
  3. A map tracing the voyage from the sponsoring country to the New World and back. Show your explorations on a detailed map.
  4. Information about you, the captain. Explain your experience, early life, and why you are exploring. (What are you looking for?)
  5. Daily log detailing weather conditions.
  6. Daily journal listing daily navigational location....longitude and latitude.
  7. Flag of Monarchy to plant on all land claimed.
  8. Drawing detailing the ship with all masts and sails. Show where all cargo is stowed. Label the cargo.
  9. Specific information about the area(s) explored. This should include items such as plants, land, animals, minerals, agriculture, and people you met on your journey. Include sketches and bring back samples of anything you can.
  10. A letter to the monarch (King or Queen) sharing what you found and persuading him or her to either continue or abandon similar explorations in the future.



There are 4 main parts to this project:

Step 1: Gaining background knowledge
Step 2: Collecting information
Step 3: Writing and assembling the Explorer's Notebook
Step 4: Presenting your findings and evidence to the King and Queen

Step 1: Gaining Background Knowledge

Before collecting information on your explorer, investigate primary source documents on navigation styles and sailing ships of the late 1400's. You will read actual diaries and letters from Explorers written in the 1500's. After reading these, adopt their style and write your journals and letters in the same fashion. As a whole class, discuss the style of writing in these primary materials, recording notable phrases on chart paper and noting types of ships and navigation terms.



Da Gama:

Sailing Ships of the Late 1400's


Dead reckoning:

Step 2: Collecting Information

Each individual, pair, or group will choose a different explorer about whom to research and create an Explorer's Notebook. If done in groups, assign each member of the team a role. Useful roles would be:

1. Explorer

Task 4 - early life
Task 10 - letter

2. Navigator

Task 3 - map
Task 8 - ship
Task 6 - journal

3. Scientist

Task 9 - samples and drawings
Task 5 - weather log

4. Ambassador

Task 1 - cover
Task 2 - announcement
Task 7 - flag
Internet Resources on Explorers

Record your notes on paper and draw pictures as needed.






De Soto





Da Gama





Joliet & Marquette




Other Resources

Most of the following titles are available through the book clubs and in paperback. Check your library for others.

Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz
Scholastic Atlas of Exploration by Dinah Starkey
Explorers Who Got Lost by Diane Sansevere Dreher
The Usborne Book of Explorers by Everette and Reid
The World in 1492 by Fritz, Paterson, McKissack, Mahy, Highwater
Portraits of Outstanding Explorers by Doris Hunter Metcalf CD-Rom Encyclopedias Encarta, and World Book have extensive biographies of explorers

Step 3: Writing and Assembling the Explorer Notebook

After you have gathered all the information you need, meet with your group and share what you have learned. Listen to what the other group members have learned too. Write your part of the Notebook and work with the others so that each page in the notebook has the same style. Proof read, edit, and produce a final Explorer's Notebook.

Step 4: Presenting Your Findings to the King and Queen

Now is the time you have been waiting for. Dress up in your finest clothes representing the time period and prepare your presentation to the King and Queen. Bring your findings and evidence. Each person must present his/her own part. Perhaps you will be rewarded for your achievement and be knighted!


You will be collecting a lot of information, so it is important to stay organized. Write down your main ideas, draw pictures, sketch maps or print one page from a site you visited. Keep your material in a group folder or one of your own. Use your time wisely at the computer so you can find all the necessary information in the time allotted.


Your Explorer's Notebook will be graded on the following:
The completeness of the parts you completed for the Explorer's Journal.
The correctness of the information.
The writing is in your own words, neat and interesting to read.
The completeness and creativity of the artwork.
Your presentation to the King and Queen will be graded on the following:
Your costume's accuracy as representative of the time period.
Your part is prepared by memorizing.
Your "evidence" to give to the King and Queen is convincing.


The explorers opened the door to the vistas unknown to Europeans. They expanded knowledge of the world and because of their journeys people on both sides of the Atlantic became aware of other cultures. Lands were discovered and mapped. The European explorers made it possible for other Europeans to follow with trade and settlement. The European Age of Exploration was motivated by a desire for wealth and trade. The monarchies who sponsored the expeditions started a powerful expansionist movement that changed the world forever.



Grade Level/Unit

Grade 5 Exploration


Draft H/SS Standards Grade 5: Students trace the routes and evaluate the early explorations of the Americas, in terms of:

Language Arts Standards Grade 5

Listening and Speaking: Standard 1: Students deliver focused, coherent presentation that covers ideas clearly and relates to the background and interests of the audience. They evaluate the content of oral communication.

Written and Oral Language: Standard 1: Students write and speak with a command of standard English that is appropriate at each grade level.

Writing: Standard 1: Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. Students exhibit awareness of audience and purpose.

Lesson Purpose:

This lesson's purpose is to introduce the Age of Exploration. The focus is on key European explorers and their voyages. The students will identify reasons for explorations and describe the technological developments in ship building and navigation that made long distance voyages possible.


  1. Describe the world as Europeans knew it in the 1400's.
  2. Identify routes taken by key European explorers.
  3. Summarize the results of key voyages of Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Dutch explorers.

Information Literacy Skills:

Length of Lesson:

Two to three weeks. If you integrate writing letters and diaries as a Language Arts lesson and connect it with the History-Social Science content, you can accomplish this project in less time.

Supplemental Resources/Materials:

Many books and encyclopedias will be needed for research along with computer access and connection to the Internet. (Refer to the resource section) World maps and maps of the United States will be needed to trace the routes. Having a costume box with items such as aprons, shawls, hats, suit coats, etc. would be a great help for the presentations to the King and Queen. Having someone special such as another teacher and/or the principal be the King and Queen adds drama and fun to the presentations.

Multimedia Computer Extensions:

Hyperstudio Projects: 7 cards

Cover (name of explorer, picture, dates lived)


Slideshows: 8 slides (Kid Pix )

1. Title slide (name of explorer, years of life)
2. Early life facts
3. Home country and facts about getting money for the expedition
4. Land/region explored (map with routes)
5. Reasons explored. (What was he looking for?)
6. Outcomes of Exploration (What did he find?)
7. Bibliography (Where did you get your information?)
8. The end ( your picture and crew names)

Other Helpful Ideas:

Collecting samples of diaries, letters beforehand is very helpful to show as examples. Pictures of the time period with clothing styles shown can help students prepare their costumes. Students can do this very successfully on their own if they have ample computer access.

Introducing the primary sources, ships, and navigation terms can be done as a whole group. After that the class can work individually, pairs, or in teams of four. Each team will select a different explorer for their Notebook. Teams begin to gather information via the Internet, or books provided. Teams should collaborate on how the Notebook will be put together and each student does his assigned parts. Finally, the groups put their Notebook together and prepare a presentation of their findings and evidence to the King and Queen.

Susan Boilon
West Cottonwood Jr. High
Cottonwood School District

Last revised Thu, Mar 30, 2006