If you have heard about the Age of Exploration, you would know that it can be a slightly controversial subject. There are opposing views of whether it was an Age of Exploration or a period of invasion. Regardless of which side you are on, these hands-on activities for studying the Age of Exploration will go great alongside your lessons.
Age of Exploration OR Age of Invasion?
My specific stance on this matter is that this was an Age of Exploration. All of us, aside from indigenous people, would not be here had it not been for an idea to discover new lands during this period.
If you want to explore the idea of exploration vs. invasion further with your older kids, the following lesson would be a great place to start. This is a great topic to practice debating, opinion papers, expository essays, etc. The lesson provides awesome hands-on activities your kids will enjoy.
Age of Exploration … OR … Age of Invasion? – Explore the impact of European contact with Latin America in your homeschool.
What is the Age of Exploration?
The Age of Exploration began in the 15th century and lasted straight through the 17th century. This started with Europeans exploring the world by sea in search of new trading routes, explore new nations, wealth, and knowledge.
Whether you think this was an invasion only or an exploratory journey, the period greatly impacted the world. The truth is that explorers were looking for the unknown; they were in search for new things and new riches.
By the end of the Age of Exploration, the technological advances formed a knowledge of the world around them, and allowed for sea travel across the globe.
Impacts of the Age of Exploration:
- A navigator named Prince Henry started a school to teach navigation.
- Christopher Columbus brought knowledge of North and South America, but he initially thought it was China.
- A mapmaker (cartographer) honored Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer, and merchant, by naming a new land after him – America.
- The Conquistadors, from Spain, attacked the Native American cultures as they looked for gold and silver. This is probably proof that some went on journeys to explore for riches, yet knew they would be conquering anyone who they found in the lands they wanted to explore.
- Explorers didn’t just invade and conquer. Although they did bring a lot of diseases, and many Native Americans died because of those diseases.
- Marco Polo gathered the information he knew about the prosperous Asian empires and began European interest in Asian trade and culture.
- The Spanish and Portuguese were the first known to created world nautical maps. In the maps, they depicted the lands, but also the sea routes and even ocean currents.
- And my kids’ favorite… food. Europeans hadn’t known about corn, sweet potatoes, or peanuts.
There was no doubt hardship, but these impacts are just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to new knowledge, exploration, navigation, and so much more.
We are still experiencing the impacts of exploration today. If you understand the distinction of first world countries, second and third world countries, their development is closely related to when they were discovered or colonized – if they were colonized.
Age of Exploration Hands-On Activities
If you intend to study the Age of Exploration, you won’t want to miss these hands-on activities for studying the Age of Exploration.
These hands-on activities will help your kids learn and understand the events that were happening during the Age of Exploration. You’ll be able to use Google Slides, documents, videos, and interactive worksheets to learn more about this time period.
Hands-on Explorers Unit | This is a fun hands-on Explorers unit. It includes Leif Ericson’s voyage to North America, the discovery of Australia, plus ideas on what to add for high school. It’s a fun way to study these famous explorers.
Explorers & the Age of Exploration Interactive Notebook & Test | This is a resource that allows you to create an interactive notebook with your kids.
Age of Exploration Document Based Question Activity DBQ FRQ Lesson | Your children will answer questions based upon documents they read about the Age of Exploration.
Exploring the Explorers to America | You’ll find a great collection of resources to help you teach your children about the way Europeans explored America. Your kids will learn about Leif Ericson, Christopher Columbus, and Henry Hudson among other explorers. In addition, there are fun hands-on activities for your kids to complete.
Age of Exploration Unit (without passages) | This is meant for grade levels 3 – 5. It’s an add-on to the Age of Explorations Leveled Passages set.
3rd Grade History Learning Activity: Age of Exploration | Your kids will travel with several navigators from the Renaissance to learn how the different trade routes were established.
Little Passports Early Explorers Landmarks | You’ll find a great look into Little Passports Early Explorers Landmarks for children.
Age of Discovery Explorers Magic Portrait Lesson | This lesson was developed for kids from the 7th -11th grades. This is a 13-page PowerPoint lesson.
Break-In To History Activity Age of Exploration | This is a fun activity for kids to “Break-In” to America. The kids will need to solve a series of riddles in order to find the key to unlock a locked box. They’ll learn about explorers, cultural exchange, and how empires were affected.
Age of Exploration Projects
European Explorers Project Freebies | This is a fun and free European Explorers project that divides your kids into four groups to focus on four explorers. Your kids will learn about these explorers and complete map activities. It’s a fun way to study the time period.
Age of Exploration Choice Board Social Studies Activity Menu Project Rubric | This is a rubric for a social studies activity designed for kids from the 5th through the 8th grade.
European Explorers – Age of Exploration Project Choice Board | Are you looking for some fun projects for your kids to complete as they study European Explorers? Then you’ll love this project choice board. Your kids will get to choose which projects they complete to learn about the Age of Exploration.
Age of Exploration Display Board Poster Project Kit | This is a poster kit for kids to create about the Age of Exploration. It includes clip art, Age of Discovery icons, and old map textures. Your kids will have a blast putting together this poster board.
Age of Exploration Videos & Powerpoint
Explorers & Trading Interactive PowerPoint | This is a quick preview of an interactive PowerPoint about exploration and trading during the Age of Exploration. It gives a short summary of what you’ll learn in the interactive PowerPoint.
Age of Exploration Videos for Students | You’ll find 5 Age of Exploration videos for your kids to watch here. These videos are embedded in the age. The recommended age and time spent watching are also included. Information about the exploration of North and South America is included, along with a discussion on how Native Americans settled the Americas before the Europeans came. Plus, you’ll find an interactive worksheet for your kids to complete as they watch the videos.
Age of Exploration PowerPoint with Video Clips + Presenter Notes | This lecture with PowerPoint, Google Slides, and video clips was developed to discuss the Atlantic slave trade with 7th – 12th grade students.
Age of Exploration Worksheets & Printables
You’ll find a great set of worksheets to help your children learn about the Age of Exploration. These include a puzzle worksheet, blank questions, and information about various explorers.
Age of Exploration Packet | This is a fun 30+ page packet of worksheets, notebooking pages, and activities about these early explorers. You’ll find information about Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Francisco Pizarro, and more!
The Age of European Exploration (Task Cards) | These are task cards designed for 4th graders. You’ll find vocabulary words, unscramble the words, and a quiz for your children.
Interactive Age of Exploration Unit | Are you looking for interactive lesson plans to study the Age of European Exploration? These plans are designed for 5th – 8th grade. There’s an interactive worksheet detailing what went from the Old World to the New World and what went from the New World to the Old World and more. All in all, you’ll find 10 social studies lessons to complete with your kids.
Explorers Mini Puzzle Unit (Free Printable) | This is a free puzzle printable which includes word scrambles, crosswords, word searches, matching, and more.
Age of Exploration Distance Learning Interactive Notebook | This is another interesting notebook you can have your kids complete about the new trade routes the European nations were opening.
The Age of Exploration Storybook Activity | This is another activity meant for high school students. They will read information about the motivations for exploring the world and how the New World was discovered. Then the kids will create a 3-section booklet.
Age of Exploration Google Drive Interactive Notebook | This is a Google Drive digital interactive notebook for older kids in grades 7-10. Your kids will love using the interactive notebook to dive into the Age of Exploration.
Free Notebooking Unit: Discover the Great Explorers
This free 100-page notebook helps students learn about 50 great explorers. They’ll have the chance to map voyages of exploration, record what he was looking for, and interesting facts about the explorations. Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn how to gain access.
Games for Studying the Age of Exploration:
Games are a great way to expand your study of the Age of Exploration. You can learn about the Spanish Conquistadors, explore new lands, and set sail with Spanish explorers.
Early European Explorers Activity (Age of Exploration Game) | Play Early European Explorers Cootie Catcher with your kids.
A Memorable World Explorer Game for Two Players | Play Guess the Explorer with your kids. The game is played by asking questions to learn who the explorer is. Questions like these: “Is he one of the British Explorers? Did he explore the southern tip of Africa?” Keep asking until you can guess the explorer!
Age of Exploration Game | This is an Age of Exploration dice game. You start by trying to get funding and move on from there. Hopefully, you won’t get lost or run out of supplies!
Timelines for Studying the Age of Exploration:
Timelines are a great help when you’re studying human history You can see what was going on during the early 15th century and during the late 1500s. This gives kids an idea as to why European countries would want to explore the world.
European Explorers – Age of Exploration – Timeline Activity | This is a timeline activity for kids from 3rd grade through 6th grade. They will fill in the blanks to complete the timeline.
Age of Exploration Timeline (Free Activity) | It’s divided into three different grade levels: 1st through 4th, 5th through 8th, and 9th through 12th. Kids complete library research, a timeline activity, and then show what they know.
Hands-on Activities for Specific Explorers:
Nothing is better for studying explorers and history than hands-on activities. The resource below will give you quite a few printables and resources to check out.
Learn all about Marco Polo and his journeys along the Silk Road to China.
Hands-on Marco Polo Silk Road Game | This is a fun game to play with your kids to learn about traveling the Silk Road and its dangers.
Henry the Navigator
Prince Henry was a Portuguese explorer who is best known for exploring the west coast of Africa.
Henry the Navigator Historical Stick Figure (Mini-biography) | Make a historical stick figure as you and your children learn all about Prince Henry and his explorations of Africa’s coast.
Christopher Columbus was looking for a water route to the West Indies. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean and made landfall on an island in the Bahamas.
A Christopher Columbus Activities and Unit Study Resources | This is a fun homeschool pack of activities for younger children as you’re studying Columbus.
Christopher Columbus Free Activity Book for Homeschool and Grades K-3 | This fun activity book has 4 activities for you to complete with your children as you learn about Christopher Columbus.
Ferdinand Magellan was another Portuguese explorer. He’s best known for having led the first expedition that circumvented the Earth, although he died before the journey was over. The strait of Magellan is named after him, as he was the first European explorer to navigate it.
Ferdinand Magellan Craft Ideas: Crafts for Kids (Video) | You’ll find some great craft ideas to make with your kids as you study Ferdinand Magellan.
Spanish Explorer Interactive Notebook Unit – Distance Learning (Ferdinand Magellan) | Make an interactive notebook with your upper elementary kids. It’s a great way to study Magellan and his explorations.
General Activities to Study the Age of Exploration:
If you’d like some ideas of activities to expand your study of the Age of Exploration, then check out these activities. They’re fun and educational for kids.
5 Fun Geography Activities for Preschoolers | You’ll find 5 geography activities that include making maps, exploring the colors of the Earth, and learning about the continents.
Life of a Sailor Unit and Activities | Have you ever wondered what a sailor’s life is like? Then check out this sailor unit and chat with your kids about what the sailors experienced while exploring the world.
Writing prompts about Explorers | You’ll find some great writing prompts to give your kids to encourage them to write about explorers like Jacques Cartier who mapped the Saint Lawrence River.
Map Skills for Kids: Planning a Route | Teach your kids to read a traditional map by having them plan a route.
Free Activity Book for Children: Girls Explore Too! | Introduce your kids to female explorers, design their own adventures, and use critical thinking skills.
How to Make a Compass | Make a simple compass with your kids.
Land, Water, Air Toolbox Geography Activities | Learn about a Land, Water, Air toolbox that comes with a bunch of geography activities you can enjoy with your kids.
There will be both advantages and disadvantages to the Age of Exploration. The exploration period impacted our entire world in both good ways and bad.
Of course, the exploration brought with it opportunity, better trade routes, better economy, and new resources. Yet, we understand that it also negatively impacted the people already in the lands in which the exploration had reached.
It is important to share both sides with our children for awareness. The Age of Exploration destroyed civilizations and forced religion upon the masses. It also brought economic prosperity and a chance for others to know the true God.
You can find The Age of Exploration: Pros and Cons in a Prezi presentation here. Either way, it has brought our world to where it is today – a blessed place all under the hand of God, waiting for everyone to know him.
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Sara Dennis is a veteran homeschool mom of six who’s still homeschooling her two youngest kids after the older four have graduated, entered college, and moved on to adult life. She blogs at Classically Homeschooling.
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