Age of Exploration Project Ideas

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Age of Exploration had substantial impacts on the history of the world. These projects can help your students delve deeper into this material and engage with it in new ways.

The Age of Exploration

The so-called Age of Exploration describes a period in European history defined by the first expansion of overseas trading networks and imperial control. Lasting from the 14th-17th centuries, this era reshaped the world and resulted in the spread of European cultures into new continents. The following project ideas are designed to be easily adapted for students of various grades. Whether your students are studying the Age of Exploration for the first time or at a much higher level, these hands-on projects can provide new ways to engage with the material.

Age of Exploration Project Ideas

Mapping the Age of Exploration

For this project, students are going to research several important expeditions that occurred in the Age of Exploration. For a lower-level class, you can ask students to identify any five expeditions. For higher-level classes, encourage students to examine up to ten expeditions and ensure that at least three empires (if not more) are represented. Students will create a large map of the world, or complete the rest of this project on a globe. They will map out the voyage of each expedition and strive to find some way to represent the chronology of these events (for example, students could work through the color spectrum, with the first route mapped in red, the second in orange, the third in green, etc.). Once students have completed their maps, they will share them with the class.

  • Materials: Large maps or globes, art supplies as desired

Living History

Assign each student a different figure from the Age of Exploration. If you have a very large class, you may need to divide students into small groups that represent several figures on the same voyage (i.e., a group of people aboard Columbus' ships). If you do make this a group project, ensure that every student has an actual historical figure to study (such as the captains of each ship, a navigator, a quartermaster, or a known sailor) as opposed to simply being ''generic sailor.''

Students will research their historical figure in depth and learn about their life, their culture, how they ended up on this voyage, and what they want out of this voyage. Students will then write a short diary from that person's perspective, describing the major events of their voyage. Finally, students will prepare a brief speech or skit in which they will describe their life and voyage (including its goals and fate) from that person's perspective.

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