The Age of Exploration Activities for High School

Instructor: Nora Jarvis

Nora has a Master's degree in teaching, and has taught a variety of elementary grades.

In your high school history class, you will likely teach about the Age of Exploration. This lesson contains engaging activities to help your students learn more about this time in history.

Teaching the Age of Exploration

What was it really like for the Europeans who were venturing off from their homeland in search of spices and land?

The Age of Exploration has been taught for generations, but with a very different focus than how many teachers teach today. Explorers like Christopher Columbus and Ponce de Leone were thought to be heroes when in actuality, they stole land from people and murdered people on new lands that they encountered.

As you teach your students about the Age of Exploration, it's necessary to teach the facts of the time, rather than the myth of these explorers. The following activities will offer your students engaging ways to understand this time in world history.

Hero or Villain?


  • Coloring supplies
  • Card stock


  • Ask your students whether they consider explorers to be a heroes or villains. Listen to your students responses and write their ideas on the board.
  • Explain to your students that they will create their own posters that attempt to reframe different European explorers as either heroes or villains.
  • Divide your students into pairs and ask them to choose an explorer to work on:
    • Bartholomew Dias
    • Ponce de Leon
    • Hernando Cortes
    • Fransisco Pizarro
    • Jacque Cartier
  • Tell your students to create a poster that explains how their chosen explorer can be viewed as a hero and a villain. Tell your students that they should include both options on their posters.
  • Display posters around your classroom. Lead a discussion with your students in which they talk about whether these explorers really were heroes or villains.

Political Cartoons


  • Coloring supplies
  • Examples of political cartoons

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