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Explorers: Who Should (or could) Blaze the

Path to Mars and Beyond?


A project connecting New World European explorers to modern New Worlds!

Part 1: Looking Back


Introducing the project
What makes a person leave the known world and all his/her loved ones behind to explore
new worlds, knowing that they'll likely never return alive?

Europeans did it. Pioneers did it. We're currently doing it in space. What types of people
does it take and what are their distinguishing characteristics?

You have been hired to look back in history to find out what made those early explorers tick!
Who was successful, who wasn't? Why? What were their motivations, challenges, plans, tools? What was their im-
pact on the places they explored? Did they make it back?

Then find the commonalities of personality and create your idea of a "perfect explorer" for future Space Explora-
tion!

Details of the research:


Names
Travel routes
Reasons for exploration?
Funding? 
Transportation?
Technology of the time?
What did they find?
Dangers?
Were they successful in their quest?

1
Purposeful and Incidental Learning
Students should learn not only the Standards-required European explorers (SS.5.4.1.3a), but also essential re-
search and (digital) literacy and writing skills are what are emphasized most strongly in this unit.

Students should also be invited to learn about and build/use their own sextants and other tools of the explorer
trade. Sextants can be used not only in finding current latitude at night (some space science connections), but also
make a real world math application by learning about using sextants to figure the heights of tall objects such as
buildings, towers, trees, etc. This is best done as a hands-on, outdoors experience.

Concepts such as Latitude and Longitude, as well as Time Zones can be discussed in length or review, depend-
ing upon the audience experience and knowledge base. This is essential learning for the global citizen.

For students so inclined, the arts can be included with creating plays, re-creating works of art/clothing for the
time, or re-creating the ships or other transportation that was used by the various explorers.

Of course problem solving and Web2.0 applications are present in every good PBL unit.

Part 2: Looking Forward


Connections to Our Future
Now that you’ve had a chance to learn more about the explorers of old, and don’t forget there have been explorers
of all types throughout all the ages, let’s gather some common characteristic threads of what these people were
about. Which were successful? What do you think made their voyages successful as compared to some others.

Modern navigation tools can be experienced such as GPS, and software such as Celestia or other space mapping
tools can be utilized.

This thread is essential for students to begin to understand why learning about European explorers connects to
them in today’s worlds. We are working at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and creating neural connections
for our students to remember these learning experiences.

Part 3: Optional Resources and Approaches


Do Your Own Thing!
The lesson could be ramped up or down, depending on the needs of the class or individual students. With upper
elementary students, the generalizations of the explorers could be key, focusing on Social Studies standards. How-
ever, in a High School classroom, perhaps the students delve deeper into the research phase and focus on primary
sources and a Language Arts emphasis.

Remember that the key is continuing to move the project toward student engagement, whatever that may be. This
is simply a seed of an idea and you’re welcome to use it and grow it to fit your learners!