20th-Century Explorers Mini-Lesson

Objective: Students will get a big picture overview of some of the expeditions that have occurred within the last 110 years.

Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Reading Level: Upper Elementary

Teacher Background

Many important explorations have taken place within relatively recent years—during the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. For example, MORE

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Print or Project

  1. A Visual Overview: Show the slideshow of photos to your class. Each has a descriptive caption and kid-friendly copy for your students to read. (Please note that there is also more extensive teacher note copy just for you.)
  2. Creative Caption Review: Once you've been through the slideshow for an overview, go back through it again. This time ask students to explain why the captions do (or do not!) work. (Example: Do you think the caption "Polar Prize" is a good one for the pictures of Captain Peary and the sealskin clothing? Why or why not?)

Click the thumbnail slides below to see the captions and kid-friendly copy up close.

  1. Continue the Conversation: Ask students if they would like to become a future astronaut or oceanographer. What qualifications do they think they would need to do this? Invite them to name their own personal "explorer heroes" and describe why they admire them.
  2. Write about it: Ask students to write a list of questions they would like to ask a person who saw the first moon landing on television in 1969. Then have them take those questions home to ask a parent or grandparent who remembers seeing the event. Discuss the findings in class the next day.

Extension Activities

Reinforcements: These worksheets will be useful as you further develop your teaching unit. The Word Power worksheet will give your students vocabulary practice with key terms from this mini-lesson and the related activity will help reinforce key concepts on explorers.


20th-Century Explorers Word Power
Grade: 4 - 6
Students practice vocabulary relevant to 20th-century explorers by using each defined word in a sentence.



Matthew Henson, Explorer
Grade: 4 - 8
A biography of Matthew Henson, an African-American explorer, with related activities.



Excerpted from:

Eyewitness: Explorer

This book takes a look at the often hazardous and perilous world of exploration from the lives and navigation techniques of the first sailors to the types of food eaten on space missions.


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