Tuesday, April 27

Early Explorers & Navigation

The end of the year is when mom breaks out all the fun stuff that we've neglected earlier, and we have several days of hands-on fun!!

A Little Background
  • Christopher Columbus was famous for discovering America in 1492 while he was searching for a new trade route to the Indies.
  • Ferdinand Magellan was famous for undertaking first expedition around the world, sailing through the Straits of Magellan and reaching the Pacific Ocean.
  • Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson River. the Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay.
  • Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored New Mexico and the south-western United States and discovered the Great Plains of Kansas.
  • Leif Ericson was the Viking who is regarded as the first European to visit the New World.
  • Sir Francis Drake was famous as the first to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast of South America in his ship the Golden Hind.
  • Amerigo Vespucci was famous for demonstrating that the New World was not Asia but an unknown new continent.
  • Jacques Cartier was famous for leading 3 expeditions to Canada, exploring the coast from the Cape Fear River to Nova Scotia.
  • Hernando de Soto was famous for exploring the southeastern US from Tampa Bay to South Carolina, and crossing the Mississippi River.
  • John Cabot crossed the North Atlantic and reached the coast of America, north of Nova Scotia.
  • Ponce de Leon was a famous explorer who sailed around the southern end of Florida and back to the West Indies.
  • Giovanni da Verrazanno was famous for leading the first French expedition to explore the coast between the Carolinas and Newfoundland, including New York Harbor and Narragansett Bay.
  • Samuel de Champlain was famous as the founder of Quebec City.  He was known as 'the Father of Canada,' and discovered Lake Champlain on the border between New York and Vermont.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh sailed to America with his half brother, the English explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert.  Raleigh provided backing for the Virginia colony of Roanoke Island.  He is also famous for introducing tobacco and potatoes to England.
  • Vasco de Balboa was famous as the first European to lead an expedition to reach the Pacific Ocean from the New World.

Field Trip
While studying the Early Explorers, we learned about magnetism in our field trip to Arkansas.  You can virtually visit the museum and learn more about that here...

Curriculum Resources

Hands-On Projects
If you're going to be a good explorer, you have to have an accurate compass.  You have to know how to get where you're going!

  • sewing needle
  • magnet (It can be a flat refrigerator magnet or a more powerful magnet, like neodymium. A stronger magnet will work best.  Keep the magnet away from your tv and computer.)
  • pliers
  • cork
  • scissors
  • bowl
  • water

  • Rub the magnet against the sewing needle at least five times. (If you are using a weaker magnet, such as a flat refrigerator magnet, rub the needle at least a dozen times.) Always rub the magnet in the same direction against the needle. Your needle should now be magnetized for a little while.
  • Cut off about 1/4" of the cork from one of the ends, making a small cork disk that is about one-quarter-inch tall.
  • Lay the cork disk on a flat surface, and push the needle through the side of the disk with the pair of pliers. Push the needle all the way through the disk so that about the same amount of needle shows on either side of the disk.  We couldn't find any cork on the day of the project, so we carefully laid it across one of mom's kombucha bottle lids.
  • Fill a bowl with at least one inch of water.
  • Put the cork disk (with the needle) on the water in the cup. Try to keep the disk floating in the center of the water, away from the sides of the cup.
  • Your needle will point north!  Take it outside and test it out someplace that you know, and see just how well it works, and how long it takes for the magnetism to wear off.

If you really want to go old-school, make a sextant!


  • Cut a triangle (with an arc at the bottom) out of your cardboard.  Cut a small rectangle (about 1" long) and a third, Y-shaped, piece for the slider, as shown below.
  • Using a brad, fasten the slider to the triangle, at the point.
  • Using your in pen and a protractor, mark of the degrees on the arc portion of your sextant.  Use the example in the book, Usborne Book of Explorers.
  • Fasten the rectangle at the bottom of the slider, in front of the triangle (make sure it's stable in the back, too, but don't attach it to the base triangle) with tape.
  • Slide the piece back and forth as you navigate your way through the waters!

Looking for a literature-based language arts program? The Twenty-Three Reads Bundle is for someone who wants a little bit of everything! 

It includes twenty-three unit studies covering a wide range of topics. Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand. These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
  • Language Arts
    • Finding Langston & the Poetry of Langston Hughes
  • Geography
    • Anne of Green Gables & Canadian Provinces
    • Stowaway & Antarctica
    • Julie of the Wolves & Alaska
    • Blades of Freedom & the Louisiana Purchase
    • The Avion My Uncle Flew & France
  • History
    • Zlata’s Diary & the Slavic Wars
    • Freedom Summer & the Summer of 1964
    • Treasure Island & Pirates of the Caribbean Sea
    • Farenheit 451 & Types of Government
    • Red Stars & Russia in World War 2
    • The Great Gatsby & the Roaring Twenties
    • The Long List of Impossible Things & Post-War Germany
    • A Tale of Two Cities & French Revolution
    • Witch of Blackbird Pond & Salem Witch Trials
    • The World Made New & Early Explorers
    • Stitching a Life & Jewish Immigration
  • Life Skills
    • Teetoncey & Lifesaving Skills
    • Freak of the Week & Disabilities Awareness
    • Island of the Blue Dolphins & Sailing
  • Science
    • The Science of Breakable Things & the Scientific Method
    • Frankenstein & Human Anatomy
    • Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein

Product samples:

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