Printable Explorers Worksheets

We take a deep look at those people who were the first to brave an unknown. We have a ton of great worksheets to help students learn related vocabulary.

  1. Acrostic Poem
  2. Acrostic Poem
  3. Bulletin Board Border Set
  4. Bulletin Board Border Set v 2.0
  5. Explorer Book Marks
  6. Explorer Book Marks v 2.0
  7. Maze
  8. Reading Comprehension Worksheet
  9. Writing Paper
  10. Writing Paper v 2.0

Related Teacher Resources

  1. Explorers Teaching Theme
  2. Explorers Web Sites

Explorer Bulletin Boards

  1. Dog
  2. Anchor
  3. Famous Faces
  4. Hit Land
  5. Hunting
  6. Rowing
  7. Ships

The 6 Greatest Explorers in History

The world that we inhabit today is familiar to us. We know the names of the continents and the routes that would take us to different ports around the globe. Before air travel existed, sailing was the only way to cross the oceans.

To sail unchartered waters and navigate corners of the earth unknown to man sounds thrilling, but of course, it's not everyone's cup of tea. The explorers who embarked on these adventures and voyages discovered new land, opened up trade routes, and essentially mapped out the world for us.

Here are some of the most influential explorers in history.

1. Xuanzang or Hsuan-tsang (602-664)

Xuanzang, also known as Hsuan-Tsang, was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, and translator remembered for his travels and the fruits those journeys bore.

The driving force of his travels had almost always been the search for various sacred books. His initial journeys were bound to China before he embarked on his epic journey to India. It took him seventeen years and was all done by land. He visited numerous Indian cities and studied under monk and philosopher Śīlabhadra.

When he was leaving India to head back home, he had collected an enormous amount of Sanskrit scriptures; it took a caravan of 20 horses to transport them back to China. Though he had defied the travel ban in China when he started his journey, he was enthusiastically welcomed back by the emperor, who also encouraged him to write a travelogue.

2. Marco Polo (1254-1324)

Some explorers have been merchants by profession, and it makes sense that they would embark on exploratory journeys because they had the promise of financial and material gain. Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant and traveler who came from a family already familiar with foreign lands; Polo's father and uncle were in business with merchants of the Middle East.

Because of political instability in Constantinople in 1271, the family sold off their assets and made their way to the western end of the Mongol Empire. Here, they established trade and ties with Berke Khan. When they learned they couldn't return to Venice, they decided to travel further east and get into business with Kublai Khan.

Marco Polo traveled through lands today recognized as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, India, China, and Japan. He has penned down his journey across Asia through the Silk Road in The Travels of Marco Polo.

3. Ibn Battuta (1304-1369)

Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan scholar and explorer who traversed the Islamic regions of Africa, Asia, and southeastern Europe. His travels spanning three decades add up to more distance traveled than Zheng He (Chinese mariner) and Marco Polo. Interestingly, he is also known as the Islamic Marco Polo.

At the age of twenty-one, his first journey was not for education or trade but a religious one. He wanted to perform hajj, which took him to Mecca, a journey that took him sixteen months to complete. Before reaching his destination, his journey took him to the coast of North Africa, Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, Damascus in Syria, and various cities in Palestine.

His fondness for foreign travel took him further to explore Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Swahili Coast, the Indian Subcontinent, and Central and Southeast Asia.

4. Vasco Da Gama (1460-1524)

Vasco Da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who was the first European to chart an ocean route to India. He sailed the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to reach India, which inevitably paved the way for a colonial empire that stretched from Africa to Asia.

Also, being the first to sail around the Cape of Good Hope introduced an ocean route that avoided the hostile Mediterranean passage altogether. Anchoring in Calicut (today's Kerala), he established the first trading post that allowed the Portuguese empire unopposed access to the Indian spices for a hundred years.

5. Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

Columbus was an Italian navigator and explorer whose routes enabled the exploration and eventual colonization of the American continents by the Europeans. Columbus was self-taught with a great interest in geography, astronomy, and history. It was no wonder that he started traveling from a young age, embarking on voyages to the British Isles and Ghana.

He was fervently looking for a sea passage to East Indies that would grant them access to the spice trade. He persuaded Queen Isabella I and Kind Ferdinand II to sponsor his expedition. This is the same journey that set him on the course to discovering the Americas, thereby laying down the foundation of what is known today as the modern West.

6. Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)

Around the world in 80 Days might be a work of fiction, but Ferdinand Magellan was the first man to embark on a world trip in the early 15th century. Although Portuguese by birth, he helmed Spanish ships and crew for a voyage that took him around the globe.

Leaving Spain, they touched base in Brazil and sailed across the Strait of Magellan to gain access to the Pacific Ocean. Anchoring in the Philippines, Magellan won the king's favor and even fought in his war, ultimately meeting his death there.

Following his demise, his crew completed the voyage by returning to Spain, thereby going down in history as the first sea journey executed around the globe.

Journey's end

The journeys, be it via land or sea, that these explorers undertook undoubtedly changed the way the different corners of the world interacted. However, not only did trade expand and flourish but a different kind of course correction also took place - correctly mapping out the face of the world. Brazil was thought to be part of India, whereas the Americas were confused with the Indies. As these explorers traveled and discovered more, we learned more about the world and fixed these errors.

Knowing that these explorations and expeditions resulted in various conquests and colonizations would be wise. Lives were lost, and freedom and leadership exchanged hands. Every explorer's enterprise has changed the course of history in more ways than one.