Lesson Plan – Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers – Lesson Plan

Central questions:

  • What are explorers discovering today?
  • How can we learn about our world by studying explorers?
  • How can we be explorers?


  • Each student will read about a modern polar explorer.
  • Students write and perform “skit” television news segments on each explorer.
  • Students will discuss the significance polar explorations in the context of a warming planet.
  • Students will brainstorm ways they can be explorers.

Time Needed: At least forty-five minutes

Grade Level: Middle School or High School

INTRODUCTION (2 minutes)

Introduce the idea to your students that although nearly every place on the surface of the earth has been “discovered”, people are still exploring. Author Kenneth Brower writes:
“The country [is] all waiting to be known again. Most discovery is rediscovery. The best discoveries are personal, anyway, and not the kind commissioned by queens and scientific academies. The idea that Earth’s landscapes have been used up in some ways [is], for me, peculiar.” (Source: The Starship and the Canoe, 1978)
Every year explorers journey into the mountains, deserts, oceans, rainforests, rivers, and even into the cities and towns. The most important characteristic of an explorer is a sense of curiosity and a desire to see things for him or herself.
The Arctic is a region that has attracted many explorers over the years and continues to attract many today. Learning about Arctic explorers can help us better understand this remote yet important part of our earth, especially as it experiences rapid climate change. Learning about explorers can also help each of us become explorers of our own surroundings.


Explain to your students that you are going to divide them into five groups. Each group will receive a hand-out that gives background information on a modern Arctic explorer and also features the explorer’s answers to interview questions.

Each group will be responsible for creating and performing for the rest of the class a three-minute “skit” TV news segment about the explorer. The skit will need to feature a News Anchor who introduces the story, explains a bit about the background of the explorer, and frames for the audience the significance of the explorer’s expeditions. The skit should also feature a news correspondent who is “on location” with the explorer. The news correspondent should conduct a brief interview with the explorer that covers some of what the explorer has witnessed, especially as it relates to climate change in the Arctic. The Anchor should then close the story by summarizing the significance and leaving the audience with a “take home message.”

Depending on how many students are in each group, additional parts could include someone running the “teleprompter”, other explorers who participated in expeditions with the explorer being highlighted, actors recreating “footage” from previous expeditions, or other roles the students create.

Remind the students that the skit content should be appropriate for the classroom and should be sure to cover the important points, but that the students should feel free to have fun with the skits. Remind the students that each group will have only three minutes to perform their skit. Groups will have very little time to plan their skits, so let them know in advance that skits do not need to be “polished.” They should be impromptu, quickly moving and fun.


  • Divide students into five groups. Distribute one “Modern Explorer” hand-out to each group. (2 minutes)
  • Each student group reads its hand-out and quickly plans a skit. (5 minutes)
  • The class reconvenes and each group presents its skit. To allow for transition time between skits, plan five minutes for each skit. (25 minutes)

Here are some example questions you might choose:

  • Now that nearly all the places on the surface of the earth have been “discovered”, of what value, if any, is modern exploration?
  • What did you learn about the Arctic from these explorers?
  • Do you think it is possible for people to feel more connected to an area like the Arctic by hearing stories and seeing images from explorers who go there, even if the people themselves do not have a chance to go there? Why or why not?
  • What do you think it would take for you to be an explorer? Is it possible to explore areas close to your home?
  • What insights could you share with others if you explored the nature that is close to your home? How would you share those insights?
  • If you wanted to help people connect to their own surroundings, how would you do it? What effect do you think it might have on people if they were more connected to their surroundings?

Note to teachers:

You and your students can follow Will Steger’s Ellesmere Island expedition on www.globalwarming101.com. Will is traveling with a team of young explorers aged 21 to 28 to visit remote research stations and rapidly changing ice shelves. Dispatches, photos and videos from Will’s 2007 Baffin Island expedition are also available on the website.


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