The Age of Exploration can often be a little boring for students, especially when faced with memorizing the many explorers.
Instead of lecturing about each and every explorer, let students take the lead in researching and creatively presenting the explorers by making trading cards (think baseball cards for explorers).
In this project, students pick explorers to research. This project includes step-by-step directions to hand out, eliminating any student uncertainty about what information does or does not need to be on their cards or where the information needs to be located.
This file includes two versions of the student directions page, allowing you to select what meets your students' ability level or to differentiate to better meet your students' needs. Version A is a lower-level version that provides fewer explorer choices (limiting students to explorers that are easier to find) and suggests websites to use while researching. Version B is more challenging, giving students the choice to select from a larger list of explorers and requiring them to find websites on their own. This file also includes a grading rubric with two rubrics per page, so that you can save paper and give students clear feedback on each individual trading card.
I found this to be a favorite activity with my middle schoolers. It also drastically improved their understanding of the Age of Exploration, their research skills, and their test scores!