Age of Exploration and Encounter

A Complete World History Unit Plan for Middle School or High School

Unit 13 in my World History curriculum covers the Age of Exploration - also known as the Age of Discovery or the Age of Encounter, depending on how your curriculum words it. It introduces students to many European explorers, the routes and discoveries they made, and the indigenous civilizations that encountered them.

This is a fantastic unit for middle school or high school World History students. There’s a variety of activities for each day in the unit so that students are always engaged with something new. 

You can download all the lessons and resources for this unit here or, sign up for a subscription and gain access to everything online.


The unit begins by looking at a few of the most well-known European explorers. There’s an awesome “magic portrait” PowerPoint with guided notes (or “flipped classroom” video version), along with a great “dinner party” activity in which students read about explorers and then must seat them around a table in a way that each as something in common with those next to them.

Another great lesson covers the Columbian Exchange. After learning about where various goods came, students create Old World and New World lunch menus based on what goods existed where.

The next lesson covers Spanish conquistadors. An excerpted primary source analysis activity helps students understand the brutality of Cortes, Pizarro, and others and the impact they had on indigenous people in Central and South America.

In the next lesson, students analyze the Transatlantic slave trade and barbaric Middle Passage that brought millions of kidnapped Africans to the Americas. Students analyze documents and use Olaudah Equiano’s first-hand account to better understand the brutality of this awful institution and the untold impact it had on this country.

In the last lesson of the unit, students learn about Asian responses to European exploration. After a thorough PowerPoint (also with guided note, video, & Google Slides) students engaging in a primary source activity and interactive notebook resource.

Throughout the unit, students can also work on a variety of engaging digital interactive notebook activities or the unit guide packet. There are dozens of great videos linked to use in your lessons along with readings you can share from our online textbook. 

The unit finishes off with an editable unit test, with a Google Forms version included for easy grading! 

You can download the entire unit here in one handy folder saved to your desktop. You can also sign up for a subscription to access to the entire unit’s lessons and resources online. A subscription also grants you immediate access to the ENTIRE World History curriculum. That’s 24 complete units like this one full of awesome lessons and resources. 

If you’re not sure which option is better for you, you can read more about the differences between subscriptions and TpT purchases here

Thanks so much for checking it out

World History Units