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Navigating Through History

Subject: Science, Geography, World History
Grade: 3-5, 6-8
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Brief Description
Students read about the history of navigation and create a time line showing when various human-made navigational tools were first used.

Students learn about the tools and instruments used for navigation in the past and today.

navigation, instruments, oceans

Materials Needed

  • computers with Internet access and The History of Navigation or printouts of the pages
  • other online or library resources about navigational tools
  • 5" x 7" index cards
  • pencils, paper, crayons or markers

Lesson Plan

  • Have students access the site or the printed copies of the information. Ask each student to create a time line of the 13th through the 20th centuries, indicating when each of the human-made navigational tools discussed at the site -- from the magnetic compass to the Global Positioning System -- were first used.
  • Arrange students into small groups, and assign each group one of the navigational tools discussed at the site. (Tools should include the magnetic compass, lead line, cross-staff, astrolabe, sextant, chip log, chronometer, gyroscopic compass, radar, Loran, and Global Positioning System.) Ask students in each group to research print and/or online resources to learn more about their assigned tool. Have students write what they learn about the tool on one side of a 5" x 7" index card and attach or draw a picture of the tool on the other side.
  • Cover a classroom bulletin board with white paper and draw a horizontal line from one end of the paper to the other. Write 1300 at one end of the line and 2000 at the other. Ask students to attach their index cards to the correct area of the time line, with the pictures of the tools facing out. As students attach their cards to the time line, ask a volunteer from each group to describe to other students what the group learned about the tool.
  • Allow students to decorate the bulletin board time line with images representing the sea and the ships that sailed it during the last eight centuries.

Evaluate students on the content of the index cards and on their observed ability to work together and contribute to the group.

Lesson Plan Source
Education World

Submitted By
Linda Starr


National Standards




Updated 6/02/2011