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Age of Exploration for Kids

Free Online Resources for Learning Fun Facts about the Age of Exploration

Age Of Exploration For Kids
By: Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.
*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.

Also known as the Age of Discovery, the Age of Exploration is the period, mostly from the 1400s to the 1600s, when the nations of Europe explored the world. The one who is said to have opened the door to the Age of Exploration is Portuguese explorer, Infante Dom Henrique, or “Henry the Navigator.” He explored the west coast of Africa. From then on, other European nations like Britain, France, Italy, and Spain joined Portugal to explore as much of the world as they could. Taken together, the explorers who led these expeditions laid the groundwork for the world as we know it today.

How can you use these resources? You may want to give your child an overview of the Age of Exploration using the general websites and other games and activities, or you can create an entire unit study of the Age of Exploration and divide instruction into lessons on the explorers of different nationalities. Instead, you may want to dive deeply into learning about one or two explorers, using the various sites listed to discuss how different sources represent historical figures. 

Note that we strive to educate about cultures and history in the most respectful, honest, and age-appropriate ways possible. If you find a resource you believe doesn’t fit these well-intentioned guidelines or have one to suggest that does, please leave us a comment below or contact us herePlease review all resources before sharing them with your homeschoolers. The resources below may fit our requirements; however, they may present information that counters your family’s world views or traditional thinking about history. 

To get you started, here are some general sites on the Age of Exploration for kids, followed by resources on individual explorers separated by nationality:

  Age of Exploration for Kids   British Explorers for Kids
  –       Captain James Cook
  –       Henry Hudson
  –       Sir Francis Drake
  –       Sir Walter Raleigh 
  French Explorers for Kids
  –       Jacques Cartier
  –       René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
  –       Samuel de Champlain
 
  Italian Explorers for Kids
  –       Amerigo Vespucci
  –       Christopher Columbus
  –       Giovanni da Verrazzano
  –       John Cabot
  Portuguese Explorers for Kids
  –       Bartholomew Dias
  –       Ferdinand Magellan
  –       Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo
  –       Vasco da Gama
  Spanish Explorers for Kids
  –       Francisco Pizarro
  –       Vasquez de Coronado
  –       Hernán Cortéz
  –       Hernando de Soto
  –       Juan Ponce de Lèon
  –       Vasco de Balboa
  Age of Exploration for Kids
  Lesson Plans & Activities
  Age of Exploration for Kids Games
 *Although most of the resources listed here are free, those marked with a $ have a cost or require a fee/subscription in order to access the full range of materials.

 

Age Of Exploration For Kids 

Age of Exploration for Kids

These are some resources to get a general overview of the Age of Exploration for Kids:

Age of Discovery (The Mariners’ Museum and Park)
For your older students, find lots of information about the explorers, voyages, ships, and tools from the Age of Discovery.

Age of Exploration (Academic Kids)
Read this encyclopedia-like entry for the Age of Exploration, written for kids.

Explorers (Mr. Nussbaum)
Check out an Explorers Interactive Module, biographies of many famous explorers, an overview of the Age of Exploration, and Explorer Route Maps. There is also an interactive guide to Legends and Myths of the Age of Exploration with a companion Scavenger Hunt. Grade levels are listed with each activity. Upgrade for access to even more materials.

 

  

Explorers at a Glance (Britannica Kids) $
Learn about the explorers, who are listed by time period and the areas targeted by their travels. Upgrade for access to the full range of materials.

Explorers for Kids & Teachers (Mr. Donn)
This is an overview of important explorers and includes links to other resources like games, interactives, and PowerPoints as well.

Explorers of America (Land of the Brave)
Discover this comprehensive and illustrated guide to America’s early explorers. Find out information about individual explorers, as well as more general topics like the Spanish and French in America, colonialism, and more.

 

Explorers Who Got Lost $
By Diane Sansevere-Dreher (Author), Ed Renfro (Illustrator)
“What do Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, and Bartolomeu Dias have in common? They were all explorers who got lost! Fast-paced and exciting, Explorers Who Got Lost provides detailed information about the most influential explorers of the Age of Discovery: Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco Da Gama, Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Ferdinand Magellan, Giovanni Da Verrazano, Jacques Cartier, and Henry Hudson.”

 

French and Dutch Exploration in the New World (Khan Academy)
Learn about the explorations of the French and Dutch in the late 1500s and early 1600s as Europe began to learn more and more about America.

The French in America (Land of the Brave)
Explore information about the early French expeditions, conquests, and settlements of the French in America, including a fact-driven timeline.

Great Italian Explorers (Life in Italy)
Find out about the mariners from Italy who used their navigations and sailing skills to change the world.

Portuguese Explorers (History for Kids)
Portugal and Spain led the way in exploration. Learn about Portugal’s role here.

Renaissance Age of Exploration and Discovery (Ducksters)
Read an overview of the Age of Exploration, including information on Henry the Navigator, Christopher Columbus, explorers from Portugal and Spain, the colonies, and geography. Learn some fast facts and then take a ten-question quiz about the page.

 

 

Spanish Conquistadors | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
After Columbus, Spanish conquistadors traveled to America to conquer and explore in search of gold and treasure. Learn some fast facts about Hernán Cortéz, Francisco Pizarro, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Juan Ponce de Lèon, and Hernando de Soto, and then end with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents. 

The Spanish in America (Land of the Brave)
Explore information about the early Spanish expeditions, conquests, and settlements of the Spanish in America, including a fact-driven timeline.

Now check out the important explorers from each country!

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British Explorers for Kids

Captain James Cook for Kids

This British explorer was also a navigator, cartographer (map maker), and captain in the British Royal Navy, known for being the first European to set foot on the Hawaiian Islands as well as the eastern coast of Australia.

Captain Cook (DK Findout)
Read a summary of Captain Cook’s adventures and see a detailed model of Cook’s ship.

Captain James Cook (TeacherVision)
This is a brief biography of Captain James Cook for your middle school student.

Age Of Exploration For Kids

Captain James Cook Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Captain James Cook, complete with images about his life and travels.

Captain James Cook | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and read a summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents. 

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Henry Hudson for Kids

Can you guess who discovered the Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay in Canada? That’s right, Henry Hudson! Did you know he discovered Manhattan Island in 1609 while employed by the Dutch West India Company?

Henry Hudson | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and read a summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents. 

 

 

Henry Hudson Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Henry Hudson for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Sir Francis Drake for Kids

Known as one of the greatest English sea captains of all time, Sir Francis Drake and his crew were the first Englishmen to circumnavigate the globe. They claimed part of California (what Drake called “Nova Albion”) for Queen Elizabeth along the way.

Sir Francis Drake (Best of Legends)
For your older students…. Was he a pirate? Find out information about Sir Francis Drake and Nova Albion, including arguments regarding where exactly Drake landed and links to a number of other sources.

Sir Francis Drake Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Sir Francis Drake, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

 

Sir Francis Drake | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and read a summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents.  

Sir Francis Drake Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Sir Francis Drake for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Sir Walter Raleigh for Kids

Sir Walter Raleigh and his half-brother, English explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert, sailed to America, where Sir Walter Raleigh backed the famous Roanoke Island colony in Virginia. He is also known for introducing the English to potatoes and tobacco.

Sir Walter Raleigh (Britannica Kids) $
Read about this favorite of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, including his early life, later exploration, and imprisonment and death. Upgrade for access to the full range of materials.

Age Of Exploration For Kids

Sir Walter Raleigh Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Sir Walter Raleigh for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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French Explorers for Kids

Jacques Cartier for Kids

Jacques Cartier explored Canada three times, from Nova Scotia to the Cape Fear River. From his ship, the Grande Hermine, he discovered the Saint Lawrence River, which eventually became a major French route to Canada.

Jacques Cartier Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Jacques Cartier, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

  

Jacques Cartier Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Jacques Cartier for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle for Kids

This French explorer led an expedition down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, claiming the region around the Mississippi as “Louisiana” for King Louis XIV of France.

 

  

Robert Sieur de la Salle Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Robert Sieur de la Salle, complete with images about his life and travels.

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Samuel de Champlain for Kids

He is known as the “Father of Canada.” Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City and discovered Lake Champlain, located between Vermont and New York.

Samuel de Champlain Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Samuel de Champlain, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

  

Samuel de Champlain Facts (Land of the Brave)

Read this “fact file” on Samuel de Champlain for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Italian Explorers for Kids

Amerigo Vespucci for Kids

How did America get its name? Why from Amerigo Vespucci, of course! He discovered Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata, what he called the “New World” of South America, and believed that he had discovered a new continent. America was named after him in 1507.

Amerigo Vespucci Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Amerigo Vespucci for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

 

  

Amerigo Vespucci Facts for Kids (Kiddle)
Get some fast facts about Amerigo Vespucci through this summary of his life and voyages.

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Christopher Columbus for Kids

Sailing for Spain in 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered North America while searching for a new trade route to the Indies. Or did he? Lots of controversy for you to “explore” in these resources.

Christopher Columbus (DK Findout)
Read a summary of Columbus’s life and travels and click on the interactive image of his arrival in the New World.

Christopher Columbus | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and read a summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents. 

 

 

Christopher Columbus Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Christopher Columbus, complete with images about his life and travels.

Christopher Columbus Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Christopher Columbus for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

 

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus: What Your History Books Got Wrong $
By James W. Loewen
“Disproves the myths about Columbus still enshrined in American textbooks with quotations from primary source material that sets the record straight. The poster and accompanying 48–page paperback book sum up the mistellings—and reveal the real story—in a graphically appealing and accessible format that shows the degree to which textbooks have “lied” by knowingly substituting crowd-pleasing myths for grim and gruesome historical evidence.”

 

You Wouldn’t Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus! Uncharted Waters You’d Rather Not Cross  $
By Fiona MacDonald (Author), David Antram (Illustrator)
“This interactive series will enthrall young and reluctant readers (Ages 8-12) by making them part of the story, inviting them to become the main character. Each book uses humorous illustrations to depict the sometimes dark and horrific side of life during important eras in history. Get ready…as a poor boy living in Spain you dream of exploring the world by sea. You manage to get on board a ship heading west, under the command of Christopher Columbus. It’s a Rough Ride!

 

Why Columbus Day Courts Controversy (History.com)
Ready for a debate? Columbus Day honors the heroism of Christopher Columbus, but as new “history” is discovered, the question becomes whether Columbus truly deserves his own holiday. Have a family debate about the issue….

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Giovanni da Verrazzano for Kids

He led the first French expedition to explore the eastern coast between Newfoundland and the Carolinas, including Narragansett Bay and New York Harbor. Because he was the first European to sail into New York Harbor, the Verrazzano Bridge was named after him.

Giovanni da Verrazzano Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Giovanni da Verrazzano, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

Check out this 8th grade social studies project on Giovanni De Verrazzano:

 

Giovanni da Verrazzano Facts (Land of the Brave)

Read this “fact file” on Giovanni da Verrazzano for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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John Cabot for Kids

After crossing the North Atlantic, explorer John Cabot reached America, just north of Nova Scotia. He claimed Canada for King Henry VII.

John Cabot Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of John Cabot, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

 

John Cabot Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on John Cabot for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Portuguese Explorers for Kids

Bartholomew Dias for Kids

Bartholomew Dias was the first European to sail around the southernmost tip of Africa. Why was this important? His exploration later allowed for the establishment of a trade route from Europe to Asia.

Bartholomew Dias Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Bartholomew Dias, complete with images about his life and travels.

Bartolomeu (Bartholomew) Dias Facts for Kids (Kiddle)
Read this short summary about the explorer’s life and voyages.

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Ferdinand Magellan for Kids

Although he died before the voyage’s completion, Ferdinand Magellan is known as the one who led the first trip around the world, reaching the Pacific Ocean through what is now known as the Straits of Magellan.

Ferdinand Magellan (DK Findout)
Read a summary of Magellan’s life and travels and then check out the images of spices he likely found along the way.

Ferdinand Magellan | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents. 

 

 

Ferdinand Magellan (TeacherVision)
This is a brief biography of Ferdinand Magellan for your high school student.

Ferdinand Magellan Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Ferdinand Magellan, complete with images about his life and travels.

Ferdinand Magellan Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Ferdinand Magellan for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo for Kids

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo is known for his exploration of the west coast of North America, and specifically as the first European to explore California. He sailed on behalf of the Spanish Empire.

Cabrillo National Monument | California (National Park Service)
If you are local or can travel, check out this monument to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. For your older student, this website has a good overview of the life of the explorer. There is also a virtual field trip/lesson plan available for grades 3-5.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Vasco da Gama for Kids

This Portuguese explorer was the first European to discover an ocean trading route to India, which then allowed Portugal to establish a colonial empire in Africa and Asia.

Vasco da Gama Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Vasco da Gama, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

 

Vasco da Gama Facts for Kids (Kiddle)
Here is a short overview of the life and voyages of Vasco da Gama.

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Spanish Explorers for Kids

Francisco Pizarro

Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish conquistador whose expeditions led to the conquest of Peru. Like many explorers, he sought fortune and adventure in the New World.

Francisco Pizarro Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Francisco Pizarro, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

 

Franciso Pizarro | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents.

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Francisco Vasquez de Coronado for Kids

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado? What a name! He is known for his exploration of New Mexico and the southwestern US and discovering the Grand Canyon and the Great Plains in Kansas.

Francisco Coronado Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Francisco Coronado, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

 

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Francisco Vasquez de Coronado for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Hernán Cortéz (Cortés) for Kids

This Spanish conquistador’s expedition into Mexico led to the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought a large part of Mexico under the rule of Spain.

Hernán Cortéz Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Hernán Cortéz, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

  

Hernán Cortéz | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and read a summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents. 

Hernán Cortéz Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Hernán Cortéz for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Hernando de Soto for Kids

For Hernando de Soto, the southeastern US was his playground. He explored from Tampa Bay to South Carolina, including a trip across the Mississippi River.

Hernando de Soto Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Hernando de Soto, complete with images about his life and travels.

 

 

Hernando de Soto Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Hernando de Soto for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Juan Ponce de Lèon for Kids

Who was the first European to reach Florida? That would be Juan Ponce de Lèon! He also founded the first European settlement on Puerto Rico.

Juan Ponce de Lèon | Explorers for Kids (Ducksters)
Learn some fast facts and read a summary of his life and accomplishments. End with a ten-question quiz on the page’s contents. 

Juan Ponce de Lèon Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Juan Ponce de Lèon for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

Ponce de Leon Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Ponce de Leon, complete with images about his life and travels.

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Vasco de Balboa for Kids

He is known as being the first European to travel from the New World to the Pacific Ocean.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa Biography (Mr. Nussbaum)
Read or listen to the full biography of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, complete with images about his life and travels.

Age Of Exploration For Kids

Vasco Nunez de Balboa Facts for Kids (Kiddle)
Here is a summary of the life and career of the explorer.

Vasco de Balboa Facts (Land of the Brave)
Read this “fact file” on Vasco de Balboa for a summary of interesting facts about his life, his explorations, and the impact of his discoveries on the development of America.

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Age of Exploration for Kids Lesson Plans & Activities

If you want to plan a more structured lesson or unit on the Age of Exploration for kids, these resources can help:

Explorers (Teacher Planet)
Find a New World Explorers Unit, lesson plans, coloring pages, clipart, printables, activities, worksheets, and other resources.

Explorers of the New World: Learning about Major Explorers of the New World (Scholastic)
Check out this 5-class period lesson plan for grades 3-5. It covers the principle explorers, their contributions to the European understanding of America, European rivalries and their transfer to the New World, and the relationships between Europeans and the Native Americans.

Explorer’s Quiz (DK Findout)
Are you ready to test your knowledge of the explorers? Try this fun 10-question quiz!

 

 

Explorers Theme and Activities (Educatall)
Get your young child interested in the idea of exploring with these early science activities, crafts, games, and more!

Famous Explorer Facts & Worksheets (KidsKonnect)
Read through the fact sheet and then download one of the worksheets. Upgrade to a premium membership for more access to resources.

Famous Explorers Lesson Plans & Activities (TeacherVision)
Find lesson plans, activities, and printables for use in teaching your child about explorers, including digital books, quizzes, and biographies. Enjoy activities across subject areas like art, math, and language arts.

Impact of the Early Explorers (Better Lesson)
Share this lesson about early explorers to the Americas with your fifth-grade student.

Milk Carton Spanish Galleon (DLTK)
Imagine the ships the Spanish used to come and explore America. You can make one with milk cartons, paper, and a few other supplies!

 

  

Presentations in PowerPoint Format about Explorers (Mr. Donn)
Discover free PowerPoints about the explorers, including John Cabot, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, and more.

Thematic Units – Explorers (The Teacher’s Corner)
Find lesson plans by grade level including An Adventure to the New World, during which middle school students create an “Explorer’s Notebook,” and others, as well as resources for explorer reports, interviews, and projects.

World Explorers | PBS Learning Media
Focus on the explorers from Europe or expand your coverage of explorers all the way to the moon! This site has lesson plans, videos, and Google Earth Voyager Stories.

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Age of Exploration for Kids Games

Finish your Age of Exploration unit or lesson with some fun games:

Christopher Columbus Walk the Plank Game
The goal of this game is to have your teacher fall in and have to swim. Each correct answer you give about Columbus gets her a few steps closer to the end of the plank.

Explorers Word Search
Enjoy this online word search to review the names of famous explorers.

Explorers for Kids – Free Interactive Games and Activities
If you enjoyed the games above, check out this comprehensive list of interactive games about explorers and exploring from Mr. Donn.

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Did you discover a great resource for learning important facts on the Age of Exploration while you were exploring the Internet? Share your discoveries in the comments below….

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