Exploration and Discovery

Through a study of explorers and early investigations, today’s students gain historic, scientific, cultural and technical perspective. They can make connections between past and present, understand modifications to prevailing theories and changes in mapping, and explain the impact of technology on expanding knowledge.

As the South Pole quests of Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen are commemorated, exploration and expeditions continue above, on and below the Earth’s surface and waters. Assisted by cutting-edge technology and photography, 21st-century scientists and their teams plan for all stages, collaborate during the voyage and document their discoveries. Articles focus on Antarctica and other areas of recent discoveries. A rich variety of activities, lesson ideas, resources and suggested readings cross many disciplines in science, mathematics, technology and the fine arts in this curriculum guide.


Through a study of explorers and early investigations, today’s students gain historic, scientific, cultural and technical perspective. They can make connections between past and present, understand modifications to prevailing theories and changes in mapping, and explain the impact of technology on expanding knowledge. 


APRIL 2012

Engaged in Research and Exploration
Resource Graphic 

Get to Know New Species
Biology, Botany, Science

Younger students are introduced to new plant and animal species and scientific exploration through two KidsPost articles. These articles are found in the KidsPost — New Species collection.

“This sea grass is REALLY old,” a February 2012 article, explains how the age of sea grass discovered in the Mediterranean Sea is determined. “Really Old Sea Grass” provides study questions to use with the article.

Read the January 1, 2012, KidsPost article, “New animal species are found in Asia.” The short news article reports that more than 208 new species have been found in the Mekong River region. A map reading exercise and discussion questions are provided. 

To learn about more new species read "From global sea census, a treasure trove." Post science writer Juliet Eilperin reports on the ten-year study of discovery, Census of Marine Life. 

Teachers may wish to expand this lesson with a World Wildlife Federation short video, “Greater Mekong”  and report, “New Blood: Greater Mekong, New Species Discoveries 2009. According to the report, an “average of 3 new species are recorded by scientists each week in the Greater Mekong.” Students could be placed in 11 groups to read the informative text of the report and plan a short presentation to introduce 11 new species to their classmates. Additional discoveries in 2011 are noted and pictured in “More Than 200 New Species Discovered in Mekong.” 

To learn more about tigers and rare and endangered animals, review the previous Post INSIDE curriculum guide Sumatran Tiger


Learn About Explorers
Geography, U.S. History, World History

Acquiring new riches, finding a Northwest Passage and claiming land for the sponsoring country motivated many early explorers. Captain James Cook took scientists and artists, including botanist Joseph Banks, aboard the Endeavor when he explored the South Pacific in 1768. This is just one of many voyages, individuals and discoveries that tell the story of exploration.

Early Europeans Who Explored the Americas” lists explorers and the dates of main expeditions. This activity includes questions to guide students’ research. The instructions on the activity sheet are left to the minimum so teachers can add their own criteria and expected outcome.


Develop Vocabulary
English, Reading, Science, U.S. History

“Word Study: Discover the Roots of Explore and Adventure” ties to the theme of this Post curriculum guide. Although the lead of “Far below, new species emerge” is the springboard from which students are introduced to the etymologies, the Word Study can be used with several of the articles and suggested activities in this curriculum guide.

Before reading the following Washington Post articles, read and discuss the Word Study. Compare and contrast the individuals and endeavors in two to four articles. The articles provide many discussion and academic topics. Related to the etymology focus, questions could include:

• “Far below, new species emerge”:  Who are the explorers in this expedition?

• “Exploring the abyss”: As filmmaker James Cameron solo dives to the ocean floor in Deepsea Challenger, is he an example of an explorer or an adventurer?

• “Man on a mission”: Enric Sala is a “National Geographic explorer — one of the few lucky souls who launch expeditions financed and documented by one of the nation’s most venerable institutions.” What is the job of a 21st-century explorer?

• “Fantastic Voyage”: Matt Rutherford has a goal for his voyage. What is it? In what ways is Rutherford an explorer? An adventurer?


Come to Conclusions
Geography, U.S. History, World History

The assignment teachers give to use the “We Explore” activity sheet may vary. Teachers may ask students to research one explorer — perhaps from those listed in “Early Europeans Who Explored the Americas.”  Students could research an early and a more recent explorer in order to compare and contrast the expeditions. The assignment may be to draw conclusions after classmates have presented reports on different explorers.


Read a Map

Antarctica is a special continent in many ways. Familiarize students with its geographic location, climate and inhabitants before reading many of the articles in this curriculum guide.

Maps of Antarctica are included in this curriculum guide. A detailed map of Antarctica identifies many geographic features and current year-round research stations and the countries that manage them. Questions might include:

• Which islands are the closest to Antarctica? 

• Which South American country is closest to Antarctica?

• Are the geographic and magnetic South Pole at the same location?

• In what mountain range is the Beardmore Glacier located?

• For whom were the following locations named: Bellingshausen Sea, Amundsen Sea, Scott Island, Ross Ice Shelf, Shackleton Ice Shelf and Vinson Massif.


Hunt for the South Pole
Science, World History

As two polar expeditions are commemorated, historians, scientists and the general public are considering the success and failure of both. In the one hundred years since British naval Capt. Robert F. Scott and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen set their sights on the South Pole, who has had a lasting influence?

Eric Niiler in his article, "What Scott Learned” focuses primarily on the Scott expedition. Before reading the article, teachers might introduce Antarctica on maps and discuss how it differs from other continents. Teachers may also discuss the concepts of “curiosity,” “scientific mind,” “expeditions and exploration” and “documentation.”

After students have read the article, teachers could ask students to answer the questions and do the activities found in the worksheet, “He lost the race to the South Pole but made discoveries for science,” found in Antarctica and Scott resources.

For more information on the fifth largest and coldest continent, its explorers and the work being done there, review the previous Post INSIDE curriculum guide, Antarctica


Discover Captain Scott
Geography, Science, World History

Just as the United States has events taking place over four years to commemorate the Civil War, a series of world-wide initiatives commemorate Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910-13 expedition. These events will provide opportunities to study Antarctica then and now, to explore the impact of this and other expeditions, and to investigate expeditions that feature scientific study and discoveries.

In addition to The Washington Post article, a number of online sources may be used to augment students’ understanding of the quest to be first to reach the South Pole. Eyewitness accounts are riveting.  Scott’s Last Expedition, Volume 1, his journals from the polar project, may be downloaded at no charge at Project Gutenberg. If teachers wish to focus on the final days, “Doomed Expedition to the South Pole, 1912” provides the last day’s of Scott’s expedition to the South Pole as recorded in his journal. 

Herbert Ponting, the expedition’s official photographer, taught Scott to use the camera. His and Scott’s photographs have been acquired by the Scott Polar Research Institute. Students could be asked to review the photographs and to write about what it would be like to live there for months.

Teachers may also wish to separate the class into different exploration camps. For example, Scott, Amundsen, Ross and Shackelton. Do the research, then debate the importance of each expedition, including the personality and role of the expedition’s leaders and impact of society and world conditions on the expedition.


Curate an Exhibit
Science, World History

Commemorative exhibitions are planned to remember events, provide perspective and to educate new generations. “Commemorate the Scott Expedition” provides guidelines for creating an exhibit of the Scott Expedition.

Teachers should decide if this project will be done as a mental exercise or if students will create an exhibition — a collection of dioramas, a display case or a virtual exhibit. The previous Post NIE curriculum guide, Museum Musings provides more information on setting up a display.


You've Got To See It

Interview a Dino’s Mom
Biology, Career Education, Geography, Journalism, Mathematics

Students should locate Trieste, in the northeast corner of Italy. Then find Villagio del Pescatore nearby. This is where the story of Antonio, a dinosaur, took place.

A geology student who had been searching in the small fishing village in 1994 made this important find. Newspapers in Italy and around the world covered the story.

In March 2012, students from four third-year classes at Scuola Nazario Sauro di Muggia wanted to meet Tiziana Brazzatti, the graduate student who had made the discovery in a town near their school. All of these students are interested in journalism. Guilia Basili, who hopes to be a journalist, and her classmates read more about Antonio, wrote interview questions and arranged an appointment after school. Their interview was conducted in Italian and translated by Lilia Ambrosi, their teacher, with help from the students who had met with Brazzatti.

Give students “Let’s Meet a Dino’s Mom” to read. Teachers could discuss the interview questions and responses. Questions for discussion would include:

• How do the students’ questions work together to unfold the story of the geology student and the dinosaur?

• Were Tiziana Brazzatti’s descriptions helpful? Explain your answer.

• Do the math to convert meters and centimeters into inches and feet. Now write a comparison of Antonio with an object to communicate the dinosaur’s size.

• What information did students find most interesting? Were they surprised that someone so young could make such an important discovery?

• What did the photographs and illustration add to the interview and story of the discovery?

The illustration is by paleoartist Tullio Perentin whose work includes paleontology projects. Teachers may discuss with students how a major in art can be combined with an interest in science. Career opportunities would include science research illustrator, textbook illustrator, museum and exhibit display artist and paleoartist.

To read about an earlier find in Italy, visit the previous Post INSIDE curriculum guide, The Science in Discovery. Otzi, a frozen mummy, was discovered in 1991; in 2001, x-ray technology revealed his cause of death.


Conduct an Interview
English, Journalism, Science

Which modern explorer would students like to interview? Might this be an astronaut, a scientist doing laboratory work to find a cure, or someone finding ways to produce food in arid environments, for example? After the class has discussed the possibilities, conduct research to learn more about the individual and his or her area of expertise.

Write interview questions, arrange an appointment and conduct the interview.

The interview may be written in Q&A format or as a narrative. Perhaps students could record the interview to prepare a two- to five-minute video or podcast. Or students could take photographs to prepare a photo gallery with captions and voiceovers.


Reach for a Subglacial Lake
Geography, Science, Technology

When weather permits, scientists from across the globe return to Antarctica and various research stations to work. For more than two decades Russian scientists have been drilling into the ice sheet in order to reach Lake Vostok. This exploration is accompanied with interest and controversy.

Read “In Antarctica, drilling into the past” and the February 7, 2012, follow-up article, “Russians drill into lake below ice of Antarctica.” “Research | Lake Vostok,” an e-Replica activity, suggests ways to return to the story when weather conducive to research returns to Antarctica.


Follow a Fantastic Voyage
Geography, Physical Education, Science, Technology

In the Sports section on February 7, 2012, Dave Sheinin reported an attempt to circumnavigate the Americas solo and non-stop. “Fantastic Voyage” is the story of Annapolis sailor Matt Rutherford.

A map of the sea route and vocabulary found in the article is provided in Fantastic Voyages. Before reading the article, familiarize students with the vocabulary and discuss the route Rutherford has taken.

Discussion questions could include:

• Which continents is Rutherford circumnavigating?

• Which are the most treacherous geographic locations on the route?

• Rutherford has the advantage of modern technology on his solo voyage. How have they fared in their combat with natural forces?

• How does Rutherford confront solitude?

• What have been some of the “payoffs” or benefits of the voyage?

• What record has he broken? Was this a goal of his?

• Why might readers value Herb McCormick’s evaluation of Rutherford?

• What reason(s) does Rutherford have for undertaking this voyage?

For enrichment, teachers might review a previous guide, Circumnavigation that focuses on an around the globe sailing race.


Picture It
Art, Biology, Botany, Government, Journalism, Science

Science and photography are linked to document methods, collect data, record discoveries, display landscape, capture weather conditions, render the night sky and reveal deep-sea life. Use “Photography and Science: Seeing to Believe” to introduce the uses of photography in science to illustrate, explain and document. Discuss how the photographs illustrate the concepts. What photographs might students take to illustrate, explain and document science projects? Their current science lesson?

Shining Strands” is an example of a photo essay. Post photographer Linda Davidson through photographs and text explains the appearance of gelatinous strands on the Mattawoman Creek. Through her photo essay, she relates the natural event to science (spring) and government (a recent denial to those wanting to build a highway through the Mattawoman watershed).

• Davidson took wide, medium and close-up shots. How do they work together to tell the story visually?

• In what ways do these photographs illustrate, explain and document natural phenomena?

• What does the caption add?

• What does the text explain?

Students could use the e-Replica thumbnail feature to seek photography-in-science examples. What days are students most likely to find science news articles and features? [Monday, Environment page; Tuesday, Health & Science section]

The Washington Post photo galleries are another source of photographs to illustrate, explain and give evidence of photographers communicating science concepts to readers. Arcus: Internet Media Archive is another resource for photographs. The site is well organized and gives an opportunity to teach students how to appropriately credit their work.


Read About the Sea
English, Marine Biology, Reading, Science, U.S. History

In the spring of 1940, John Steinbeck and his business partner in Pacific Biological Laboratory embarked on the Western Flyer. During the two-month trip, they collected samples and conducted research. A year later Steinbeck wrote Sea of Cortez in which he tells of the expedition in the Gulf of California. Edward Ricketts contributed the 300-page scientific appendix.

Steinbeck’s non-fiction work is just one of the books, essays and poems suggested in “American Sea Writing.”  The works are varied to meet different reading levels, genre and periods of American cultural development.

Teachers may ask students to write a book review similar to those written for Book World. A format and guidelines for writing a book review are found in the past Post guide Reviewing a Whirl of Books.

For more on the relationship of the sea, science and literature, review the previous Washington Post INSIDE curriculum guide The Sea — Rich and Strange.


Name That Species
Botany, English, Latin, Science

Latin has been used for at least 400 years to name plant species. The Washington Post’s Adrian Higgins reports on the recent decision to allow botanists as of January 1, 2012, to use English to name new species. Read “Veni, vidi, vici — and now history: Botany’s new rules allow English to replace Latin in describing species,” originally published on January 19, 2012.

Questions for discussion may include:

• Who made the change to relax the rules that have been in effect since 1908 and actually used since the Renaissance?

• What are the arguments for continuing to use Latin?

• What are the arguments for allowing English to be used?

• If botanists spoke French, German or Chinese, would they be at an advantage or disadvantage with the rule change?

• Which argument do students find most convincing?

Teachers might bring in five to eight different plant specimen. Place the Latin name of each on tags. Ask teams of students to match the scientific name on the tag to the plant. Give one team the name of each plant in English. Are students any more successful in pairing the plant and its name in English?


Read About It

Take Time for Technology
Science, Technology

The British Antarctic Survey has used radar and data from decades of polar expeditions to create the “most accurate and detailed map of the ‘white continent’ ever made.” Study “Beneath the ice, a continent reveals its highs and lows”  How might this information be used?

Lisa Wu, director of the Oceanography & Geophysical Systems Lab at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., has prepared a student activity, discussion questions/quiz and two sets of notes for teachers. Whether for the classroom or for individual student enrichment, the resources are diverse and offer many ways to stimulate student interest.

“Exploring Some Ocean Web Sites” 

• Students may be given “A Few Questions for You: Exploring Some Ocean Web Sites” to accompany the assignment.

“Teacher Notes: Exploring Some Ocean Web Sites”

“Teacher Notes: Okeanos Explorer and More Resources”


Create a Geocache
Geography, Science, Technology

“Create a Geocache,” a NOAA Ocean Explorer lesson, gives another way for middle and high school students to use technology (GPS devices) to find and to bury caches and to report (online and within class groups) discoveries. Students are encouraged to sketch a map during the exploration. This will give students practice in latitude, longitude and map reading while having an adventure.

Lisa Wu, director of the Oceanography & Geophysical Systems Lab at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., has prepared “Teacher Notes: High Tech Treasure Hunting or It’s the Journey, Not the Destination.” Refer to these for more ideas to use this resource.

A past Washington Post NIE guide, Putting Yourself on the Map, includes a KidsPost geocache article and activity.


Imagine Yourself as …
Career Education

Students may be surprised to learn of the wide variety of career paths that lead to involvement in and contribution to science-focused expeditions. “Explore Careers” lists more than 30 fields in which students may major. The activity sheet also suggests several Web sites to visit for internships and volunteer opportunities.

Various career paths are referred to in several of the articles in this curriculum guide and focus. Read “Far below, new species emerge,” "What Scott Learned" and “Man on a mission.” 


Learn About a More Recent Challenge
Journalism, Oceanography, Science, Technology

In the 100-year-anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, filmmaker James Cameron engaged in a solo dive in Deepsea Challenger to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Read “Exploring the abyss."

• What was Cameron’s goal for the dive?

• What did he observe?

• What problems did he incur?

• What does the 1960 dive of the Trieste have to do with Cameron’s dive?

• Which frontier does Cameron hope to “open up” to science?

• Evaluate Cameron’s dive — exploration or adventure, success or failure, way to get personal attention or greater public awareness?


Set Sail with our Modern Explorers
Career Education, Economics, Government, Marine Biology, Science

Do you wonder what it would be like to visit Earth’s North and South Poles today?  It is perhaps as simple as a click on PolarTREC.  Here you can visit a virtual base camp, join live webinars and question explorers during the actual expedition, find resources for the classroom and materials that students can use to do their own research. 

For example, you can meet the expedition team, find out where they are, what they are doing, and read their on-going journals as the expedition is happening. You can also read archived expeditions that have happened in the past. Because these are treks to both polar regions, expeditions will include Arctic and Antarctic explorations.

In 1981, Fondation Cousteau (later Equipe Cousteau) was established in France. From this base of supporters, Jacque Cousteau launched a worldwide petition campaign in 1990 to save Antarctica from mineral exploitation. His effort was successful: The Antarctic continent is protected for at least 50 years.

Cousteau was the childhood hero of a Spanish boy who is featured in “Man on a mission” by Juliet Eilperin. Originally published August 23, 2011, the article relates the story of National Geographic’s Enric Sala who is a trained marine biologist and 21st-century explorer. In addition to learning about the career of Sala, view his incredible photography found in “Enric Sala, underseas explorer, a photo gallery of Sala’s underwater discoveries.”

“Man on a mission” is really about an institute’s transformation, giving insight into the contemporary endeavors of The National Geographic, a Washington-based institution that “no longer simply showcases stunning photographs and stories of the planet’s most remote places, but now acts on their behalf.” Discuss with students the stories of the scientists who are included and the current projects of the National Geographic. Begin with the question related by Terry Garcia: “Do you really want us to simply chronicle the demise of the planet?”


Venture to Deep-Sea Vents
Oceanography, Science

Oceanographers have discovered new life-forms just north of Antarctica. How can thousands of species of crab, barnacle, anemone, snail and starfish exist in frigid water? To find out, read “Far below, new species emerge: Deep-sea vents near Antarctica nourish life-forms that leave scientists amazed.” 

Teachers may wish to review the vocabulary in In the Know before students begin reading the article written by a former oceanographer. These terms appear in the article.

Discussion might include the following questions:

• Locate the Southern Ocean on a map. Which countries and continents touch it?

• What does it mean to be “geologically active”?

• How do species survive in the depths of oceans?

• Who are the contemporary patrons of explorers?

• Several science-related professions are presented in the article. What does each of these do: biologist, deep-sea biologist, geochemist, geologist, oceanographer?

In The Know 
Appendage Hostile
Assemblage Hydrothermal 
Bacteria Pristine
Biological zone Remote
Connectivity Remotely operated vehicle
Deep-sea vent Species
Ecological system Storm swell
Genetic Swarm
Geologically active Thicket
Habitat Treacherous

ANSWERS. Map Study


• Which islands are the closest to Antarctica?  Peter I Island, Scott Island, Balleny Islands, South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands

• Which South American country is closest to Antarctica? Argentina

• Are the geographic and magnetic South Pole at the same location? No

• In what mountain range is the Beardmore Glacier located? Transantarctic Mountains

• For whom were the following locations named: Bellingshausen Sea, Russian explorer Fabian Bellingshausen; Amundsen Sea, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen; Scott Island, Capt. Robert Scott; Ross Ice Shelf, explorer James Ross who discovered it in 1841; Shackleton Ice Shelf, explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton; and Vinson Massif, Representative Carl Vinson (D-Georgia)


ANSWERS. KidsPost. Think About It

1. Teachers will tell students how to indicate the countries; all are named on the map provided.

2. Answers will include providing a place for animals to survive.

3. Teachers will need to explain that Myanmar and Burma are names of the same country.

4. An endangered animal is at risk of becoming extinct.

5. Answers will vary.


ANSWERS. Exploring Some Ocean Web Sites

1. Western

2. West

3. East

4. Answers will vary based on current conditions. Productivity will change seasonally. It is influenced by sunlight, angle to the Earth, duration of daylight, rainfall and nutrients.

5. Answers will vary depending on student selection.

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

Science: Explain that technology is essential to science for such purposes as measurement, data collection, graphing and storage, computation, communication and assessment of information, and access to outer space and other remote locations. (Science and Technology, Grade 6, 6.2 Broad Concept 2)


Biology: Describe how the physical or chemical environment may influence the rate, extent, and nature of the way organisms develop within ecosystems. (Ecosystems, B.17.4)


Social Studies: Students use maps, globes, atlases, and other technologies to acquire and process information about people, places, and environments. (World Geography and Cultures, Grade 6, 6.1, Broad Concept)


World History: Students describe the rise of English Colonial Empires.

1. Identify the voyages of discovery, the locations of the routes, and the influence of cartography in the development of a new European worldview (Era V: Early Modern Times to 1850, Grade 9, 9.10)

2. Describe the goals and extent of Dutch, English, French, and Spanish settlements in the Americas (Era V: Early Modern Times to 1850, Grade 9, 9.10)


Learning Standards for DCPS are found online at http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/In+the+Classroom/What+Students+Are+Learning

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Science: Develop explanations that explicitly link data from investigations conducted, selected readings and, when appropriate, contributions from historical discoveries.

c. Give examples of how scientific knowledge is subject to modification as new information challenges prevailing theories and as a new theory leads to looking at old observations in a new way. (Skills & Processes, Communicating Scientific Information, Grades 6-8)


Life Science: Recognize and describe that evolutionary change in species over time occurs as a result of natural variation in organisms and environmental changes.

b. Recognize that adaptations may include variations in structures, behaviors, or physiology, such as spiny leaves on a cactus, birdcalls, and antibiotic resistant bacteria.


Technology: Develop an understanding of the nature, characteristics and scope of technology (ITEA, STL 1)

Explain that technology incorporates human knowledge into physical hardware that will eventually respond to some human need or desire.

Explain that new products and systems can be developed to solve problems or to help do things that could not be done without the help of technology. (ITEA, STL 1-F


Social Studies: Use geographic tools to locate places and describe the human and physical characteristics of those places (Standard 3, Indicator 1, Grade 4)


Reading: Students will use a variety of strategies and opportunities to understand word meaning and to increase vocabulary (Standard 1.0, Topic D)


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at http://mdk12.org/assessments/vsc/index.html.

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

U.S. History: The student will demonstrate knowledge of European exploration in North America and West Africa by

a)  describing the motivations for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English explorations; (Exploration to Revolution: Pre-Columbian Times to the 1770s, US1.4)


U.S. History, Geography: The student will use maps, globes, photographs, pictures or tables to

a)   locate the seven continents and five oceans; (US1.2)


U.S. History, Skills: The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis and responsible citizenship, including the ability to

b) make connections between the past and present;

d) interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives;

f) analyze and interpret maps to explain relationships among landforms, water features, climatic characteristics, and historical events;

g) distinguish between parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude; U.S.1.1


Latin: The student will reinforce and broaden knowledge of connections between Latin and other subject areas.

2. Relate topics studied in other subject areas to those studied in Latin class, such as the use of Latin words in scientific and legal terminology or the importance of archaeology as a tool for reconstructing the past. (Latin 3, LIII.4)


English: The student will read and demonstrate comprehension of nonfiction (5.6)


Standards of Learning currently in effect for Virginia Public Schools can be found online at www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/index.shtml