Grade 6 SS/ELA Home
Overview Lesson 1 Lesson 2 Lesson 3 Lesson 4
Lesson 5 Lesson 6 Lesson 7 Glossary

Lesson 7: Trade Leads to Exploration


Students will explore some common spices we use today and learn about their origins. They will map the locations of these countries or origin, and discuss the impact these spices had both on the emergence of sea trade in Europe during the Renaissance and how that led to further exploration.
Suggested time allowance: 3 class periods


  • SS 3.1: Students will investigate why people and places are located where they are located and what patterns can be perceived in these locations. Students will describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places. Students will map information about people, places and environments.
  • SS 3.2: Students will use a number of research skills to locate and gather geographical information about issues and problems. Students will present geographic information in a variety of formats, including maps, tables, graphs, charts, diagrams and computer-generated models.
  • SS 2.2: Students will study about major turning points in world history by investigating the causes and other factors that brought about change and the results of these changes.
  • SS 2.3: Students will investigate the roles and contributions of individuals and groups in relation to key social, political, cultural, and religious practices throughout world history.
  • RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • WHST.6-8.7: Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • WHST.6-8.8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Enduring Understandings:

  • The modern world emerged because of a powerful combination of events and advances in humanism, economy/trade, politics/government and technology (inventions and science)
  • Technological developments trigger turning points in history.

Essential Questions:

  • How and why did the countries of Europe begin to become a part of the global marketplace?
  • Did exploration change history?

Background for Teachers:

Although navigation was still an imprecise science, sailors were able to go farther than they had before. This was important because as the economy of the Renaissance continued to improve, there were ever-increasing demands for imported goods and new places to export local products. For traders, sailing proved to be a better option than traveling by land, as the network of roads that crisscrossed Europe was poor, and the few good roads that did exist were frequented by thieves.)

The Renaissance sailor first took to the seas to supply Europeans with the many Asian spices, introduced during the Crusades, they demanded. Peppercorns, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon all came from lands to the east. Also from the East came precious gems and fine silk, a fabric especially sought after for women's clothing. These trading voyages were often paid for by investors.

During the Middle Ages, Europeans grew fresh produce within their own farms and villages, and few people travelled far from their manors. This began to change for several reasons. Peoples, like the Norse who lived in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark had a difficult time growing crops because of the rocky areas. The northern areas usually had ice and snow throughout most of the year. So, some of the Norse became fishermen and traveled in their boats to places like Italy, Russia, Iceland and Greenland.

Some Europeans, like Marco Polo, went to Asia, and some merchants continue to trade on the Silk Road. Some Christian Europeans traveled to Palestine to worship. Because of the Moslem/Christian conflict over control of Jerusalem, the Crusaders left home to fight in the Holy Land. During their time in the Middle East, they learned about the new land and the goods and riches to which Europeans had no access. The Crusaders wanted these Asian goods like spices, jewels, perfumes, and fine silks, and brought them back to Europe. Merchants began buying these goods and selling them in fairs throughout Europe. Soon towns and cities grew. Cities like Venice and Genoa in Italy grew rich and powerful.

With this beginning, the idea of trade began. Trade over water routes soon became possible because of the recent technological inventions.


Resources/materials for this lesson:


Day 1

1. Preload the URLs for the “Spice Encyclopedia,” “McCormick’s Spice Field Reports” and “Enspicelopedia” in the Student Share drive.

2. Create small cooperative groups.

3. Give each group a baggie with a sample of spices to identify using their senses and the “What Spice is This” graphic organizer (included)

4. Have students chart their findings on the “What Spice is This” graphic organizer. (included)

5. Have each group share with the whole class, concentrating on origins and history. How have spices changed history? What did they discover? Why do they think these spices were so important?

6. Distribute an outline map of the world. Model using the SMART Notebook lesson. (included)

7. Students will create, with their team, a visual map that shows where the spices you explored are located.

8. Assign homework contained in the SMART Notebook lesson.

Days 2 and 3

1. Share maps and homework students have completed.

2. Group students in new cooperative groups. Ask the students to look for patterns. What do they notice about the locations of most of the spices? Share with whole class.

3. Conduct a “Read Aloud” (included) to have students learn about some new trade routes in 1400s using their color pencils, maps and atlases to chart the voyages. (Additional directions on attachment) Use the SMART Notebook lesson.

4. Student groups will complete their explorers’ route map cooperatively.

5. Show students the map of the ancient spice trade. ????? Compare.

Day 4

1. Distribute the “Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer.” (included) Tell students to use the resources they have created over the last few days and the “Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer” and use the think-pair-share strategy to consider the big ideas.

  • On their own, using any of their resources, the students should try to list some causes and effects of the Age of Exploration.
  • After a set amount of time, each student should meet with a partner, discuss their ideas and add to their lists.
  • Students should then come back into small groups to share their responses and add other’s ideas onto their notes.

2. Conduct a whole class discussion.

3. Exit Ticket: Which explorer did you find most interesting? Why?


  • Completed maps clearly depicting the origins of spices and the spice routes of ancient and later times.
  • Day 1 homework assignment should reflect the enduring understandings.
  • Completed explorers’ route map outlining their expansion into the Western Hemisphere.
  • Completed “Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer.”

Extension assessment:

Create a R.A.F.T.S. assignment to extend the writing.

  • Role: a seafaring explorer
  • Audience: Your benefactors
  • Format: letter
  • Topic: The exploration!
  • Strong Verb: expressing

You are a seafaring explorer writing a letter to your benefactors expressing how you will need more money for your next voyage. You will need to prove that your current voyage has been successful.


  • Age of Exploration - the period of European exploration overseas from about 1400 to 1600.
  • Cape of Good Hope - the southern tip of Africa
  • circumnavigate - to sail or fly completely around something, such as Earth
  • origin - the most basic source
  • Strait of Magellan - a waterway near the southern tip of South America

Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum (Grade 6)
©Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Curriculum & Instructional Services
Last revised July 4, 2012