CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Geography's Influence on Exploration of the Northwest Passage

History, Social Studies, Geography
3 lessons
To examine the impact of geography on exploration of the Northwest Passage
Students create a poster to send to a would-be explorer of the Northwest Passage, warning of the challenges to exploration created by the geography of the region.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Ask students to sketch the mental image they have of the region in which the Northwest Passage is located. Suggest they include the coastline along the mainland of Canada as well as any islands. Have students name any land features they know, as well as bodies of water. Give students time to complete their maps and then show a map of the region. Have students consider how accurate their maps were. Point out and discuss some of the major physical features of the region. Share ideas about the climate.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic Breaking the Ice: Canada and the Northwest Passage on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have them browse the clips 'The northern quest begins,' 'The mysterious Franklin disappearance,' ;Amundsen, Nansen and Canadian sovereignty,' 'St. Roch crew member tells about making history' and 'The Arctic Grail.'  They will read the text for these clips and gather information from the internet and other traditional resources in order to identify geographic factors that had an impact on explorations of the Northwest Passage. Have students work in pairs or triads to compare their conclusions.

Each pair or triad will create a poster to send to a would-be explorer of the Northwest Passage. The poster would warn of the challenges created by the geography of the region.

Revisit and Reflect

Gather students and have a representative from each group present its poster. Allow them to discuss and question each group's choice. Ask: Do you think this poster would have influenced explorers? Why or why not?

Assessment Tip: Ask individual students to explain the significance of his or her group's poster.


Students can draw a map that shows the routes taken by the various explorers in search of the Northwest Passage. Maps should include at least one symbol or drawing to represent an important aspect of each exploration.

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