Explorers (KS2)

How did explorers get by in places where they didn’t speak the language or understand the local customs? How and why did they record their experiences?

This pack introduces the realities of life at sea for two young, inexperienced explorers and complements studies of other seafaring explorers such as Shackleton and Sir Francis Drake.

Learning aims

The activities in this pack are focused on KS2 literacy, history, art and geography. They use primary sources as a starting point and encourage pupils to become explorers in their daily lives. Pupils will develop their skill in observing, questioning, recording and communicating daily discoveries.

We’ve suggested a few activities that fit well with KS2 literacy, art and geography but you could use the sources any way you like.

What's in this resource?

  • Overview stories of the explorers William Gooch and Omai
  • An image bank that includes transcribed letters and journals written by the astronomer William Gooch and 18th-century paintings, prints and writings relating to Omai, a Tahitian explorer
  • Activity suggestions and ideas for ways you could use these resources in the classroom

Image bank

Download all images and information (Powerpoint), or click images below to download as pdfs. 

Joseph BanksJoseph Banks  Giving presentsMeeting Marquesans  Marquesas Resolution Bay CookCaptain Cook 
ChiefA chief of Otahitoo SailorsA ship scene  SeasickSeasickness Marquesas mapMap of Porto Praya Bay
UlieteaUlietea WeevilsA minibeast feast Omai Omai DaedalusDaedalus 
Haircuts and tattoosHaircuts and tattoos  Stealing from DaedalusStealing from Daedalus  Trading foodTrading food  Helping outHelping out 

Different perspectives

KS2 English: Speaking and listening, understanding texts and composition

William Gooch wrote detailed descriptions in his journal of arriving in the Marquesas islands and meeting the local people. But we don’t have any record of what the Marquesans thought. In this activity, pupils write accounts of the event from the Marquesan point-of-view.

• Activity outline (doc)
• William’s story (doc)
• William’s journey (pdf)
• Alphabet bingo sheets (pdf)

Postcards home

KS2 English: composition

A literacy activity for younger KS2 pupils. Use these postcard templates of places William and Omai visited as a starting point for creative writing.

• Activity outline (doc)
• Postcard template (pdf)

Explaining customs

KS2 English: Composition

Omai hitched a lift to Britain from Tahiti. When he arrived, he didn’t speak much English, and knew very little of British customs and way of life. This activity invites pupils to imagine meeting Omai and explain their daily lives to him.

• Activity outline (doc)
• Omai’s story (doc)
• Journal template (pdf)

Mapping the Hazards

KS2 Geography: 2e. draw plans and maps at a range of scales

Astronomers like William Gooch made better maps to improve the safety of travelling at sea. In this activity, pupils map hazards closer to home.

• Activity outline (doc)

Portrait detectives

KS2 History: Historical enquiry and KS2 Art and Design: explore a range of starting points for practical work

Omai had his portrait painted, but William Gooch never did. Why? Portraits have many hidden clues that can help us understand more about the person shown in them. Pupils will analyse portraits before making their own.

• Activity outline (doc)
• Detective questions (doc)