AP History Students Adopt the Personality of Famous Explorers

SM West AP History Students
Shawnee MIssion School District

Explorers from the 15th and 16th century came to life this fall in the Shawnee Mission West library media center.

Sophomores in Amanda Sherraden’s Advanced Placement History class added a new dimension to a traditional report about explorers. After conducting research, they wrote a script with a partner. One student took on the persona of the explorer and shared facts about their voyage or exploration. The other student represented an indigenous person or shipmate to provide a different point of view of the explorers’ discovery or expedition.

The students presented explorer skits to their classmates throughout the library media center and included Hernan Cortez, Francisco Pizarro, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Ferdinand Magellan, Juan Diaz, and Vasco da Gama.

“I aspire to be like Christopher Columbus,” a student playing Hernan Cortez stated. “I sunk my own ship so no one could escape, and my jealous shipmates perished.” Indigenous citizens who originally supported and followed Cortez became captives when he overthrew the Aztec Empire.

Audience members learned facts and information they may not have previously known after hearing from shipmates, servants, or native citizens and how they were treated by their famous explorer.

“The alternative point of view was important to this assignment because in elementary school students tend to learn very limited information about Christopher Columbus and other explorers,” Sherraden noted.

“For the most part, the explorers were not nice,” Katherine Lawlor, sophomore said. “They were not accepting of people who were different and didn’t like to try change. They were most interested in money and fame.”