1. Build background on Henry Hudson and his explorations.
Draw a 5Ws chart on the board. Ask students to share anything they already know about explorer Henry Hudson and his voyages. Write their ideas in the chart under Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

2. Watch and discuss the video “Hudson Arrives at the River.”
Tell students they will watch a video of a contemporary historian discussing Henry Hudson and his voyages. Watch the video. Then check students’ comprehension. Ask:

  • Before 1608, how did the Dutch and other European explorers get to China when traveling by boat? (by traveling around the southern part of Africa)
  • Why did the Dutch East India Company hire Henry Hudson? (to find a cheaper, quicker route to get to China over water)
  • Why did Henry Hudson spend a month exploring the Hudson River? (Hudson was looking for a passage to the Pacific Ocean and was intrigued by the tidal river, which led him to believe it might be the passage he was looking for.)

Make sure students understand: that explorers wanted to find an overseas route from Europe to China; the economic incentives to find faster and safer routes than sailing around Africa; and why Hudson spent so long exploring the Hudson River.

3. Have students retrace the routes of Henry Hudson’s voyages onto maps.
Distribute the worksheet Hudson’s Exploration Routes. Explain to students that they will create a map of Henry Hudson’s voyage to North America from Europe. Point out the map key. Ask students to apply the elements from the map key to the map, placing the voyage routes in their correct locations. Also have students label the present-day locations of China and India, and remind them that these are two of the regions in Asia that Henry Hudson was trying to reach. Point out to students the Arctic Ocean and talk about the possible northern routes that Hudson was trying to find, either around North America or the Eurasian continent. Explain to students that these northern seas are covered with ice much of the year, and only in modern times have sailors and navigators been able to use these routes, assisted with improved navigation technologies and ocean vessels.

Informal Assessment

Use the provided answer key to review students' completed maps for accuracy and all essential elements. Then check students' comprehension. Ask:

  • Where did Henry Hudson intend to travel? (Hudson intended to find the quickest and easiest passage to Asia, specifically to China.)
  • Where did he actually end up exploring? (Hudson sailed into the Arctic Ocean in the far north and finally to North America, including present-day Canada, the United States, and New York.)

Extending the Learning

Have students use library or Internet resources to research the exploration routes of Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s and apply these routes to a map. Students can use the same map used in the activity, or they can use a new map for a side-by-side comparison. Columbus sailed on four journeys from Spain, searching for Asia. Students can compare and contrast the routes, landings, and results of Columbus's explorations with those of Hudson.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • use maps to analyze and interpret Henry Hudson's exploration routes
  • apply data to a map using a map key

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Hands-on learning
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

  • Theme 3:  People, Places, and Environments

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 17:  How to apply geography to interpret the past

National Standards for History

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Colored pencils

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
  • Plug-Ins: Flash

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

Henry Hudson captained three distinct sea voyages in the early 1600s while trying to find an overseas trade route from Europe to Asia. At that time in history, the overland route through Europe and Asia and the existing maritime route around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa were both long and dangerous. So a new, shorter maritime route to the spice and silk regions of present-day Asia was desirable. Merchant companies and monarchs in western Europe paid captains like Henry Hudson large sums of money to look for these new routes to open up trade. Henry Hudson did not succeed in reaching Asia; however, he did explore the North Atlantic Ocean, Greenland, Iceland, parts of North America, and he famously sailed up the Hudson River as far as current-day Albany, New York. Hudson's multiple routes show the navigational challenges explorers faced during their voyages, as well as the success they had in reaching new parts of the globe.

Prior Knowledge

  • reading and interpreting a map

Recommended Prior Activities



one of the seven main land masses on Earth.


having to do with money.


person who studies unknown areas.

map element

data displayed in a spatial representation of information, such as distance and scale.


location across an ocean.

Pacific Ocean

one of Earth's four oceans, bordered by North America, South America, Australia, Asia, and Antarctica.


path or way.

tidal river

river whose flow is affected by ocean tides.


long journey or trip.