Marco Polo Takes A Trip

During the Middle Ages, most people in Europe spent their entire lives in the village where they were born. But in the 13th century, a young Italian named Marco Polo traveled all the way to China! He spent 17 years as a member of the court of Mongol emperor Kublai Khan. After he returned to Italy, he recorded his experiences in a book, sparking a surge in interest in the Far East among Europeans that led to a great age of exploration.

In this lesson, students will learn about the remarkable travels of Marco Polo. They will consult maps to locate Venice and follow the routes Marco took to Beijing and back. They will learn about the challenges of traveling along the Silk Road, discover some interesting facts about China under Mongol rule, and find out how Marco came to produce his famous book. Then they will work in groups to create a large mural/timeline of the life and adventures of this famous traveler.

Guiding Questions

Who was Marco Polo?

Why did he travel to China? What was it like to travel along the Silk Road? What was China like in the 13th century?

How did Marco Polo get back home?

Why did he write a book, and why is this book important?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to: Identify Marco Polo and understand why he took his trip

Indicate on a map the routes Marco took to China and back

Describe the challenges of traveling along the Silk Road

List several interesting aspects of 13th century Chinese culture

Explain the circumstances in which Marco's book was written and understand the influence the book had upon the European public

Special Materials for Mural/Timeline: A large piece of butcher paper, preferably about three feet wide and twelve to fourteen feet long; tacks or tape for affixing the butcher paper to the wall or a bulletin board; colored markers; about a cup of sand (optional); glue sticks (optional)