Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

This resource was created by Alice Murphy in collaboration with Leeds Museums and Galleries Discovery Centre.

This learning story looks at the stories of two explorers from the Leeds area,  the genderisation of exploration and technical gear, and touches on some of the impacts and legacies of explorers from the British Empire.

Curriculum Links

  • KS1 Geography: Use world maps, atlasses and globes to identify countries, continents and oceans.
  • KS2 Geography:  Identify the postition and significance of the Arctic and Antarctic
  • KS1 History:  The lives of significant individuals in the past
  • KS3 History: Ideas, industry, political power and empire, Britain 1745 - 1901 


Discussion Ideas

  • Why do people like to travel to other places?  List as many reasons as you can think of.
  • Why was it more difficult for women in the past to be independent and travel if they wanted to?
    • Do you think Isabella Bird would have been able to travel if she hadn't been from a wealthy family?
  • Compare Scott’s planning and equipment, with Amundsen’s team from Norway, who beat Scott to the South Pole.  How well did Scott's team prepare for the expedition compared to Amundsen's? 
  • What three words would you use to describe:
    • Isabella Bird?
    • Captain Oates?


Activity Ideas

  •  Isabella Bird wrote books that described her explorations. Her writings offered rich descriptions of the places she visited, and who she met on the way. They were often accompanied with photographs and illustrations.
    • Write a diary entry describing the best adventure you have been on. You can include drawings of what you saw, as well as a map of your travels.
  • Imagine you’re back in the late nineteenth century. You are a reporter working for a newspaper, and you have been sent to interview Isabella Bird about her most recent trip. She has just come back from a far-away place that you, and most of your readers, know nothing about and will not have the chance to visit. What questions would you ask her?  This could also be done as a ‘hot seat’ activity.
  • Many have followed in Scott’s footsteps, but recent expeditions to the Antarctic are very different from the Terra Nova. Keeping in mind the problems that Scott and his team faced, how will advancements in technology and science have changed the experience for explorers to the South Pole? See Supporting Links for resources that might help.
    • Differences to consider: diet/nutrition, equipment, clothing, communication.


  • Repatriation debate. Read the list of statements below (or download a copy) which put forward reasons for/against returning artefacts acquired unfairly or illegally during the colonial era (repatriation).
    • For each statement, decide whether it is for or against repatriation.
    • Which statements do you find convincing and why?
    • Can you think of any other reasons that support your view?
    • Hold a class debate using the statements below and other arguments for or against decolonisation of museum collections. Take a class vote at the end of the debate.
  1. “Museums get millions of visitors each year which gives lots of people the chance to see these objects are learn about them”
  2. “In many cases, white male colonizers took artefacts that they did not have permission to take. Like any stolen goods, they should be returned”
  3. “Many collections are now digitised, so no matter where you are in the world, you can view them online. We don’t need the ‘real thing’ anymore”
  4. “Think about tourism and the amount of money it brings in!”
  5. “Decolonisation and repatriation of our museum collections offers a way to apologize for past behaviour”.
  6. “National treasures taken without consent should not be in displayed in a museum of another country”
  7. “If we start returning artefacts, where will it end? We won’t have anything left to display!”
  8. “Our museums are more advanced here and we can keep the artefacts safe and stored correctly. They might not be so well looked after in the country they came from.”
  9. "'It is wrong to assume that the countries from which the objects originated would not have the right resources to look after the objects"