Columbus Day Lessons

In 2009 students can celebrate Columbus Day on October 12th. Here are a few ideas that you can use to supplement your curriculum and add fun activities to your regular school days. These ideas are generally fit for elementary school age kids but we have found that even tweens have fun and these ideas can be adapted and done on a larger scale for middle school and high school students.

Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year. This holiday is great for history, geography, sociology and for certain science projects.
History: Teach about the life of Christopher Columbus. Great questions to foster great group conversations are: What was Columbus trying to discover? Was it easy for him to find someone to fund his trip? What was his birth name? What did his father do for a living and what country was he born in? If you were sailing with Columbus what would you want to take with you?
Geography: Chart by coordinates the path that Columbus took to the “New World”. Have students make their own map of the “New World”. Show and talk about where Columbus landed when he got to North America. Talk about where he was supposed to land.
Sociology: Discuss with students what the current customs were for people like Columbus in his day. Talk about how this differed from the customs, language, way of life, art, and music of the Native Americans that they met when they got to North America.
Science: Since corn is often affiliated with the crops of the Native Americans you can make your own popcorn by starting early in the season with fresh corn and go through the whole process. You can also discuss corn and how it grows and all the ways we use it today including as an alternative energy source.
The possibilities with Columbus Day are endless. Most students love learning about the ships, the travel, the customs and the whole overall story of Columbus. This is the perfect time of year to get them excited about these things. It is also a great time to discuss how immigrants brought diseases to North America that were not originally native to here. This can even lead into conversations about where viruses like H1N1 have originated and how they got here. This also lends itself to discussions about how we fight these diseases and the importance of immunizations on a global scale.