Christopher Columbus is an icon in history, and a wonderful explorer to study in your homeschool program. Here are some ways to incorporate lessons on Columbus, as well as other explorers, into all grade level lesson plans.
For the children that are Pre-K to Grade One, telling the story of Christopher Columbus using props is a fun idea. Show the children a real globe, and ask them their thoughts on the shape of the world. Trace Columbus's route with the children and discuss how he must have felt making such an expedition. Vocabulary words like bravery and explorer are appropraite to introduce. Next sing a song to honor Columbus to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb":
Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
Ocean blue, ocean blue.
Columbus sailed the ocean blue
In the year 1492.
He sailed to find riches and gold,
Riches and gold, riches and gold.
He sailed to find riches and gold
In the year 1492.
He was brave and had three ships,
Had three ships, had three ships.
He was brave and had three ships
In the year 1492.
Early Elementary students will enjoy learning about Columbus's story and travels. There are many books for your children to read aloud with you, like the Step Into Reading Christopher Columbus book. Before reading the story ask your child to predict what they think might happen in the story, like where they think he will explore and how long it will take. A wonderful Weekly Reader site is online and offers a simple read along story of Columbus's voyage, as well a a quiz and print out. There is an easy ship craft at First School to print and assemble as well.
Older Elementary students will enjoy hearing not only about Columbus, but also about all of the other explorers. The Usborne Book of Explorers is a resource I use at home with my ten year old son. The text is enjoyable, offers interesting facts, and has fun pictures. There are also many maps of the explorers' voyages and unusual details about the explorers featured. A comical yet interesting book older readers might enjoy is "You Wouldn't Want to Sail With Christopher Columbus!: Uncharted Waters You'd Rather Not Cross". This book adds a twist into the experience Columbus endured, and offers a peek into the rather un-glamorous life of an early explorer. Use the idea of early travels of explorers as a way to teach "needs" versus "wants". Instruct your child to make a list of items the three ships of Columbus needed to explore the new world. Go through the list together determining what items your child listed that were real needs for the crew, and what are classified as wants. My son rationalized that exotic spices were a need as they could be used to trade for goods when they found land. I enjoy letting him use critical thought to determine an answer to a question. Challenge your homeschooler to do the same!
Middle and high school students will most likely have heard the tales of Columbus and early explorers. Offer a popcorn and movie afternoon and view a Christopher Columbus Biography- an AE presentation. Discuss the facts and opinions offered in the program as a family. Many of the dvds from AE have corresponding lesson plans and ideas online, so be sure to check out their site for current supplemental information. An essay topic, such as "If I were an Explorer" would be a fun challenge for creative writing. Have your child write not only why they would like to explore a particular area, but also what they would hope to gain from their adventure.
However you choose to incorporate Christopher Columbus and early exploration into your curriculum, you can be sure that these classic historical accounts remain timeless and interesting.