I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.
This is part 2 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on Explorers. Go on a compass treasure hunt, eat sailor food, jump across the parts of a caravel ship, act out Columbus' journey, and more! My lessons are geared toward 2nd-3rd grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op group. We meet each for 2 1/2 hours and have 14 children between the ages of 0-11. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, homeschool co-op group, after school program, or camp!
Introduction & Continents
1) Opening: Stretch. Pray. Discuss Matthew 6:33.
2) Review continents and oceans and sing continent song (sung to tune of "Love & Marriage" 2x). Point to the continents and oceans on a map as you sing the song. (I used the world map from the book It's a Big Big World by Brierly.)
North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa
Don't Forget Antarctica
Or way down under in Australia
Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian, Arctic, Southern Oceans
North Pole, South Pole, Equator
I know all about maps and globes
3) Quickly review Leif Ericson and Marco Polo.
Prince Henry the Navigator
4) Use Prince Henry the Navigator by Leonard Everett Fisher to introduce Prince Henry the Navigator & how he wanted to go to China but couldn't get past the Isthmus of Suez (show on map). Talk about navigation school & compass. Briefly mention Diaz. Prince Henry the Navigator provided the 3 T's that spurred on the Age of Exploration: training for sailors and captains, development of navigational tools, and provided the treasury by financing many voyages to search for an all-water route to the Indies.
5) Show how to use a compass. Divide into 3 or 4 teams (led by moms) and go on a treasure hunt together (i.e. walk four paces north, fifteen paces west, etc.). Treasure will be a bag of beef jerky and raisins (sailor food).
TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: pre-written treasure hunt directions, bag of beef jerky, raisins, cups for water
6) Talk about the development of Caravel ship and show pictures in a book (such as Ship by David Macaulay) or show the parts on a toy or model ship if you have one. Go over ship parts.
TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: picture/drawing of a caravel ship or a toy or model ship (any type of ship so long as it has sails)
7) Go outside where Caravel ship has been pre-dawn in chalk (16x50 feet - the size of the Nina) & play "Captain says" to review ship parts (like Simon says -- so the kids will walk to whichever part of the chalk drawing you tell them to go to).
Captain says walk to the:
Keel (bottom spine)
-Captain says hop to the:
Mainmast (middle mast)
Mizzen sail (back sail)
Crow's nest (lookout at top of mainmast)
-Captain says run to the:
Rudder (in back of ship, used to steer)
Helm (steering wheel)
-Captain says skip to the:
Fore sail (front sail)
-Captain says walk to the:
Mainsail (middle sail)
Keel (bottom spine)
-Captain says hop to the:
Starboard side (right)
Aft of the boat (back toward the stern)
Port side (left)
-Captain says run to the:
-Captain says to sit on the:
Hull (main part of the ship)
TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: sidewalk chalk
Great Picture Books on Columbus
8) Have children make they own "caravel ship" using the materials provided. We allowed the children to create them however they desired.
TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: materials for children to use to make caravel ships (Styrofoam trays, dixie cups, pieces of cloth, chopsticks or wooden skewers), play-doh or clay, tape, scissors, and glue
Christopher Columbus & Review
9) Show map of world and cover up North & South America. That's what Europe knew of the world. Have the children take their copy of the world map and curl the map around into a cylinder shape to cover up North and South America. At the time of Columbus, people knew the world was round. They just thought it was smaller than it really is. They didn't realize there were 2 continents (North & South America) between Europe and Asia when you sail West. Have children trace Columbus's route on the map.
TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: 1 printed world map per child & 1 writing utensil per child
10) Read "Christopher Columbus" by Stephen Krensky or "The Story of Christopher Columbus" by Anita Ganeri.
11) (Video Record this if desired) Act out Columbus' journey: Put crowns on boy & girl & post them on "thrones" (chairs) in Spain. Columbus approaches King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella wanting money for a voyage overseas. Christopher Columbus selects everyone else to sail with him to tell the people of India about Jesus and to get gold to repay King & Queen. Kneel on 3 bath towels (the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) placed on the floor. Place these on the carpet, the Atlantic Ocean. Make sure they know the year was 1492. Stage an almost mutiny as the men lose heart but have Christopher ask them to hang in there for a few more days. When they discover land, everyone is so excited. Have them plant a cross on the "beach." Afterward ask, "Why did Columbus call the people Indians? Why did Columbus name his discovery San Salvador instead of Ferdinand Land Or Isabellville?" (The name of the island is Holy Savior, San Salvador.)
TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: 2 crowns, 1 pirate hat (a captain hat for Columbus), 3 bath towels, cross
12) Watch some or all of the DVD Christopher Columbus: Animated Hero Classics by Nest Entertainment.
TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: DVD on Columbus and TV or computer that can play DVD
13) 5 Minute Review of what we learned.
14) Assign explorers for explorer night & explain what to prepare.
More Great Children's Books on Christopher Columbus
Also look for Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz, which is a longer picture book on Columbus, but it provides such interesting information that even my 4 year old sat through us reading the book. Columbus by Edgar Parin D'Aulaire. This has great pictures for showing to a group, but some of the information is not consistent with what I've read in other books. The Story of Christopher Columbus (DK Reader Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone) by Anita Ganeri is also good. We also included in our readings the picture book Adventures of the Treasure Fleet: China Discovers the World by Ann Martin Bowler, which tells of the impressive voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He 85 years before Columbus set sail. *If you would like a Christian chapter book, read Christopher Columbus: Adventurer of Faith and Courage(Sowers) by Bennie Rhodes. The chapter book we read as a family was Columbus, Finder of the New World (Morrow junior books) by Ronald Syme. We love Ronald Syme books! They are about 80 pages and contain illustrations. After each chapter my boys either wrote 1-2 sentences or drew what the most important event was from that chapter.
Material List for the Lesson
*Everyone needs to bring per child:
-1 compass (what tells North, South, East, & West) per child IF you have one. You don't need to bring this if you don't already own one.
-1 writing utensil (crayon, marker, pencil, etc.)
-1 Styrofoam tray
-1 small container of play-doh or clay
-scotch tape (only need 1 per family)
-tacky or elmer's glue
*Items to be assigned to individuals:
-world map (I used the world map from the book It's a Big Big World by Brierly.)
-book on Prince Henry the Navigator (We used Prince Henry the Navigator by Leonard Everett Fisher.)
-pre-written treasure hunt directions per group of 3-4 children (They should include north, south, east, and west. For example: 1) Start at the swing set. 2) Take 10 steps/paces east. 3) Take 15 steps/paces north...)
-2 pieces of beef jerky per child
-1 small box of raisins per child
-1 cup for water per child
-picture/drawing of a caravel ship or a toy or model ship (any type of ship so long as it has sails)
-sidewalk chalk & a picture of a Caravel ship (Print one from the Internet or use a picture from a book)
-at least 1 dixie cup per child (for children to use to make caravel ships)
-a few pieces of cloth per child (for children to use to make caravel ships)
-at least 3 chopsticks or wooden skewers per child (for children to use to make caravel ships)
-book on Christopher Columbus (such as "Christopher Columbus" by Stephen Krensky or "The Story of Christopher Columbus" by Anita Ganeri)
-1 pirate hat (a captain hat for Columbus)
-3 bath towels
-cross (can be made from 2 sticks taped together)
-1 copy of this world map per child: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/mapping/outline-map/?map=The_World&ar_a=1 (If desired, you can print 2 per page as the map doesn't need to be large.)
-Christopher Columbus: Animated Hero Classics by Nest Entertainment DVD
-TV with a DVD player or a laptop to play the DVD
Great Chapter Book for High Schoolers and Adults on Christopher Columbus
Build Viking shields and swords and "sail" to Vineland with Leif Erikson, walk the route of Marco Polo (through your house) and collect the items that he saw on his journey through China, go on a compass treasure hunt, dramatize Columbus' journey, make Da Gama Portuguese land markers, create Montezuma's headdress, go on a conquistador hunt for gold, bake constellation bar cookies, dress up as and present on famous explorers, and more during this unit study on Explorers!
- Marco Polo and Leif Erikson Lesson - This is part 1 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Explorers. Walk the route of Marco Polo (through the house) and collect the items he came across while in Asia. Make Viking bread, Viking helmets, shields, and swords and “sail” to Vineland (America) as a Viking, and more!
- Christopher Columbus & Prince Henry the Navigator Lesson - This is part 2 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on Explorers. Go on a compass treasure hunt, eat sailor food, jump across the parts of a caravel ship, act out Columbus' journey, and more!
- Da Gama, Vespucci, Balboa, & Magellan Lesson - This is part 3 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on Explorers. Make Da Gama Portuguese land markers, Vespucci parrot puppets, and Balboa hiding-in-a-barrel stick puppets. Search for the Pacific Ocean with Balboa (through your house). Eat “sawdust” and “leather” with Magellan and many more activities!
- Ponce de Leon, Aztecs, Cortes, & Conquistadors Lesson This is part 4 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Explorers. Create Montezuma's headdress, act out the meeting between Cortes & Montezuma, go on a conquistador hunt for gold, and more!
- Cabot, Cartier, Drake, Hudson, and Astronomy Lesson - This is part 5 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Explorers. Bake constellation bar cookies, create star finders, act out Cartier's expedition, and more!
- Explorer Unit Presentations and Field Trip Ideas – For the culminating project we following the 5 part hands-on unit on explorers, the children dressed as explorers, made presentations, and shared “authentic” food from their explorer’s country of origin. They also sang the songs from the unit. Also included are the field trips we took during this unit.
- Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.
Our Favorite Video Clips on Columbus
Need More Activity Ideas?
- Pedro's Journey
Free Lapbook for "Pedro's Journey", a book about Columbus's voyage
- Columbus & Food
The Role of Food on Columbus' Journey
- Columbus Lesson Plan
Excellent lesson on Columbus
Video Clips on Prince Henry the Navigator
Would you like to teach this way every day?
I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!
Who Do You Think We Should Credit As Having Discovered American and Why? - Or just leave me a note. I love getting feedback from you!
Karla on April 06, 2017:
Getting ready for CC C3 and found you!! Great resources thank you for all your work.
Fay Favored from USA on August 26, 2012:
A good question for a classroom debate.
anonymous on March 24, 2011:
I love the idea of acting out Columbus' journey. I'm sure your children will really remember that now!