Controversies surrounding an observance or “celebration” of Columbus Day have been around for a great many years worldwide. Here are just a few that my past classes of 7th graders have struggled with on Social Studies writing assignments and debates:
- Should we observe the accomplishments of a man who might be considered one of the most successful failures in world history? After all, he never did reach the <East> Indies at all.
- Should we celebrate the man responsible for bringing slavery and diseases that wiped out millions of Native Americans in North and South America?
- Is it appropriate to lay the blame of genocide, accidental or otherwise, which undeniably followed as a part of the Columbian Exchange, on the shoulders of this one man? Was it instead the entire European society during the Age of Discovery that should bear this responsibility?
All that aside, there is little doubt that the effects of Columbus’ voyages helped change the world. These contributions, both positive and negative, are collectively referred to as “The Columbian Exchange” by many textbooks. The National Humanities Center has an excellent essay on the Columbian Exchange, with teaching suggestions. I’ve listed several more below.
Hopefully, you’ll find some of the resources below helpful in your teaching efforts. Unfortunately, many classroom resources perpetuate the old-school promotion of Columbus-the-Hero, but a few take the revisionist Columbus-the-Villain stance. Many would help set up a lively debate amongst your students, expand their world-view, and help them participate in a discussion about global citizenship.
SMART Exchange has some great, pre-made SMART Board files that you can download and use with your classroom activities for free. Some are complete with Response(formerly known as Senteo Interactive Response System - those little clicker-thingies) question sets already developed to help you assess students' learning and understanding of your Columbus lessons. Here are some search results by topic:
Galesburg teachers can access LEARN360 for even more. Let me know if you’d like to learn how to login.
Many of these resources and more can be found on Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day blog, under The Best Online Resources About Christopher Columbus!
- Ready-made High School History lesson on Christopher Columbus, by Larry Ferlazzo
- Brain Pop on Columbus – This lesson plan has links to a nice but simple explanation of the controversy surrounding Columbus, as well as links to let kids explore the issue and make up their own minds.
- Please note: Brain Pop requires a subscription, in many cases. You can sign up for a 5-day free trial that gets you access to just about everything in the site, but the lesson plan is free, so plan accordingly.
- BBC Famous People – Nice interactive Flash site to help kids learn about Columbus. (Sorry, iPaddlers, you can’t see this on your device.) Click on Columbus to begin. Good for the younger crowd.
- The History Channel on Columbus – Lots of videos to help explain the topic
- Walk The Plank Quiz from SchoolHistory (UK) on Columbus
- Columbus Quiz from SoftSchools
- Columbus Day from a Native American Perspective (4th-5th grade) lesson plan from Jamie Huggard at Utah State University
- Top 10 Things You Should Know About Columbus, from Time Magazine
- Is Columbus Day Sailing Off the Calendar? from The Wall Street Journal
- Columbus Day, from Wikipedia - note the special section on Opposition to Columbus Celebrations if you plan to hold a debate, etc.
- The Journey of Christopher Columbus, from Glencoe
- 1492 - An Ongoing Voyage, from the Library of Congress
- Christopher Columbus and the Spanish Empire, from the University of Calgary (Canada)
- The Mariners' Museum on Christopher Columbus
- See their Activities for Students and Teachers page, too