Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Day: Exploring The Historical Significance

     It seems that in the USA one of the most controversial holidays is Columbus Day. I personally think it is important to study (not glorify) as many aspects of history as we can. This is why I choose to teach the facts (as best we know them) about individuals such as Christopher Columbus. 

     As best I can tell, Columbus was a driven, intelligent and cruel man. Yet, he did make a significant contribution to the world. His voyages laid the ground work for what is now the Americas. Of course, indigenous peoples lived here long before 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He was not the first to sail across the Atlantic, and it seems he did not know he "discovered" a New World when he died. 

    On this Columbus Day we are concentrating on studying who this historical figure was, why his contributions were significant, how he made his voyages, what animals he may have come across, and what we can learn from his actions both positive and negative. Since my little man is in kindergarten we are keeping the learning fun and entertaining while still making note of the negatives, such as slavery and unnecessary deaths. Throughout this week we will learn about Columbus and related topics through books, science experiments, writing assignments, educational videos, etc. Here is a glimpse at what we have and will be doing. 

Young Christopher Columbus is a great First-Start Biography from Scholastic. It offers a quick look into the explorer's early life and is a great way to introduce the idea of biographies to young children. 

Animals Christopher Columbus Saw By Sandra Markle offers readers a chance to explore the wildlife Columbus and his crew may have seen during their journeys.  Some of the animals may surprise you. Have you ever heard of Shipworms?

Follow the Dream by Peter Sis is a simple and beautifully illustrated book about the early life and first transatlantic voyage of Columbus concluding at the point he first reached the New World.
Although not necessarily a good read-aloud book for small children, The Nina, The Pinta, and The Santa Maria by Dennis Brindell Fradin might be a good choice for the older set. It offers an in depth look at the famous ships, Columbus and the not-so-good aspects of the story. I found multiple excepts to read with Bry and many illustrations he enjoyed.
     In addition to these interesting books, Bry and I will be adding Columbus' 1492 discovery to our on going time line, discussing boats and experimenting with sink vs. float, and talking about the influences of these explorers and others. This will be a perfect introduction to Marco Polo and the role he played in history. Keep an eye out for our review of the Marco Polo Man & Myth exhibit now on display at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Ga.