Christopher Columbus is remembered for his 1492 discovery of the “New World.” His legacy is a bit of a mixed one, though. October 13, 2014 will mark Columbus Day in the United States, yet it’s not recognized in every part of the country. For example, it’s not a public holiday in some states such as Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and South Dakota, though Hawaii and South Dakota mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii. South Dakota celebrates the day as an official state holiday known as Native American Day.

Despite the varying views, Christopher Columbus is a part of history along with other explorers who took to land and sea. Discover an abundance of TpT resources about Columbus and early explorers. You’ll also find lessons for sharpening map skills as well as a super-cool engineering activity. Climb on board…

An “Ocean” of Classroom Resources

Columbus Day! 1-2, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue {CCSS}Columbus Day! 1-2, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue {CCSS} tells the story of Columbus sailing with three ships looking for land and discovering America. It’s an innovation of the familiar ‘1-2, Buckle My Shoe.” – JK Curriculum Connection

“I love teaching about Christopher Columbus in our classroom! Since our Social Studies block is fairly short, I like to incorporate our learning into other areas of the curriculum as well. I designed Christopher Columbus Day [Math, Literacy, Science, Poetry, & More!] (grades PreK-2) for teachers to involve Columbus in all areas of the classroom — math, science, language arts, poetry, writing, and more!” – Erin Waters

“I like to celebrate Columbus Day in my classroom by starting to teach about maps and globes and talking about many explorers. We read lots of books on Columbus and use this time to write about his explorations while discussing why he’s important to our country. It’s always super fun! Here’s Christopher Columbus Day Mini Unit Activities (grades PreK-2).” – Latoya Reed

“I always love a good cut-and-paste project to get students excited about a holiday. My If I Were Christopher Columbus Craftivity (grades PreK-3) not only includes the directions and patterns, but coordinating worksheets too! Your students can create Christopher Columbus or even be the explorers with two different writing prompts.” – Laura Bensley

Christopher Columbus Reader“Columbus Day is the perfect time to introduce the concept of explorers to my Kindergarten class. Since this is a Social Studies standard, we need to teach about how explorers traveled to places that were new to them. I made an age-appropriate emergent reader for my kinder kiddos. It’s hard for this age group to really understand history, but they gain a better understanding by reading this little book! They also get to color it, highlight sight words, and reflect in it. My class always loves taking these little books home to share with their families! Take a look: Christopher Columbus Reader (grades K-1).” – Cahill’s Creations

“I enjoy using Columbus Day as an opportunity to teach students about informational text and informative writing. It’s something I look forward to every year! Take a look at All About Christopher Columbus (grades K-2).” – Laura Boriack – Over the 1st Grade Rainbow

Autism - Build A Sentence with Pictures Interactive - CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS“When teaching our special needs students about important historical events or holidays, it’s so important to include visuals. In Autism – Build A Sentence with Pictures Interactive – CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS (grades K-2), a young ‘explorer’ describes his journey using bright graphics to catch students’ attention and plenty of pictures to aid with vocabulary.” – Autism Educators

“In Georgia, the major explorers aren’t covered until 4th grade. I think exposure is really important for my 1st graders, especially since we’ll be talking about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving soon. I made a pack that’s cross-curricular (asking kiddos to alphabetize vocabulary words, fill in graphic organizers, write using picture cards, and even fill in missing numbers). That way, they’re gaining exposure and still working on skills for the week. Here it is: Land, Ho!!! A Christopher Columbus Mini-Pack  (grades K-2).” – Funky Fresh Firsties

Columbus Day FREEBIE - ELA & Math Printables“I totally agree with Funky Fresh Firsties! We tie our exposure to Christopher Columbus into the life skill of perseverance. ‘Stick to it even when it’s tough’ is a habit I work hard to instill in my firsties. Here’s Columbus Day FREEBIE – ELA & Math Printables (grades K-2). Also, with Barbara Gruener’s amazing book, What’s Under Your Cape? SUPERHEROES of the Character Kind, I participated in a blog book study and have a blog post with a few freebies and teaching tips on perseverance.” – Growing Firsties Lisa Mattes

“We READ, READ, READ in the form of fluency. We do art to captivate our imaginations and we write to express our ideas about Columbus’ adventures! I love Columbus Day and so do my students. Here’s my newest unit on Christopher Columbus: Power Passages {Christopher Columbus} Fluency, Writing, Art, Comprehension (grades 1-2).” – Teacher to the Core

Columbus Day Writing Fun“Celebrating Christopher Columbus in my classroom is one of my favorite things to do! I love using many different mentor texts to teach about his voyage. We also break out the big map use sticky notes to label his voyage. I created a boat-shaped activity booklet for our interactive notebooks.  Interactive notebooks are all the rage right now and my kiddos LOVE them… so we will do ALL of our writing activities in a boat-shaped booklet that incorporates writing activities about his voyage and reasons behind his voyage as well as map skills and a word-making activity! I can’t wait to have my students complete it this year! Here’s Columbus Day Writing Fun (grades 1-4).” – Simply Skilled In Second

“I spend a few days teaching about Columbus. We get out the globe and find Italy and Spain; then the kiddos explore how to get from these places to the far East. We find the path Columbus took, and we act out his journey. We watch a couple of videos, and read a couple of books. Then the children illustrate their own booklets telling the story: Christopher Columbus – Booklet for Illustration (grades 1-4). Also, here’s a blog post of mine that talks about several resources for Columbus Day.” – Elementary Matters

“One of my favorite activities I’ve done with my students in the past was to make boats from a bar of Ivory soap and then sail them in a kid-sized swimming pool. Students quickly learned the importance of the sail and wanted to redo theirs. Here’s one of my Christopher Columbus (grades 3-5) resources.” – Teach 123-Michelle

Map Skills Package“My Map Skills Package (grades 3-6) focuses not so much on the explorers themselves, but how students can be explorers and understand their surroundings. It’s a great segue into map studies.” – Lifelong Learning

“We like to investigate the development of navigational technology with our students, which led to our STEM lesson on compasses: Engineer Like an Early Explorer……… Using STEM to Navigate (grades 3-6). We’re then able to integrate history and science in a  meaningful way that supports many discussions on the challenges that the early explorers faced.” – Get Caught Engineering – STEM for Kids

“While we don’t observe Columbus Day here in Canada we certainly have our fair share of explorers! Many early explorers reached our shores from France and England, and then there was John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), an Italian who explored for Britain. Later in history, explorers of French, English and Scottish backgrounds mapped the vast wilderness and developed a very important fur trade. The first European explorer to reach the Pacific Ocean overland was Alexander Mackenzie who made it through what is now British Columbia to the Pacific; his memoirs inspired Thomas Jefferson to send Lewis and Clark west. I have a bundle of three products that concentrate on exploration in both North and South America: Explorers to the Americas – Bundle of 3 Products (grades 4-7) as well as a mega-bundle about Canadian exploration.” – Diana Bailey

Age of Discovery-Webquest“Did you know that Columbus brought the idea of the hammock back to Europe, and sailors used it onboard their ships for sleeping? Also, it’s believed that Columbus used an eclipse of the moon to frighten the natives of Jamaica to give him a supply of food? I used a play I developed on Columbus to discuss the positive and negative contributions of this early explorer. I also included St. Brendan (monk from Ireland who may have crossed the Atlantic to North America before Columbus) and Zheng He of China who may have reached North America before Columbus as well. I have a webquest on the Age of Discovery where lots of different explorers, including Columbus, are covered. You’ll find information-packed questions as well as comprehension and extension activities. Here’s the complete resource: Age of Discovery-Webquest (grades 4-8).” – Gail Hennessey

“As a secondary Social Studies teacher, I like to look at history from more than one point of view. Were the conquistadors heroes or villains? Let your students decide! In this lesson, students will begin with an anticipation guide on actions of a hero or a villain. You can increase learning by turning this portion of the activity into a debate as students discuss different long-term and short-term effects of individuals such as Christopher Columbus. Here’s the complete resource: Columbus – Conquistadors: Heroes or Villains – Explorers (grades 4-10).” – Social Studies Success

First Nations and Europeans in New France - Explorers and Early Contact“5th graders in Ontario, Canada learn about the early explorers as part of the Social Studies unit ‘First Nations and Europeans in New France and Early Canada.’ They also learn about early exploration in North America, the interactions between the explorers and First Nations communities, and the beginning of North America. I’ve created a unit called, of course, First Nations and Europeans in New France – Explorers and Early Contact (grades 5-7). Take a look!” – Coach’s Corner


We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” – John Hope Franklin, historian

Here’s to all the “explorers” you inspire in your classroom each day. May you continue to help them discover great things.

(Feature image: Thanks to Artistic Educational Clip Art for the ship image and Meaghan Kimbrell for the font.)