Columbian Exchange Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Students may know the jingle 'In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,' but do they really understand how important this voyage was to world history? In this lesson plan, you'll show them the impact of the Columbian Exchange.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this, lesson your students will be able to:

  • describe the events of the Columbian Exchange
  • analyze the role the Columbian Exchange played in changing the societies of the Atlantic Ocean


60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Key Vocabulary

  • Columbian Exchange
  • New World
  • Old World


  • Start by asking students to review the facts surrounding Columbus' voyage in 1492 and how it changed the world. Use this discussion to introduce the lesson topic: the Columbian Exchange.
  • Watch the video lesson The Columbian Exchange, pausing for key terms and the following points of discussion:
    • 1:53 - If Christopher Columbus didn't discover America, why do we care about him? What did he make possible?
    • 3:50 - What are some of the gains made as a result of the Columbian Exchange? What are some of the negatives? Do you think one society was more successful than others during the Columbian Exchange? How so?

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