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Columbus Day Activities for Kids

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Help your students learn more about Christopher Columbus as they celebrate Columbus Day with the activities below. You'll find instructions for these activities, as well as additional educational opportunities for kids.

Word Search

Commemorate Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World with a word search that focuses on Columbus's expedition. You can include Columbus's name, the names of his ships and terms related to his voyage, such as ocean, ships, king, queen and compass.

Discuss with your students some of the issues associated with Columbus's exploration of the New World after they complete the word search. You can watch this brief video lesson on the effects of European colonization for discussion topics.

Ship Space

Help your students understand how it felt to be one of the people on Columbus's ships. Start by asking them to research the number of people that lived on each ship (about 40). Then give them an idea of the size of Columbus's ships. History tells us that the largest of his vessels was about 80 ft. by 20 ft., so have them work together to measure this out in the school yard. They can use tape or rope to mark out a rectangle of this size.

Let your students imagine what it would feel like to be one of 40 people living on a ship this size and then discuss as a class. Students can learn more about Columbus's voyages and his ships with this lesson about Columbus's discoveries.

Tools on a Ship

Help your students understand more about the technology of the world in Columbus's time with this fun activity. Bring in items or photos of times that Columbus used during his voyages. Have students research these instruments and discuss how these tools were used. Some of these instruments may still be in use today!

  • Compass: Give students a direction to look for certain objects in the classroom, and have them use a compass to find the items. View the lesson on How the Compass Helped Columbus in class.
  • Maps: Have students chart the routes Columbus took on his various voyages on a map. Columbus started out as a map maker! Show the lesson on Geography Tools to teach students how navigation has changed over the years since Columbus.
  • Sextant: You can use this tool from a window or take the activity outside to show kids how this old navigational tool helped Columbus determine where he was at any given time on the ocean. Use the lesson on Celestial Navigation as a handout to provide more learning opportunities.

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