1. Before the Journey
Going on a major expedition costs a lot of money! What was Columbus's goal that convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to pay for his journey? To find the answer, read the beginning of this article.
How would you convince someone to pay for your great journey? Give three good reasons.
Think about how expensive such a journey must have been. Make a list of some of the things necessary in order to spend over two months at sea.
2. The Biggest Ship
As explorers traveled farther distances, they needed ships that could survive the stormy seas for months at a time. Columbus’s biggest ship was called the Santa María, which was a type of ship called a carrack or nao.
Visit the Mariners' Museum and record how many tons the Santa María weighed. (Picture it: one class of 25 students is roughly equal to one ton.)
If you sailed around the world, what characteristics would you want your boat to have?
3. The Native Americans
When Columbus arrived on shore, he encountered the people already living there. These were the Native Americans, also known as American Indians or indigenous peoples. What does the term "indigenous peoples" mean?
Read the beginning of this article and record the definition.
4. The Columbian Exchange
Sometimes known as The Great Exchange or The Grand Exchange, the explorers and the Native Americans shared and traded plants, animals, and cultures across the Atlantic Ocean. Turkeys and corn are native to the Americas while horses and oranges originally came from Europe.
Look at this chart showing some of the goods that were shared between continents. Make a list of three foods originally from the Old World or Europe and three foods originally from the New World or the Americas that you've eaten.
If you were going on a journey like Columbus's, what are three goods you would bring with you to trade? Why?
5. Trading Diseases
In addition to plants and animals, the Explorers and Native Americans also shared sickness and diseases — the Native Americans suffered and died in great numbers because of illnesses like small pox and the flu.
Why did a common illness like the flu (also called influenza) prove deadly to so many Native Americans? Return to the Mariners' Museum to find out.
6. News Reaches Europe
People in Europe were eager for details about the amazing New World. Twelve years after Columbus's first voyage, a man named Gonzalo Oviedo was sent to the islands of Domingo and Hispaniola to report back.
Visit the Library of Congress to examine his woodcuts that illustrate some of the fascinating new things he saw:
Imagine what it would be like to encounter plants, animals, and people unlike anything you had seen before. Think of something you see every day — like a toothbrush, sandwich, or pencil. Now write a description of that object for someone who has never seen or heard of such a thing before.
7. Before TV
Before television, cameras, and Internet, people relied on art to capture a scene. But each artist sees things differently.
Compare and contrast this painting and this painting of Columbus meeting Native Americans.
Use this Venn diagram (PDF) to record the similarities and differences. Look at Columbus and the Native Americans.