On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew of 87 men set sail from the coast of Spain to explore the ocean to the west and attempt a journey to India.
In the U.S., the second Monday in October is Columbus Day, a celebration of the landfall in the Americas by Columbus' famous Santa Maria, Pinta and Niña. This holiday provides the perfect opportunity to teach about perspectives, cultural diffusion, and navigation tools.
Explore the background of this holiday by visiting the Library of Congress' Hispanic Exploration in America page which features documents like The First Voyage which depicts Columbus' farewell to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Find a guide to analyzing primary sources in the LOC teacher tools section.
Also visit the Library of Congress' 1492: An Ongoing Voyage to see Columbus' coat of arms, which was printed in Christopher Columbus: His Book Of Privileges. This 1502 book outlined the rewards Columbus was granted by Isabella and Ferdinand for his successful first journey. Then explore the exhibit to see other primary documents related to the discovery of the Americas.
Explore the geography of Columbus' first voyage starting with Palos de la Frontera, Spain. Continue on Columbus' route through the Canary Islands and then to San Salvador and other islands of the Bahamas, as well as Cuba and Haiti.
Finally, check out the Columbus Monument in Barcelona, which marks the place where Columbus returned in the Niña to Spain. These photos of the monument and the port are from my trip this past summer. Seeing this spot brought new clarity to a story I've heard my whole life.
After studying all of that history and geography, let students practice map-making by drawing a map of the classroom or their route to school. Discuss navigation tools such as the compass, star charts, and the telescope. Then visit Kaboose's Columbus Day crafts page to find tutorials for telescopes and binoculars made of cardboard tubes.
Images from my collection and from the LOC.