Living History…with Christopher Columbus

We noticed that the replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ships, the Nina, and the Pinta were on tour here in the United States and headed our direction!  We excitedly made plans to tour them and enjoy them.  Because my 5th grader is studying Explorers and the Age of Discovery this year, we all decided collectively that we wanted to dig deeper and learn more about Columbus and his ships!  I thought since so many of you may be taking advantage of touring these amazing living history replicas that I’d share some fun books and ideas I compiled that we’re enjoying!

Read Aloud:
The Log of Christopher Columbus: His First Voyage to the New World – originally transcribed by Bartolome La Casas, a 16th century Dominican priest and later Bishop (and contemporary of Christopher Columbus), later translated by Boyd Thatcher (1903), reprinted by William Roy in 1992.  Christopher Columbus’ original logs of his journeys are lost.  Do you feel a pang in the pit of your stomach in knowing that?  I do.  Columbus gave his logs to Queen Isabella’s scribe who then copied them into what is referred to as the “Barcelona Copy” and it is from this transcription that Las Casas applied himself in the task of editing the logs.  Las Casas works are all that are left of Columbus’ original logs of his journey.  We do have the original prologue in the words of Christopher Columbus himself which offers clearly the purposes of the exploration as agreed upon by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

This book makes a wonderful read aloud!  Each entry is generally short, so we read a few days at a time.  Las Casas, in his work, did not write the journal in 1st person, so in reading the daily log, you’ll find wording like, “The Admiral says that before he left…”  I noticed that there are now several options of translations of The Log of Christopher Columbus.  They would all spring from the same source – Las Casas’ work – but what I particularly appreciate in this edition are the extensive footnotes from Thatcher’s original translation of the work that add a great deal of context and explanation to the log!  Although it is out of print, it is an excellent book!  Grab it if you can find a copy!


Books:  (many/all of these would make wonderful read alouds, or independent reading choices – I’ll indicate if it’s a chapter book for an independent reader, or a picture book next to the book) 
**Christopher Columbus: Mariner by Samuel Eliot Morison chapter book 
**The Voyages of Christopher Columbus by Armstrong Sperry (Landmark Books) chapter book
Meet Christopher Columbus by James T. de Kay (Landmark Books) chapter book

**Columbus by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire chapter book, but ideal as a read aloud
**Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz shorter chapter book
**Christopher Columbus by Nina Brown Baker (Signature Books) chapter book
Christopher Columbus: Across the Ocean Sea by Geoff and Janet Benge chapter book
**The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster chapter book 
**Columbus, Finder of the New World by Ronald Syme  easy chapter book

**Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus by Peter Sis picture book
**Animals Christopher Columbus Saw by Sandra Markle picture book
**In 1492 by Jean Marzollo picture book
**A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus by David Adler picture book

Coloring Books and Activity Books:
**The Story of Christopher Columbus (Dover coloring books)
First Voyage to America (Dover coloring books)
**Columbus Discovers America (Dover coloring books)
**Draw, Write, Now – Book 2 – Christopher Columbus
Movies:  (I have not previewed all of these – please exercise prudence when viewing!)
**Christopher Columbus (1949) British production starring Frederic March
Magnificent Voyage of Christopher Columbus (2007) Historical documentary using replicas to retrace Columbus’ journey.
Christopher Columbus (1985) based on a 5 – 6 hour CBS miniseries, but for some reason they dropped several hours, condensed the minseries, and only ever released this on VHS.  It’s based on Samuel Morison’s book, Christopher Columbus: Mariner.

**The Internet Guide to Christopher Columbus in the Franciscan Archives (which includes excerpts from the Log available to read for free online)
**Enchanted Learning – Christopher Columbus page with many printables and activities.
**Enchanted Learning – Caravel page (the Nina and the Pinta were Caravels, swift Portuguese sailing ships)
The Columbus Navigation Homepage
** Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Christopher Columbus
The Christopher Columbus timeline
**Columbus’ Sailing Ships – great site!!  Interactive with information and questions!
Columbus’ Lost Ships
**History of the Caravel
**Early Navigation Methods – offered as part of the online exhibit, Age of Exploration, at the Maritime Museum
Columbus’ 3rd and 4th voyage maps

As you read along consider having the children map Columbus’ voyages on a map.
**Blackline Maps of American History has a wonderful map that my children are working on and adding details to it as we go along. 
Uncle Josh’s outline maps is another good source for printing maps.
There’s a great map here with Columbus’ four voyages, and another extraordinary reference map here (with google earth options).

Games and Activities:
**Christopher’s Crossing – I found this neat game available for free on the internet.  Print the pieces and the instructions and add this to your Friday repertoire of games!
Christopher Columbus quiz game – free online quiz game.
**Age of Explorers – Games and Activities page – this is a fantastic collection of ideas and activities!  Make a compass, astrolabe, quadrant, identify parts of a ship and navigational instruments!  Amazing and wonderful resources and ideas here – all free!!!

~ * ~
If you have an opportunity to visit the replicas of Columbus’ ships, Nina and Pinta, do so!  You’ll be thrilled that you did!  Now that’s living history!  

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  1. We saw them last summer at Lake Michigan. It was great to talk to the people who sail on them. They had so many details to share. You can also see how they were built which is amazing in itself.

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