We are usually on Fall Break during Columbus Day, but this year Fall Break is pushed back a week. So, tomorrow we will be learning about Christopher Columbus and taking our annual Columbus Voyage through the school.
I truly like to put the focus on learning new vocabulary during this voyage instead of focusing completely on Columbus. I absolutely understand that Columbus Day is controversial in many ways, so for my first graders, I put the main focus on the idea of being an explorer. We discuss the meaning of the words voyage, explore, discover, explorer, trade, etc.
We have done this a couple of different ways throughout the years. We started off years ago by having the students in different classrooms be the Native Americans, and the first graders be the explorers to the “new world.” Our first graders would trade their trinkets (gold, mirrors, beads, etc.) with the Natives. One year, we had a LOT of 1st graders, so we decided to do all of the trading in the same room. This year, we will be placing the items in different locations through the school, so we can “voyage” through the school and do our trading.
We start off by passing out our Columbus Voyage packets, their bag of trinkets to trade (beads, jewels, gold painted rocks, etc.) and their snack bags of dried meat, fish, and crackers (beef jerky sticks, Goldfish and saltine crackers) for the long voyage. I explain to the students that the people on the ship had to ration their food and not eat it all at once.
Then, we start our voyage. We read about our first trade item, and the students choose a trinket to trade. Then, we travel to the first location on our map. The students trade their trinket for the item from the Natives.
We trade for all types of items that the explorers traded for with the Native Americans (popcorn, spices, feathers, shells, etc.).
After we make each trade, we learn about the item in our booklets, and then write about our learning.
It’s a fun day, and the students love it.
At some point during the day, we also complete these Columbus Day Booklets to add to our learning.