1. Work with Maps and Globes - Columbus Day is such a great opportunity to get the children acquainted with the globe. I think it's important that children can identify where they live on the globe. Our location is easy for the children to find. I have the children locate Cape Cod along the east coast of North America. We're not far north of that, and it's easy to locate. (I tell them to look for a flexed arm... they love to flex their own arms!) I usually use the globe to show how Columbus got from Italy to Spain, to San Salvador, and how he was actually trying to get to the East Indies, and "accidentally bumped into America". They get such a kick out of that!
2. Books - Speaking of the Columbus story, if you haven't seen the book, Encounter by Jane Yolen, you really need to check it out! It's the story of the arrival of Columbus from a young native's point of view. The illustrations are beautiful, and it really makes the "other side" of the story quite clear. Click the image to go to Amazon for more information about this amazing book!
3. Videos - This Youtube video is a bit corny and dated, but it tells the basic story in a kid friendly way. HERE is a more up to date video from the History Channel.
5. Craftivities - Looking for craft ideas? Just go to Pinterest and do a search for Columbus Day Crafts! I've seen some very cute crafts to celebrate the day including making the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria out of egg cartons and making telescopes out of paper towel rolls.
6. Guided imagery - I like to do lots of guided imagery activities with my students. I'll tell the story, while the students go through the movements. I tell about the men saying goodbye to their families and getting on the ships, the long ride on the ship (including the bland food, storms at sea, and lack of clean water) finally sighting land, and getting off the ship, thinking they were in India. The kids love this, and brain research shows involving movement and gestures helps the memory!
7. One more idea - Looking for one more way to celebrate Columbus Day? Take the day off!