Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. Living by the Mediterranean Sea, he longed to be a sailor. He began sailing on Italian ships at the age of 14. When Columbus was 25, he was sailing on a ship headed for England. A group of French pirates attacked his ship. Columbus was hurt, but managed to grab onto some floating wood and make his way to shore.

Columbus opened a shop that sold maps and books for sailors. There he became a map maker and began reading books. He read a book written by Marco Polo. Columbus was fascinated by Polo's book. After reading this book, Columbus was sure he could reach the Indies by traveling west. He wanted to go to the Indies to get jewels and spices.

Columbus asked King John II of Portugal for three ships to try out his idea of traveling west to reach the East. The king refused to give him the ships. Columbus tried going to other kings in France and England. They would not give him the ships. Finally Columbus went to the king and queen of Spain; King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He asked them for money to try out his idea of traveling west to reach the East. Queen Isabella refused Columbus at first. Later King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gave Columbus three ships, a crew of about ninety men, and some money. The three ships were the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María.


On August 2, 1492 the voyage began. The trip was not easy. Columbus's crew was afraid of the unknown seas. They believed monsters were in the waters. Some thought the world was flat and that their ships were sailing too far from the shore and would fall off the end of the earth. On September 1, 1492 Columbus's ships passed an active volcano on the island of Tenerife. They also reported seeing a bolt of fire fall from the heavens into the sea.  The men took these as bad signs.

Christopher Columbus



On October 12, after 71 days at sea, land was sighted. Columbus and his men rowed ashore and planted a flag in the sand. They claimed the island which they named San Salvador for Spain. Since Columbus believed he was in the Indies, he called the natives Indians. Columbus had really landed on an island southeast of what is now Florida.

In March 1493 Columbus sailed back to Spain with a few Indians. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella named him Admiral of the Ocean Sea.

Columbus sailed to America three more times in 1493, 1498, and 1502. He found San Salvador and then Cuba which he called Juana, but he found few riches on his voyages. He died a man of average wealth on May 20, 1506 in Spain.

Christopher Columbus Activities

Learn this poem.

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He took three ships with him, too,
And called aboard his faithful crew.
Mighty, strong and brave was he
As he sailed across the open sea.
Some people still thought the world was flat!
Can you even imagine that?


During Columbus's voyage to the New World his ship passed by a volcano. Make your own volcano following these instructions.


  1. Make a volcano shape from salt dough.

  2. Place a bottle cap in the top of your volcano.

  3. Fill the bottle cap with baking powder.

  4. Add a few drops of red food coloring to a small amount of vinegar.

  5. With a drinking straw, drip about a teaspoon of the red vinegar onto the baking powder.

  6. The red lava will foam down the sides of the bottle cap volcano.

Play the game  "Go West with Columbus" at this site http://www.bry-backmanor.org/actpag10.html

Build a telescope. You will need paper towel rolls, masking tape, construction paper, and paint. Crush one end of the paper towel roll slightly and fit it gently into the other one and tape it in place. Cover the top towel roll with construction paper and decorated it with paint. For a more realistic touch tape a magnifying glass to the end of the telescope.

Columbus had food for one year stored on his ships. Some of the foods were wine, water, sardines, anchovies, cheese, chick peas, lentils, beans, rice, honey, almonds, raisins, biscuits, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Sample some of these foods.

Take a quiz on the information from this page.