Christopher Columbus Activities

Activities to do on Columbus Day

Read the article about Christoper Columbus. Then check out some hands-on Christopher Columbus activities you can do on Columbus Day.

The Story of Christopher Columbus article can be downloaded here.


The Story of Christopher Columbus

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.

Map Maker

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.

Raising Money

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.

The Voyage

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.


On October 12, after 71 days at sea, the 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.

Back Home

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

Additional Trips

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.

The Story of Christopher Columbus article can be downloaded here.

The Story of Columbus ~ Printable Versiion

The Story of Columbus ~ Printable Version

The Story of Columbus ~ Printable Versiobn

Christopher Columbus Activities

Activity #1 – Christopher Columbus Anchor Chart with Free Printable Graphic Organizer

Have students summarize “The Story of Christopher Columbus” article by writing “Somebody wanted/because not so statements. You can download this free printable to aid with this activity. Challenge students into writing more than one statement. 

Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then Anchor Chart


Free Printable Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then Graphic Organizer

Activity #2 – Christopher Columbus Quiz

Take an online quiz on the story above.

Activity #3 – Christopher Columbus Poem

Depending on time, have students write the poem or provide them with a handout with the poem already printed. Next have students illustrate the poem.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain….

Discussion Questions

What is the rhyming scheme of the poem?  AABBCC

Have students compare the poem to this version.

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
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?

Activity #4 – Online Resources

Use this simple gameboard with questions about Christopher Columbus. Have students answer a question correctly before drawing a card and moving across the gameboard. 

Go West with Columbus

Activity #5 – Build a Telescope

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.

Gay Miller


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