KS2: Christopher Columbus

This short animated film for primary pupils takes a look at Christopher Columbus' epic adventures to the Americas.

It introduces the geographical skills of reading maps, using globes and understanding the points of the compass, as well as place knowledge of North and South America and Europe.

This short film is from the BBC series, Explorers.

Teacher Notes

This short film could be used alone as an introduction to a topic based around Christopher Columbus and his journey, or it could be used alongside one or more of the other Explorers films, comparing different explorers and their experiences, and looking at the changes in travel and exploration over time.

This film provides lots of scope for learning in geography:

  • Pupils could look at a globe and highlight where Columbus thought he was going, and where he actually ended up.
  • They could look at maps of North, Central and South America, and plot Columbus’ journey on a world map, marking the equator, tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, Northern and Southern hemispheres, and lines of longitude and latitude.
  • After watching the film you could discuss the eight points of a compass and how compasses and lines of longitude and latitude would be used to navigate.
  • This film could be the starting point for further study of North and South America, comparing the geography of the countries Columbus discovered to the geography of the country he left behind.
  • You could also compare the flora, fauna, climates and biomes of the Americas to those of Europe.

In a link with history, they could investigate some of the items that Columbus introduced to America (e.g. horses) and some of the things he brought back with him (e.g. pineapples).

In English, this film could inspire first personal recounts in the style of a ships log:

  • Pupils could write in character as Columbus, describing the strange and wonderful things he encountered when he arrived in the Bahamas.
  • They could write adventure stories about imaginary explorers discovering new lands.
  • They could learn about the power of descriptive language, writing descriptions of new landscapes for people back home.

Your pupils could use their maths skills to calculate the distances traveled by Columbus and the length of time his journey took him.

They could work how much food of different types the crew would have had to take with them to last their journey.

For art and design, you could look at the painting by Dioscoro Puebla called Desembarco de Colon and create your own pictures of an explorer arriving in a new land.

In music lessons, you could listen to Wagner's "Columbus Overture" and Philip Glass's "The Voyage" and compare how different composers, 150 years apart, have been inspired by Columbus's journey. You could have a go a composing your own short pieces of music on the theme of exploration.

Curriculum Notes

This short film could be used to study a variety of cross-curricular topics at KS2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 2nd Level in Scotland. Including;

  • Maths
  • Geography
  • English
  • History
  • Art and design
  • Music

More from Explorers

Neil Armstrong
Robert Falcon Scott
Amelia Earhart
Ibn Battuta