Sunday, September 27, 2015

Columbus Day STEM Activities

For years, my grade level colleagues and I have done a Columbus Day Turn-A-Round with our classes. The most classes we have a done at a time were 10 classes. 10 classes made too many trades, so we narrowed it to 5. Some of the activities we did are in my newest product as a bundle.

This set of STEM activities can be "just a fun day," but with the right focus and discussions, these really FUN activities can be a powerful learning tool.
There are 8 STEM activities included:

1. Build a Sextant

This is an easy build with readily available materials. Students can then walk outside and give it a try. It was not the easiest tool to use, but it was just about the best navigation tool at the time.

2. Make a Compass

It is very easy and it is accurate to the magnetic north pole. I also have a class set of compasses that my students use outside to practice using one.

3. Design a Flag and Race to the Pole

I use the white tablecloths from the dollar store. If you don't plan on raising them, you could use paper or poster board.

4. Build a Better Boat

Since my students do the STEM activity Barge Building, I have them discover which boat would be better on the open sea. They collect one of their milk cartons and use both ends to experiment which one holds up in waves.
Students use both ends of the milk carton to represent a flat bottomed boat and one similar to the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. It is a bit messy, but it is a great learning experience.

5. Discovery Game

I have researched and included 29 things associated with Columbus and his explorations. I hide these things under a box and give students 1 minute to look and one minute to write down everything they see. Then I have student partner up and they get one minute to look with with partner, and then one minute to write down the information. We then discuss how teamwork really helps our perspective. It is a fun game, and it gives them a chance to discuss where Columbus encountered these items on his journeys.

6. Indian Necklaces with Colored Pasta

We have used all different shapes and sizes of pasta, but this is my favorite.
Students create necklaces. Our local Native Americans, the Yokuts, once used shell necklaces as money. We like to make connections to the Yokuts when we do this activity. There are many beautiful shell necklaces at our local museum, so this is an easy tie-in. If time allows, how students vote on the designs after they finish creating their necklaces.

7. Boat Race To Spain

The day would not be complete without a boat race back to Spain so Columbus could get the credit for his discoveries instead of Martin Pinzon.
The students each make a boat ahead of time in their classrooms, and they each race their boats. Each team then chooses the boat they want to represent their teams. On the day of the activities, each team races against each other using straws and our specially made oceans. All students record scores in their Columbus Journals to discover the winning team. 
Results are then posted for the winning team in each class. Students record those results to see which class had the fasted boat. Pictures are taken so they can compare designs. 

8. Building a Fort

I'm sure you remember that Columbus had to leave behind men because the Santa Maria ran aground. Those sailors left behind had to build a fort. Of course there were no instructions, so we added this interesting STEM activity. No matter what happens, this activity is a "win" if you discuss the outcomes. We have used many materials, but the ones we use now are seen below.
I love to watch the interaction between the students because I learn so much about them. Who can work together, who can compromise, who can organize. Sometimes, just to be mischievous, I sneak one piece of candy in the set, to see how they students react. I have 10 sets of these "forts" and I have the students work in groups of 4. When we get to the discussion time, I tell them the one piece of candy represents the little gold they found. For the teams that "don't get along" they begin to realize how hard it must have been for those sailors who were left behind, and the poor natives they encountered. It also begins to make sense why the natives killed off all the sailors. Although the forts seldom get built completely, it is one of the most powerful lessons.

Most of these activities you can do on your own. I have compiled instructions and tips to help pulling off this incredible day a bit easier, and it can be purchased at my TpT store. If I were to sell these items, I would sell them for $2.50-3.00 a piece, so I believe I am offering an incredible savings.

Additionally, I have included a special notebook with pages designed especially for these STEM activities.
Note that the cover is the same as for my Journal Writing. That is because I combine the pages into one incredible journal that is used for 1) summarizing the journey of Columbus, 2) students personal journaling, 3) research, 4) Columbus Day STEM activities. 

This is just one page of the STEM activities.

To get information on my other Columbus products see the following links:


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