Should You Teach Columbus Day in Kindergarten? That’s a very tricky question and I even questioned whether or not I should write this article because I don’t do controversy. As times change and people become more aware of what really happened, it can be difficult to want to give some people in history the time of day in your classrooms because of choices they made. But some teachers are required to teach about it and so we wanted to share some things that could be useful in their classrooms.
Let’s start with, it’s kindergarten and our kids are developmentally not ready for the details of Columbus (IMO). One day our students will learn what happened when they are in older grades when their little brains are able to make sense of it.
Does this mean we don’t teach it? Well, that’s completely up to you (and technically your district and the requirements of the states in which you work). My thoughts on some of these topics as such are that we lay the groundwork for those future conversations in higher grades. With Columbus, we can teach he was ONE EXPLORER OF MANY who traveled the world. We can teach that he came to America and found other people living there and others praised him for that. We can talk about the bare bones basics of him without sharing some of the inappropriate details with five year old children.
And so, here are a few things you can do with your class to teach about Columbus Day.
This is an information-packed video that is appropriate for our little learners (1:54). It includes details such as the ships he took on his voyage, how he was NOT the first to discover America, WHY he called the people he found Indians, and how he and others felt about his discovery. This video gives your kids a general feel for who he is and what some believe happened. (I would 100% preview it before you watch it though because it is FULLY packed with information.)
We also found this Kidboomer’s Columbus Day for Kids video that is a fun little rhyme for the kids to sing. It only talks about the basic information that Columbus went on a voyage and discovered America. (Technically, it does not say he was the first to discover America so I think it’s OK. You could definitely talk with your students about how there were other people here when he got there!) It’s a little over a minute long and your kids will love singing it.
And then we found this fun little video that is all about subtraction from Sesame Street. Kermit interviews Columbus before he leaves and he subtracts the boats as they sail away. Silly and your kids will love the humor in it.
My thought was that your conversations could stay general and about explorers in general. Why not let your kiddos become explorers and so I made this little free sentence strip hat for you.
It’s completely open-ended, so the kids can come up with their own explorer symbols (or make one like the one seen on the traditional Columbus Day resources.) Color, cut, and attach to a sentence strip hat and the kids will leave your classroom that day and discovering the world.
PS – this article is not written to start a political debate over what the truth behind Christopher Columbus is but an article to give teachers some thoughtful ideas to help teach things they are required.