Media Guide






One of many Hollywood Columbus movies to come out in 1992. I don't show much of this one but it does have some of the best cinematography and the scene of landing in the Indies is worthwhile.

Quest for Columbus:

In search of the Santa Maria


This documentary cuts back and forth between some very good reenactments of Columbus' voyage and modern footage of archaeologists attempting to find the wreckage of the Santa Maria. The reenactments are fantastic but the search parts leave much to be desired. They aren't necessarily boring but they certainly good have been better. Highly recommended for the other portions however. I have not been able to find this for sale online anywhere lately so good luck.

Columbus: Secrets from the Grave


Very interesting documentary exploring the birth of Columbus. According to it there is some argument as to whether Columbus was truly born in Italy. The evidence presented is largely one sided against that but it is entertaining and certainly thought provoking. You would really need to show the whole thing as it plays out like a puzzle. As above, hard to find online now.

Animaniacs: The Ballad of Magellan


Available on the Animaniacs Volume 4. This cartoon runs about 5 minutes and gives an entertaining overview of Magellan's voyage in song. Very good stuff.

Rush - New World Man


Great song to use as background music for any number of slides or topics in an exploration lecturer.

Apollo 13


To open this unit I do a brief explanation of exploration today focusing on space. Many films could fit in here (From the Earth to the Moon is great too) but this is my personal favorite. I show just a few minutes to give students a sense of what I'm talking about.

DVD Tells the story of Columbus' final voyage to the Americas and the devastating results. It also retells, though in far less detail, the more well known first voyage. Great documentary all around.

Pirates of the Caribbean


I close this unit (and my year) with a discussion on pirates. Exploration, individualism and democracy are all exemplified in the pirate life. (Did you know pirate ships were run as a democracy except in times of battle?) This film clicks quickly with students and opens the discussion.

True Carribean Pirates


Excellent documentary from the History Channel that gives the truth behind the history of pirates. Great focus is given to Blackbeard and the documentary is long but broken up it is both highly educational and entertaining.

Modern Marvels: Pirate Tech


This doesn't do much to help with the history necessarily but it sure is interesting. Great video to show kids especially as the end of the year nears and focus wanes.

Unit Guide

Age of Exploration Notes
Pirate Lecture Notes

Age of Exploration

1. Age of Exploration Walkthru - Basic worksheet analysis maps and timelines from Holt's Early to Medieval Modern Times.

2. Age of Exploration Culture Shock - Mini-activities including an analysis of a dance based on sailing, writing directions without landmarks and finding what is missing from a painting about the time period.

3. Read 'n Think: Columbus - Short reading practice with comprehension questions about Christopher Columbus.

4. Read 'n Think: Drake - Short reading practice with comprehension questions about Sir Francis Drake.

5. Going for the Gold - Reading assignment based on Holt's Medieval to Early Modern Times that compares the achievements of the Spain and Portugal during the Age of Discovery.

6. Maps! - a two-part lab introducing the concept of map analysis to students. In part 1 students analyze individual images and captions from the Catalan Atlas. In part 2 they use those skills to analyze 5 more medieval maps and attempt to order them chronologically. This can serve as an introduction to the difficulties explorers faced in the Age of Discovery. The lab consists of heavy primary source analysis and collaboration making it perfect for Common Core.

7. Did It Happen?: Columbus - A comparison between a secondary source claim and the primary source record relating to it specifically asking if Columbus truly died believing he had found Asia. 

Arr! The History of Pirates

1. HA - Inference and Deduction - Students analyze a list of artifacts collected from a skeleton of a sailor to determine how he (or she) ended up dead.

2. Digging for the Truth: The Sunken Ship - Following the clues from the HA above students investigate deeper into the mystery by examining a series of artifacts found in a sunken ship. In this inquiry-based lab students are asked to draw conclusions and provide evidence. It is highly engaging and a perfect fit for the Common Core. Built with plenty of PowerPoint special effects to keep the focus of even those struck hardest with end-of-the-year-itis. This lab is based on a real historical discovery made in 1984 and offers a great chance for students to "be" historians.

3. Articles of Agreement - Students analyze a copy of a pirate's "Articles of Agreement" to determine if the life of a pirate was a thing to be envied. They then use the articles to divide up treasure.

4. Culture Shock: Pirates - A fun and not entirely educational culture shock where students experience (kind of) the life of a pirate. Activities include swabbing the desks, writing poems in pirate language and creating a pirate flag.

5. Pirate Dossiers - a quick look at six historical pirates of the Caribbean. After analyzing their lives students will choose who was the best (well, worst) and consider whether the pirate life truly was as glamorous as Hollywood leads us to believe.