Christopher Columbus’s Discovery in 1492: Creation of a Hero or Villain?

By Eric Gomez, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Summer Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

3-90 Minute Classes


This lesson is designed to address the multiple views that are held on Columbus’s discovery of the Americas.  The lesson is meant to give students differing views on the reception of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas in 1492 while developing their ability to recognize author bias.  The Challenge students will have to approach is how to use the design process to create a public installation that represents multiple views on the “Discovery of the Americas” by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The lesson will engage students because it will challenge them to rethink their preconceived notions on the discovery of the Americas, while giving them the ability to create a product that demonstrates what they are learning.

National Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
Visual Arts- LVL 4 (Grade 9-12) 1. Applies media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that one’s intentions are carried out in artworks. 2. Understands how the communication of ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes one uses. 3. Understands relationships among works of art in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture History- United States History LVL 4 (Grade 9-12) 3. Understands the social, economic, and political factors that stimulated overseas exploration (e.g., the rise of centralized states, the expansion of commerce and how it affected cross-cultural contacts with new peoples) Historical Understanding- Understands the historical perspective LVL 4 (Grade 9-12) 9. Analyzes how specific historical events would be interpreted differently based on newly uncovered records and/or information 10. Understands how the past affects our private lives and society in general Language Arts- Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes LVL 4 (Grade 9-12) 5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids)


Students will:
  • conduct research on Author Biases
  • Evaluate Written Text to Discover Bias
  • Create a Statue or Drawing that reflects bias.
  • Conduct a survey to gain insight


Howard Zinn “A People’s History of the United States Ch. 1 Larry Madaras, James M. Sorelle “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American History” Issue 2- Was Columbus an Imperialist?


Clay & & Standard Tools (wood rib, synthetic sponge, loop tool, ribbon tool, needle tool, wood modeling tool, wire clay cutter and steel scraper), Blank unlined Paper, Markers, Colored Pencils, Readings.


Bias- a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly Installation- a work of art that usually consists of multiple components often in mixed media and that is exhibited in a usually large space in an arrangement specified by the artist Imperialist- a policy or practice by which a country increases its power by gaining control over other areas of the world Prototype- a first, typical or preliminary model of something, especially a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied. Ideate- to generate as many ideas as possible.


Day 1 1. 10 minutes (student work) / 10 minutes (Class Discussion, Teacher Led): Warm Up (Present the Challenge) Questions 1. What is the significance of the date 1492 to the history of the United States? 2. How might the discovery of the Americas be interpreted by Native Americans? 3. How might the Discovery of the Americas be Interpreted by United States citizens? 4. What should a monument or painting of Christopher Columbus’s Discovery look like in an elementary School? (Present the Challenge) 5. What should a monument or painting of Christopher Columbus’s Discovery look like on a college campus? (Present the Challenge) 6. What should a monument or painting of Christopher Columbus’s discovery look like in the center of a major American city? (Present the Challenge)   2. 45 minutes - Reading And Notes (Identify/Investigate): The teacher will notify the students that the discussions and readings they are going to do will be to fulfill the challenge of creating a public installation of Christopher Columbus’s Discovery. The teacher will need to explain what a public installation is and why they are created. The teacher can present various examples of installations to give the students an idea of how the designs can variate based on their clients needs. The class will read the Howard Zinn reading together and discuss the author’s interpretation of Columbus’s Discovery. The students will be required to take notes on the author’s bias while reading. The students will then independently read the Madaras & Sorelle reading and continue to take notes. The students will be required to formulate their opinion of whether or not a public installation of Columbus’s Discovery should be viewed in a positive or negative manner. 3. 20 minutes: Interview (Identify/Investigate): The students will then need to interview their classmates to find out their interpretation of Columbus’s discovery. They will need to interview a minimum of 10 students and document the student’s name, response and reasoning. 4. 5 minutes: Wrap Up: The teacher will then question students to gauge what types of opinions they are generating. The teacher will also let the students know that next class will consist of using the data collected through readings and interview to create a prototype of an installation for Christopher Columbus’s Discovery that will be judged by their peers.   Day 2  1. 10 minutes: Warm Up: Students will need to review their notes and interviews from the previous class. 2. 10 minutes: Discussion: The teacher will then lead the students in a brief discussion that refocuses the students attention on the presenting challenge. 3. 65 minutes: Design & Creation (Generate & Edit/Develop): The teacher will then divide the class into two halves, those that have a favorable opinion of Columbus’s Discovery and those that do not by telling them to stand on opposite sides of the class. The teacher will then divide the students into teams of 2. The teams will generate ideas that they can either draw or mold a statue that represents the bias they discovered about the discovery through the readings and interviews. The students’ first step is to brainstorm multiple ideas about how they can create their installation. The teacher will be walking around the room to provide assistance and approval. Once the teams have chosen an idea, they will then begin to construct or draw their design. Students need to finish construction or illustration by the end of the period. 4. 5 minutes: Wrap Up: The teacher will instruct students to put up materials and clean up their workspace. The teacher will also notify students that next class period they will be presenting their ideas and getting peer responses on their installations.     Day 3 1. 5 minutes Preparation: the teams will be instructed to prepare their installations for presentation. The teacher will also notify the students to be prepared to answer questions about their installation. 2. 50 minutes (Evaluate/Implement): Present and Survey Peers: The students will be allowed to walk around the classroom and observe other team’s installations and will be required to answer the questions for each installation: Does the team’s installation accurately represent the bias chosen about Christopher Columbus\'s discovery? If so, how? 3. 30 minutes: Reflection: The students will then need to evaluate their surveys to see if they represented their bias. 4. 5 minutes: Closing: The students and teacher will hold a discussion addressing the biases and views of Columbus.  


The students will be assessed on their completion of their notes, construction of their installation, and participation in surveys. Students that are stronger in verbal skills will benefit from the notes and survey portion. The students will artistic inclinations will benefit from the construction of installation portion.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students will be able to link lesson to science due to the link between old world antibodies and new world antibodies. Students will be able to link the lesson to art classes by creating an original product that reflects their learning. Students will be able to recognize biases in American society.

Teacher Reflection

The teacher will be able to reflect on students’ participation in surveys, recognition of bias, and can modify the amounts of time students have to create and the questions used on survey. Remember to instruct students to suspend their own beliefs of Columbus and the things they might have learned about him in previous grades. Based on experiences with teaching this lesson before, students have had a difficult time with seeing Columbus in another light, however when they do recognize there is multiple viewpoints to Columbus and his impacts, the students become enlightened.

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