COLUMBUS & THE EXPLORERS: Film & Literature For K-12


[semester equivalent = 4.00 credits]



Eric Low



One of the essential components in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Reading is the study of the human experience.  For this course you will be examining key people, places and events, during the Age of Exploration by European explorers into the New World.  Our culture is fascinated with this topic and there are ample film, literature, and classroom resources to help communicate the scope and importance of the discovery of the early Americas to our students.  This course will provide curriculum ideas for Language Arts, Social Studies, and Reading teachers of grades K-12 that meet state standards.
This course will also provide video, literature and classroom resource ideas for teachers preparing for major themes of the Age of Exploration that can actively engage students around many of the major themes and events of this time period.  There are books and videos on Explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Magellan, Ponce De Leon, Cortes and more. Many of these films are available at local libraries, from NetFlix, in video stores for purchase, and ESDs.  You will choose 8 videos and 2 novels to view and write a unit plan on how you’ll use some of these in your teaching situation.  In addition to film and literature, this course will also provide classroom resources on Exploration such as websites that offer interactive maps, lesson plans, art, music, lectures from leading scholars, etc.
If you choose NetFlix (but is not required), a three-month subscription is about $30. (NetFlix also has an online video capability with the right operating system.)  You will need to have access to both a DVD player and a VHS video player to enjoy the full range of media choices. 


LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

1.     A broader knowledge of the different video, literature, and classroom resource possibilities associated with the Age of Exploration for classroom use.
2.     Developed greater skill in how to use videos, literature, and selected classroom resources for teaching purposes.
3.     Developed a plan for a comprehensive teaching unit for the Exploration themes that apply to their teaching.
4.     Applied extended reading and research on Exploration issues to lesson plans, if the credit option is chosen.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), or Washington State Clock Hours or Oregon PDUs. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours and Oregon PDUs.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



After determining your assignment choices, please see the list of books in the Bibliography for Assignment #3 and #4.

None. All reading is online.


Text fee depends on your book selection.


Eric Low, M.A.  has been a teacher and coach in the state of Washington since 1992.  He has lived, taught, and studied in Southwest Washington since 1995.  Eric has a Master’s degree in history from Eastern Washington University with an emphasis in America’s West and has been an active researcher of Washington State history for 20+ years.  Eric currently teaches history at Winlock High School and serves as a Lead Teacher for ESD 112s “Constitutional Connections” American History grant, a 3 year program that has worked to utilize and develop Social Studies Common Core and CBAs in the classroom.   


COLUMBUS & THE EXPLORERS: Film & Literature For K-12

COLUMBUS & THE EXPLORERS: Film & Literature For K-12
Select one (1) fiction and one (1) non-fiction book (they are divided below) from this list (or a different book of your choosing with instructor’s prior approval) to complete assignments #3 and #4.  Many of the following can be found in local libraries, ESD libraries, in Google Books, or for purchase.
Chippendale, Neil. Sir Walter Raleigh and the search for El Dorado. Chelsea House Publications (July 2001). ISBN-10: 0791064352.
Lost colony -- English venture forth -- Raleigh, Ireland and Queen Elizabeth -- Disgrace and El Dorado -- End of an era.
Crichton, Michael. Pirate Latitudes. Harper (November 24, 2009). ISBN-10: 0061929379.
It is 1665, and the island of Jamaica is a British outpost in the midst of Spanish occupied waters. When rumours of gold aboard a Spanish galleon reach the ears of Charles Hunter, an English privateer, he organizes a ruthless gang to steal the gold. His successful acquisition is just the beginning of a series of thrilling adventures that deliver a surprising ending
Dorris, Michael. Morning Girl. Hyperion Book CH (January 1, 1900). ISBN-10: 078681358X.
A well-written portrayal of life on a Bahamian island prior to Columbus' arrival, written from the point of view of two young siblings of the native Indian culture. Only at the end of the book--after the reader has gotten to know this family and this culture--do we learn that the strangers who have appeared on the beach are Columbus and his men, and that the native people's lives are seriously in peril
Duble, Kathleen Benner. Quest. Margaret K. McElderry (March 25, 2008). ISBN-10: 1416933867. 
The story of Hudson's final attempt to find the Northwest Passage, told in four distinct and alternating narratives by four different characters. Together, they present the views of a range of people living during the Age of Discovery--explorers, sailors, family members left behind, investors..."An absorbing work of historical fiction.
Hesse, Karen. Stowaway. McElderry (June 1, 2002). ISBN-10: 0689839898. 
Inspired by the true story of a young stowaway on Captain Cook's ship, Stowaway is "an imaginative tale firmly anchored in fact" (PW).  Eleven-year-old Nicholas keeps a journal while on ship (the book is written in journal format) and writes about life aboard the Endeavor, the different places they stop, and more. Have your students read this book during units on the Age of Exploration.
Sis, Peter. Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus. Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1st ed edition (September 9, 2003). ISBN-10: 0679806288.
Portraying Columbus from his boyhood to his first landing in the Americas, Sis's (Waving; Alphabet Soup) account is straightforward but somewhat flat. Though his minimal text often reads like a rushed summary, his artwork is extraordinary. With their rich, earthy hues, fine cross-hatching and, in many instances, the semblance of parchment or aged oils, these illustrations recall the maps, charts and paintings of Columbus's own era
VanderMeer, Ann. Fast Ships, Black Sails. Night Shade Books; First Edition edition (November 4, 2008). ISBN-10: 1597800945.
This collection of 18 short stories ranges from humorous and romantic, to dramatic and terrifying with pirates aplenty. The settings take the reader on a journey from the high seas, to outer space and cyberspace
Waldman, Stuart. Magellan’s World. Mikaya Press (October 12, 2007). ISBN-10: 193141419X. 
A beautifully illustrated book about Magellan and his voyages.  Full page maps and lush illustrations make this book stand out.
Yolen, Jane. Encounter. Sandpiper; 1 edition (September 20, 1996). ISBN-10: 9780152013899.
The imaginative story examines the first meeting between Columbus and the indigenous peoples of San Salvador (the Taino) through the eyes of a young native boy. The unnamed narrator has been warned in an ominous dream that the strangers may bring trouble to his people. His concerns are ignored, however, and the Taino greet their guests with customary feasting and gifts, only to be repaid by the abduction of several of their young people.
DeAngelis, Gina. Francisco Pizarro and the Conquest of the Inca. Tandem Library (July 2000). ISBN-10: 0613325842.
Empire of the Sun God -- Who was Francisco Pizarro? -- Long quest begins -- Conquest of Peru -- Bloody end
DeAngelis, Gina. Hernando Cortés and the conquest of Mexico. Chelsea House Publications (October 1999). ISBN-10: 0791055167. 
A biography of the explorer whose brutal conquest of the Aztecs in Mexico was responsible for the first Spanish settlements in the New World
Dreher, Diane. Explorers Who Got Lost. Tor Books / Tom Doherty Associates; 1 edition (February 7, 2005). ISBN-10: 0812520386. 
Many key discoveries of the Age of Exploration were actually the result of explorers getting dreadfully lost and 'stumbling upon' new lands! This book provides biographies of eight important explorers, their routes and navigation systems, plus includes discussion about their mistakes, errors in judgment, wrong turns... A fun counterpoint to the glorious portrayal of the Age of Exploration found in most text books
Goodman, Joan. A Long and Uncertain Journey. Mikaya Press (April 7, 2001). ISBN-10: 096504937X.  This well written account of Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage is packed with interesting historic details without losing the broader context and impact of the voyage. Paired with "lavish, earth-toned watercolor illustrations" (SLJ), this a great classroom resource.
Harmon, Daniel. Juan Ponce de Leon and the search for the Fountain of Youth. Chelsea House Publications (February 2000). ISBN-10: 0791055175
A biography of the Spanish explorer and governor of Cuba, who attempted to find the Fountain of Youth in the New World.
Marcovitz, John. John Smith: Explorer and Colonial Leader. Chelsea House Publications (October 2001). ISBN-10: 0791064336.
"Two great stones" -- Captain -- Jamestown -- Exploring Virginia -- Colonists get to work -- Exploring New England
Marrin, Albert. The Sea King: Sir Francis Drake and His Times. Atheneum; 1st edition (May 1, 1995). ISBN-10: 0689318871. 
A "gritty, graphic, and gripping account" (SLJ) of the life of Sir Francis Drake, who circumnavigated the globe in the 16th century.
Sarabande, William. Beyond the Sea of Ice: The Voyages of Henry Hudson. Domain (November 1, 1987). ISBN-10: 0553268899. 
This "introduction to Hudson's voyages...will spark readers' interest." (Booklist) Readers learn about Hudson's voyages during the Age of Exploration and read journal entries made by Hudson and his crew. Includes full page paintings and helpful fold out maps showing Hudson's four voyages
VHS, DVD & Web Site Resources
Web Sites to be reviewed:
This website contains a variety of teacher resources about the Age of Exploration. It includes
Power Points on early exploration, Vikings, pirates, and many of the European explorers.
This website contains a variety of teacher resources about the Age of Exploration. It includes a timeline, maps, biographies, and lesson plans with a focus on the Conquistadors.
This website contains a variety of teacher resources about the Age of Exploration. It includes a timeline, maps, biographies, and lesson plans—including study guides and quizzes.
This website contains a variety of teacher resources about the Age of Exploration. It includes a timeline, maps, biographies, and lesson plans.
This website contains a variety of teacher resources about the Age of Exploration. It includes a timeline, maps, biographies, and lesson plans.
This pdf provides some detailed lesson plans on the Age of Exploration.
This website provides material on some of the more famous explorers such as Columbus, Ponce De Leon, Marco Polo, etc.
This website provides a comprehensive list of early maps of the New World and the explorers routes hitherto.
VHS & DVD Resources
Educational Service District
Many ESDs have Age of Exploration videos available for use at your school.  Check selections.
Local Library Systems
Many local library systems have Age of Exploration videos available for use at your school.
NetFlix is an online DVD site where you can order many commercial and documentary movies which are
mailed to you.  A monthly subscription costs about $10, and you receive one DVD at a time.  As soon as
you have seen it, return the DVD and you are supplied a second choice.  If you choose NetFlix, they have
a documentary section and all the films listed and described below are available from NetFlix.  If you work quickly, it would be possible to view all the movies easily in two months or less.

DVDs from NetFlix—Select eight (8)
Ancient Mysteries: The Fountain of Youth 1995.
More than 20 years after accompanying Christopher Columbus on his second excursion to the New World, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon set out on his own expedition in search of, it was said, the mythical Fountain of Youth. Instead, he discovered Florida. But what if his motivations were more material? In this installment of "Ancient Mysteries," historians and other experts suggest that profit and fame were Ponce de Leon's chief incentives.
Captain John Smith and Pocahontas  1953.
Far from simple animated characters, Pocahontas (portrayed in this 1953 film by Jody Lawrance) and Captain John Smith (Anthony Dexter) were real-life personalities caught in a time and relationship both buoyed and limited by human complexities. This dramatization of the famous affair explores the captain's initial doubts about their pairing, which give way to true affection, an idyll shattered by the jealous rages of Pocahontas's former flame.
Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. (1992) PG-13
Dreaming of finding a new route to the Indies, Christopher Columbus (George Corraface) asks for backing from Queen Isabella (Rachel Ward) and King Ferdinand (Tom Selleck) -- who agree to fund him after subjecting him to a grueling interrogation by the head of the Spanish Inquisition (Marlon Brando). Once Columbus sets sail, he faces sabotage and mutiny as he journeys to discover a new world in this bracing historical saga.
Christopher Columbus: Explorer: 1995.
This biography reveals the life of famed Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who set out to find a new route to Asia and discovered the New World instead. Through rare art and artifacts, period accounts and interviews with historians, the program chronicles Columbus's struggles and triumphs from persuading Spain's royals to fund his explorations to his thrilling discovery of the New World and the controversy surrounding his place in history.
Columbus: The Lost Voyage. (2007) NR
A far cry from his first voyage, the fourth expedition of Columbus was to be the great explorer's last -- a journey fully documented in this History Channel presentation based on the book by historian and adventurer Martin Dugard. As Dugard visits key sites from Columbus's voyages -- including Panama, Jamaica and Hispaniola -- dramatizations and interviews with local experts bring to life the ill-fated journey that resulted in mutiny.
Conquistadors. (2000) NR
Beloved historian Michael Wood recounts the adventures of the great Spanish conquistadors whose encounters with the Americas changed the modern world -- and all but obliterated the mighty Aztec and Incan empires. Literally walking in the footsteps of the conquerors Cortés, Pizarro, de Vaca and others, Wood examines the effects of the conquistadors' bloody campaigns, and communes with modern descendants of the Aztecs and the Incas.
Great Adventurers: Sir Francis Drake(1999) NR
From his early career as a privateer to his secretly commissioned expedition by Queen Elizabeth I, this documentary explores the life of famed British navigator and explorer Sir Francis Drake. Drake's many accomplishments include being the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and the man credited with defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588. This fascinating film includes footage shot aboard a replica of his celebrated ship, the Golden Hind.
Great Adventurers: Sir Walter Raleigh(1999) NR
This fascinating documentary explores the life of Sir Walter Raleigh -- an explorer, poet and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I who rose swiftly to fame and fortune only to suffer from a slow and tragic fall from grace. After many adventures, including voyages to colonize the New World, Raleigh fell victim to dark intrigues and political maneuvering at the close of Elizabeth's reign -- ultimately ending up with his head on the executioner's block.
The Great Inca Rebellion  2007.
This thought-provoking National Geographic program sheds new light on the long-held assumption that 16th-century Spanish conquistadors swiftly overtook the Incan empire with little resistance. Based on physical evidence recovered from the remains of those who died in battle and stunning reenactments produced with CGI animation, the program suggests that the Spanish assault on the ancient civilization may have lasted as long as 20 years.
Marco Polo. 2007.
Marco Polo (Ian Somerhalder) joins two priests on a quest to establish trade with Kublai Khan's (Brian Dennehy) empire and convert the Mongols to Christianity. But when the priests -- who question the existence of the rumored realm -- turn back, the Italian merchant forges ahead. This Hallmark Channel movie explores the true story of the valiant 13th-century explorer and his experiences after he's stranded in the East. B.D. Wong co-stars.
The New World (2005) PG-13
Set in 1607 at the founding of the Jamestown Settlement, Terrence Malick's epic adventure chronicles the extraordinary actions of explorer John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Native American princess Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher). As English settlers and Native Americans clash, Smith and Pocahontas find their worlds colliding and their hearts entwined, but ancestral loyalty may tear them apart. Christian Bale and Christopher Plummer co-star.
Penn of Pennsylvania 1942.
Clifford Evans plays the titular Penn -- Quaker leader and founder of the colony of Pennsylvania William Penn -- in this biopic that follows the great man's journey from upper-class Brit to New World leader. Eschewing a comfortable existence in his native Britain for the great unknown of life in the Colonies, Penn is willing to risk all in pursuit of religious freedom. Deborah Kerr stars as Penn's wilfe, Gulielma.
Plymouth Adventure (1952) NR
This Academy Award-winning drama (for Special Effects) stars the dashing Spencer Tracy as Christopher Jones, captain of the seafaring Mayflower, which is carrying Pilgrims from England to the New World. As a storm looms on the horizon, Jones falls for the wife (Gene Tierney) of one of the passengers, William Bradford (Leo Genn). Can the vessel withstand such scandal -- or is it just a distraction in a teapot already suffering a tempest.
The Road to El Dorado.  PG
In this animated feature set in the 16th century, Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh voice Spanish con men who see dollar signs when they win a map to the legendary city of gold. But when they reach El Dorado, things don't go according to plan. They're initially mistaken for revered gods, and as they begin to integrate into Mayan society, they reconsider their motivations and test their friendship and sense of adventure.
Shipwreck: Captain Kidd.  NR
With the aid of dazzling computer graphics, this National Geographic documentary dips beneath the surface to explore the remains of a 300-year-old ship rumored to carry a precious cargo of gold, silver and riches plundered from the East Indies. Abandoned in the 17th century by notorious privateer Capt. William Kidd, the Quedagh Merchant went undiscovered until a team of 21st century archaeologists unearthed it using modern technology.
Tall Tales & Legends: Ponce de Leon. (1986) NR
Get to know the legendary European explorer with an impossible mission in this retelling of the myth of Ponce de Leon (Michael York). Executive producer Shelley Duvall plays host to viewers young and old alike who are eager to learn about de Leon's search for the fountain of youth. This is no ordinary educational series, however; instead, it's a show infused with good humor, one that mines the absurdity of de Leon's quixotic quest.
When Worlds Collide. 2010.
Exploring the roots of Latino culture, this thought-provoking documentary transports viewers to the intersection of two vastly different worlds -- the "Old World" of European Spain and the "New World" of the Americas. Stops along the way include the Cerro del Tepeyac of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, the bustling city of Granada in Spain's Andalusia region, and Philip II's Escorial palace outside of Madrid
Choose a different video with instructor’s prior approval.
VHS & DVD Resources
Educational Service District
Many ESDs have Age of Exploration videos available for use at your school.  Check selections.
Local Library Systems
Many local library systems have Age of Exploration videos available for use at your school.
NetFlix is an online DVD site where you can order many commercial and documentary movies which are
mailed to you.  A monthly subscription costs about $10, and you receive one DVD at a time.  As soon as
you have seen it, return the DVD and you are supplied a second choice.  If you choose NetFlix, they have
a documentary section (upper right under favorite genres on the home page) and all the films listed and
described below are all available from NetFlix.  If you work quickly, it would be possible to view all the
movies easily in two months or less.