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Columbus Day Mini-Boats


            Today's Snack: Let's make Potato Boats! Wash a baking potato, poke several times with a fork, and microwave for 9 or 10 minutes on high power, turning over at the halfway mark.

Let cool slightly. Carefully cut the halves apart and scoop the potato "pulp" into a bowl.

Stir in your favorite additions: a tiny bit of butter, a splash of milk, shredded cheddar, chopped broccoli, chopped green onion, a few shakes of bacon bits.

Load it back into the potato "boats" and re-heat in the microwave for about a minute on high.

You can make "sails" for these mini-boats out of toothpicks and paper to resemble the boats in which Christopher Columbus sailed, but it might be more fun to just eat and enjoy them -- "sink" them into your tummy!






3 sheets of typing paper




Tub full of water




            Here's a fun way to mark Columbus Day and think about what it must have been like to be the person who discovered America. Let's make three little boats out of paper and float them, like the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Those were the three small boats that carried Spanish navigator Christopher Columbus and his crew across the Atlantic Ocean to make world history.


            Of course they were made out of wood, not paper. But you can pretend to be Columbus on a small scale. Follow these instructions for folding your boats, and while you float them and play with them, you can learn and discuss more about the courageous Christopher Columbus, one of the most famous explorers ever:



Use a search engine to find out more facts about Christopher Columbus. Here are some to get you started:


n      He was born in 1451 and died in 1506, in Spain.


n      His father was a wool weaver, cheese stand owner, and tavern owner.


n      Despite those humble beginnings, the navigational skill of Columbus ended up putting more land under the sovereignty of Spain than in all of Africa and Europe combined.


n      The boats were relatively small and were named the Niña (Spanish for "girl" - note the double- pronunciation of the second "n" as marked with the little curving symbol above it), the Pinta ("The Painted One"), and the Santa-Maria (St. Mary, the mother of Jesus).


n      King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain paid for his voyage and three later ones, so they got to own all the lands that he discovered and paid him a sort of commission that made him fairly rich in later life.


n      Columbus was actually trying to find a shorter way to China and India so that Spain could compete for the spice trade against the Arabs and Italians, who were closer to China and India. He thought the Earth was much smaller. Instead of making it to East Asia, he landed in the Caribbean. Ironically, he thought he had discovered the eastern shore of India, and that's why he called the native people "Indians." Of course, the wealth that his discovery eventually brought back to Spain far exceeded any spice trade advantages, so his discovery was a huge boon to the Spanish.


n      He wasn't actually the first European in the Americas. That honor goes to Leif Ericson, a Norseman, who got there 500 years before Columbus. However, Columbus was the first one to stay and open up communication and trade between Europe and the Americas, so his voyage and discovery are considered very important.


n      The winds in the southern Atlantic blow toward the west, so Columbus's journey there took only 36 days of sailing in the open ocean. If he had tried to go back the same way, it would have taken him many months, probably longer than the food and water supplies would have lasted. Fortunately, Columbus understood that the winds in the Atlantic blow in a circular pattern, clockwise. So he sailed north first, then back east toward Europe, and got home in fine shape.


n      Columbus has since been criticized for putting some of the native people into slavery. But it must be noted that at that time, most everyone all over the world thought slavery was OK. So Columbus was in the mainstream of the culture at the time. Ironically, the natives themselves were familiar with slavery, because they took slaves from other tribes.


n      He also has been criticized for taking native gold and crops back to Spain. But Columbus traded items brought from Europe for those items from the natives. Nothing was forced. And the natives were happy with the trades, so it was fair.


n      In recent years, some have criticized Columbus for spreading European diseases among the native people. In his defense, most of the natives who died were felled by diseases that the Europeans brought by accident. The Caribbean natives didn't have immunities in their bodies because those diseases were previously unknown, so they were extra vulnerable. But nobody knew that. Ironically, it is believed that Columbus' men brought the sexually-transmitted disease syphilis back to Europe from the Americas, taking many European lives as a result, since that disease was new to Europe.

n      It has been suggested in recent years that Columbus exploited the peaceful, innocent natives, but history shows that they were constantly at war with one another, had no concept of private property, had no written laws, had no books or permanent homes, nomadic, promiscuous, and were not to the level of civilization that Europe had gained centuries before.


n      Columbus said that his main purpose for going to the New World was to convert any people he found there to Christianity. Evidence of this is found in the name he gave to the ship, the Santa-Maria (St. Mary, the mother of Jesus), and the two places he landed: San Salvador (His Salvation) and Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ), along with the popular Christian men's organization, the Knights of Columbus.


n      The influence of Columbus lives on even in 21st Century America. Note that our nation's capital, The District of Columbia, is named for him. The capital of Ohio, Columbus, is another legacy, as is the capital of South Carolina, Columbia. Any time you see the term "pre-Columbian," especially with regard to art, it refers to the time before Columbus ventured to the New World in 1492.



By Susan Darst Williams • • Holidays & Seasons 38 © 2009

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