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Christopher Columbus (Columbus and the "Discovery of the New World")

Based on the article by Rafał Jaworski: “Christopher Kolumbski, the story of King Władysław on the distant island”

Author: Katarzyna Czekaj

Społeczna Akademia Nauk



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Basic information

The topic of the module concerns various methods of presenting the historic figure of Christopher Columbus in literature, popular culture and school textbooks. The choice of articles from popular science magazines used in the module allows the students to familiarize themselves with various theories concerning the life of that great explorer, as well as various points of view regarding his role in the world's history. The main part of the module is based on a Polish article presenting a critical analysis of theories about Columbus' Portugal origin and his kinship with Polish king Ladislaus of Varna. However, the suggested tasks are also based on articles concerning Columbus that were published in German, British, Swedish and Spanish magazines. In addition, for some tasks students need to individually search the Internet for information and refer to other sources of knowledge concerning the explorer that are available to them: school textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, iconography and both feature and popular science films. The module's construction allows the students to learn about various perspectives and points of view concerning the origin of Christopher Columbus and his role in history, but also, most importantly, to improve their critical analysis competences in relation to information from both traditional and multimedia sources, as well as effective processing of that information in order to form their own conclusions and opinions.

Reference to the core curriculum

Pursuant to the history core curriculum in Poland, the topic of the article corresponds to the issues discussed during the third stage of education (the second year in lower secondary school, when students are 14-15 years old), as well as the extended history curriculum at the forth stage of education (students at the age of 16-19). Due to a relatively difficult topic of the article, on the basis of which most of the tasks in the module were created, it is suggested to use the material in work with older students, in upper secondary school. The module can also be used in interdisciplinary teaching and media education (in upper secondary school), as it largely concerns the development of such competences as analysis and critical evaluation of information from various sources. Those competences are equally useful in learning many school subjects.

Educational goals

The main goal of the tasks included in the module is the development of the students' skills connected with doing basic historical research, but there are other goals as well. The developed competences are universal and concern such skills as: critical analysis of the source of information, recognizing and pointing out elements that make the source of information more reliable or disqualify specific information material, obtaining data from various sources (school textbooks, articles in popular science magazines, Internet databases, iconography and both documentary and feature films) and using the gained information to form one's own conclusions and opinions. In addition, comparing articles in popular science magazines coming from various countries allows for improving many intercultural competences, such as discerning various points of view and different attitudes to specific events and history facts, as well as finding out why the authors' opinions about a given issue may vary depending on their country of origin.

Point of view of ”Columbus” in Polish history textbooks

In Polish school textbooks the analysis of life and discoveries of Christopher Columbus is not a separate teaching module, but a part of a larger topic concerning expeditions of sailors and travellers in the 15th and 16th centuries, along with the consequences of their discoveries. Both the core curriculum and textbooks based on it focus on such issues as: the most important voyages of exploration and their reasons, inventions allowing for transatlantic travels, factors influencing individual countries' decisions about expansion to other continents and finally social, economical and cultural consequences of discoveries made in that period – both for European countries and the New World. Since Poland did not take part in voyages of discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, nor in the consequential expansion of the Europeans to other continents, history teaching in Polish schools does not focus much on the relation between Christopher Columbus and later colonial expansion. Founding colonies and the rivalry between European countries in that matter is analysed in the context of the above-mentioned issue only as one of many consequences of the great geographical discoveries, including Christopher Columbus' expeditions.


Katarzyna Czekaj

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