Lesson Plan: Evaluating An Alternate Theory About Columbus’ Discovery

Long familiar with the story of Christopher Columbus, students can form their own conclusions about whether a Chinese explorer may have known about this land more than a century before Columbus’ discovery.  The Voyage of Zheng He (Grades 6-8) asks, “Did the Chinese discover America in 1421?” as a retired submarine commander poses fascinating questions about the origins of European explorers’ maps and charts.

In a lesson plan that includes media, assessment and support resources, students watch two video segments about the theory that the Chinese built a fleet, circumnavigated the globe and discovered the Americas before Columbus. They then evaluate each segment to determine whether the evidence presented is valid.

Why is such evaluation an important concept?  As students encounter new ideas, opinions, information, and experiences throughout their lives — especially ones contrary to what they already know — they’ll be asked to use skills to both critically analyze and validate the accuracy of new material presented. Students need to be able to develop and apply criteria to determine whether new information should be incorporated into on-going ideas, behaviors or practices, and this lesson provides an engaging way for them to explore new material about an old story!

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