10/13/08 — Columbus Day a lesson for students

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Columbus Day a lesson for students

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on October 13, 2008 1:46 PM

Antonio Garcia

Yanet Garcia

Myra Pineda

Stephanie Gonzalez

Rodrigo Luviano

Sheila Nguyen

Mario Rivera

If you ask the students in Mary Wellmer's English as a Second Language class at Eastern Wayne Elementary School about Christopher Columbus, they can tell you a thing or two.

The second- and third-graders started learning all about the famous explorer and his journey to the New World early to get ready for today's Columbus Day holiday.

The only thing they didn't understand was why they still had to go to school.

But that didn't seem to upset them too much. And they were more than ready to explain why the man Sheila Nguyen, 8, called "Chris" remains so important a figure in world history.

She knew that he discovered America in 1492. For her and classmate Antonio Garcia, 9, that was an easy question.

What concerned Sheila was how the sailors kept enough food onboard the three ships that her desk buddy, Mario Rivera, 8, said were called "the Nina, the Pinta and the Mayflower, I mean, the Santa Maria."

"I would feel like I haven't eaten for a year," Sheila said.

The class learned that the discoverer's trip was about three months long -- a long time for a someone in the second grade.

Other classmates asked Mrs. Wellmer if they would be re-enacting the journey, a question that she quickly answered "Oh, no."

"That would have been fun," Antonio said.

Rodrigo Luviano, 8, said he thought that it was "cool that Columbus went around the world."

But Kendar Banegas, 9, wasn't as excited about the long sea trip as Garcia and Luviano were, especially after Mrs. Wellmer asked the class if they would be sad that they'd be away from their families for that long.

Most emphatically nodded their heads yes.

And at the mention of storms on the open seas, many said they would also be scared, including Kendar.

The ships' safety was also on their minds.

"And you might fall off," Mario pointed out.

"I would think that with a bunch of people on the ships, it would tip over," Sheila added.

The class also knew what year Columbus was born -- "1451," Stefanie Gonzalez, 8, said -- and where he was born -- "Italy," Yanet Garcia, 9, said.

And they also knew what he called America when he got here - "San Salvador," Sheila said.

And the students knew even more details.

"What did his brother do?" she asked the class.

"He made charts," Miss Gonzalez said.

"And maps," Myra Pineda, 9, added.

During the question-and-answer session, the boys and girls discovered a few new things about the explorer and the world in which he lived. When Mrs. Wellmer told the class that Columbus first thought he had discovered India, Mario asked, "Is that why he called them Indians?"

"Yes, that's why he called them Indians," Mrs. Wellmer said.

And although they knew where Columbus' trip started from -- Spain -- they didn't know where he and the ships stopped off along the way for supplies. To them, the Canary Islands sounded like a place for birds, not boats.

Details like that can be learned later, as Antonio put it, "when we grow up, in high school."