Ferdinand Magellan Unit Study

In this unit study you will learn about Ferdinand Magellan and his journey around the world. You will also learn a little about ship building and navigation, scurvy and vitamin C, and sea animals. This unit study is geared for elementary students and planned as a 2 week unit.

The book used for this unit study is Magellan A Voyage Around the World by Fiona MacDonald

Required books for Ferdinand Magellan Unit Study

Fiona MacDonald
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Day 1

1. Read pages 5-7 in Magellan.

2. Discuss the following: Magellan made the voyage around Africa to the Spice Islands which is part of present day Indonesia. He also was the first to sail around America and reach the Pacific Ocean.

3. Draw a map of the world. Include a compass rose to mark your directions. Draw solid lines to represent the equator and prime meridian. Use one color and mark the path around Africa to the Spice Islands. Use another color to mark the path of Magellan around America to the Pacific and on to the Spice Islands. Which path is shorter?

4. What types of goods did traders from Europe seek in China? Porcelain, silk, and spices were prized goods.

5. Pretend we are traders in the Spice Islands. Let's make our own fine porcelain and spices for trading.

Supplies you will need: flour, salt, paint, water, and cinnamon sticks

Porcelain instructions:

  • Mix 2 parts flour, 1 part salt, and 1 part water into a dough.
  • Shape into a vase or bowl.
  • Place dough on aluminum pan and bake at 300° for 1 hour.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Paint with decorations.

Cinnamon tea instructions:

  • Use cinnamon sticks to make cinnamon tea.
  • Heat up water in a sauce pan or microwave dish.
  • Add cinnamon sticks and allow to steep.
  • Drink hot or cold as desired

Day 2

1. Read pages 8-9 in Magellan.

2. One of Magellan's ships was named Vittoria. What does Vittoria mean in English?

3. Discuss ship building. What was the best timber? How did ship builders transport the timber? How did they curve the wood for the ship's hull?

4. Caravels were small ships with triangular shaped sails. Carravacks were large ships with big square sails. Use paper and crayons to draw a caravel and a carrack. Label both of your ships.

5. Discuss the parts of a ship.

6. Write a short essay about ship building. Include how the wood is chosen and transported, what tools are used, and the process of constructing a ship.

Day 3

1. Read pages 10-11 in Magellan.

2. The sailors of Magellan's day used many different instruments to navigate with. We are going to make some navigational instruments of our own.

Hour glass

Supplies you will need: 2 20 ounce soda bottles, super glue, and sand (or salt)

Hour glass instructions:

  • Use superglue to glue the backs of two bottle caps together.
  • Allow to dry.
  • Puncture a hole that goes through both bottle caps.
  • Fill one bottle with desired amount of sand.
  • Put cap on bottle, flip second bottle upside down and screw second cap on to make hour glass.
  • Flip your hour glass over and time how long it takes for the sand to flow through.

Log lines - A log line was a reel of knotted rope traveling behind the ship. The faster it unwound, the faster the ship was traveling. Have you ever heard the term "knots" when sailors talk about how fast they were traveling? Now you know where this term came from.

Lead lines

Lead lines were used to measure depth. Use a bolt or screw and tie a piece of string to it. Use your lead line in your sink or bathtub and measure out different distances.

3. A compass, map, landmarks, sun, and stars were all different ways sailors used to navigate. Write a short story showing how you could use the sun, stars, and landmarks to find your way home.

Day 4

1. Read pages 12-13 in Magellan.

2. Discuss the following. When and where was Ferdinand Magellan born? Magellan was a soldier as a boy. Whose army did he serve in? In 1517, Magellan married. Can you remember the name of his wife?

3. Sailors would be gone for long periods of time when they went out to sea. They would store up food for their travels. What type of food did they bring? How did they preserve their meat?

4. Let's make our own sea rations.

Sea Biscuits

Ingredients: 4 cups flour, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt

  • Mix flour, water, and salt in a bowl
  • Knead into a dough
  • Roll out dough on flour surface and cut into square pieces
  • Place pieces on flat baking sheet
  • Cook at 350° F for 25-30 minutes or until brown.

Beef Jerky

Ingredients: 1 1/2 lbs. of meat, 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. of black pepper, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder or minced garlic, 1/2 tsp. onion powder

  • Slice meat into thin pieces
  • Mix all ingredients in a Ziplock bag and place meat inside to marinade.
  • Allow to sit at least several hours, overnight is even better. (You may choose to marinade the night before.)
  • Place aluminum foil on a baking sheet and place on bottom rack of oven to catch drippings.
  • Lay out strips of meat on top rack of oven.
  • Bake at the lowest temperature setting and leave the oven door open to allow moisture to escape.
  • Check the meat after 5 hours.
  • It could take as long as 8 hours to dry meat

4. The Treaty of Tordesillas was signed by Spain and Portugal in 1494. A treaty is a formal agreement between two nations or states. Let's write our own treaty.

Do you have something you argue about with someone in your family? Do you and your siblings have to share toys, the TV, or something else? Do you try and avoid doing chores for your mother? Write a treaty on how you can agree on this issue. Make a name for your treaty and make sure everyone signs your treaty.

Day 5

1. Read pages 14-15 in Magellan.

2. Magellan found a narrow path leading from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. What is the seaway called today? Can you find the Magellan strait on a map?

3. Discuss the following. What was the name of Magellan's ship that was wrecked in a violent storm? Which ship headed back to Spain?

4. Magellan and his crew saw many kinds of sea creatures on their journey. Many of Magellan's crew thought they were sea monsters. Some of the sea animals they saw were manta rays, flying fish, whales, seals, porpoises, and squid. Can you think of any other sea creatures they might have saw?

5. Pick one sea animal to write a short report about. Use a book, encyclopedia, magazine, or the internet to find information about your animal. Include a drawing of your sea creature in your report.

Day 6

1. Read pages 16-17 in Magellan

2. Magellan and his crew were running out of food and water. What did the hungry sailors sell as food?

3. On March 6, 1521, they reached the island of Guam. Can you find Guam on a map? Why did they leave the island of Guam?

4. The sailors finally reached a safe land on the island of Cebu. They renamed Cebu the Philippines. Can you find the Philippines on a map? Who were the Philippine Islands named after?

5. The sailors became sick with a disease called scurvy. Survey is caused from lack of vitamin C. Do you know what foods you find vitamin C in? Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables. If you were traveling out to se what foods would you pack to prevent scurvy?

Let's make a vitamin C lunch (or snack). Choose 3 of the foods listed below to include in your lunch.

Foods that contain vitamin C:

Vegetables: green peppers, red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens, mustard greens, winter squash, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and brussel sprouts

Fruits: citrus fruits, citrus juices, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapples

6. Eating fruits and vegetables is very important to keep your body healthy. Write a silly story titled "The Boy Who Wouldn't Eat Vegetables".

Day 7

1. Read pages 18-19 in Magellan.

2. Discuss the following. Magellan and the King of Cebu became friends. Magellan converted the king and many of the islanders to Christianity. How did Magellan decide to help the king in exchange for his kindness? How did Magellan die? Where was Magellan buried?

3. What happened to the ship the Concepcion? How many ships were left from the original five ships?

4. After Magellan's death a new commander took charge. Can you remember his name?

5. Carvalho was jealous of Magellan and it is believed that he destroyed Magellan's log book. Pretend you are a friend of Magellan and a crew mate of his journey around the world. Write a letter to King Charles of Spain telling of all of Magellan's discoveries.

Day 8

1. Read pages 20-21 in Magellan.

2. Carvalho and his crew decided to leave the Philippines and head for the Spice Islands. The crew wanted to load their ships with spices, silks, pearls, perfumes, and medicines.

3. Let's make our own silks and pearls to load on the Vittoria.

Fine silks

Supplies you will need: solid color piece(s) of fabric and markers

Take a solid piece of fabric and use your markers to decorate flowers or other designs on to your silk.


Supplies you will need: white beads and string

Take your white beads and string them to make pearl necklaces.

4. Magellan and his crew took a long and exciting journey around the world. Have you and your family been on any exciting trips? Perhaps you went somewhere new on a vacation. Write a story about your most exciting family vacation. Tell where you went, how long it took to get there, what you packed for your trip, the exciting things you saw on your trip, and what you brought back from your vacation. Make sure to include a title and a cover page with drawings from your story.

Day 9

1. Read pages 22-25 in Magellan.

2. Discuss the following. Was Del Cano as good a navigator as Magellan? How many people returned to Spain on the Vittoria? What happened to the sailors that were captured in the Spice Islands?

3. It must have been an amazing site for the people of Spain to see the Vittoria pulling into port. Pretend you are a reporter present at the arrival of the Vittoria and write a newspaper article of the days event.

4. The sailors on the Vittoria were very thankful to be home and to be alive. Can you think of things that you are thankful for? Make a poster showing all of the things that you are thankful for.

Day 10

1. Read pages 26-29 in Magellan.

2. Del Cano claimed all the credit for the voyage around the world and blamed Magellan for all the mistakes. Magellan was all but forgotten.

3. Make a poster of Magellan's life. Include drawings of people, places, and events in your poster. Add dates, names, and labels where appropriate. Leave space to add a poem about Magellan.

4. Write a poem of Magellan's journey. Glue this to your poster or write it directly on your poster.