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Exploration, 1350-1550 • Columbian Exchange
Classroom Activities

Objective: Identify and explain features of the Columbian Exchange and take a position on its legacy.

Key Questions:

  • What foods or plants brought to America by the Columbian Exchange do you think play the biggest role today in the U.S. diet and economy?
  • Do you think Christopher Columbus should be blamed for the havoc Europeans wreaked on native populations? Why or why not?

Notes on Implementation:

  • Students can work on this activity individually or in pairs.
  • To extend the activity, hold a deliberation or debate where students share the perspectives they come up with.

Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the Explore Sections of the Topic Center within the American History database.

Student Activity:

The process known as the "Columbian Exchange" occurred when 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean and brought Europeans into contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The meeting of cultures led to the exchange of many foods, plants, animals, and even diseases. In this activity you will learn about the Columbian Exchange and evaluate its legacy.

In this activity you will learn about the Columbian Exchange and evaluate its legacy. You will use your favorite meal to identify features of the Columbian Exchange, and then take a position on its legacy.



  • Sketch out your favorite meal, include all ingredients or toppings.
  • Use The Columbian Exchange Visual in the Resources section to label and identify where each ingredient came from—the Eastern or Western Hemisphere.
  • Read the reference article on the Columbian Exchange.
  • Take a position on the Columbian Exchange and argue whether it was mostly positive or negative. Provide two reasons or supporting details for your position.


Key Understandings:

  • Powerful nations' ability to control wealth and resources increases their ability to influence other nations
  • Cultural exchanges can occur intentionally and unintentionally

Possible Answers for Activity:

Negative Position - The Columbian Exchange was mostly negative due to the widespread diseases that decimated Native American populations and left them vulnerable to attacks from European colonizers.

Positive Position - The Columbian Exchange was mostly positive due to the spread of plants and animals that provided people with new tasty food and a more well-balanced diet.

Eastern Hemisphere


  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chickpeas
  • Coffee
  • Grapes
  • Lettuce
  • Melons
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Rice
  • Sugar
  • Tea
  • Wheat


  • Cattle
  • Goats
  • Horses
  • Pigs
  • Rats
  • Sheep


  • Diphtheria
  • Measles
  • Pneumonia
  • Smallpox

Western Hemisphere


  • Avocado
  • Beans
  • Cacao
  • Chilies
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Potatoes


  • Buffalo
  • Raccoons
  • Rattlesnakes


  • syphilis


MLA Citation

"Columbian Exchange." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com. Accessed 15 Sept. 2019.

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