Leif Erikson Day

Leif Erikson Day lessons breathe life into social studies classroom explorations.

By Andrea Ferrero

Leif Erikson Day

The history of America is a rich tapestry of stories, experiences and larger than life historical figures. One such figure, Leif Erikson, will be honored on October 9th when Leif Erikson Day is observed. A Norseman and outgoing explorer, he led the first Europeans to North America. President Calvin Coolidge officially recognized him as the first to reach America in 1925. 

The discovery of new worlds and the heart thumping life of explorers presents numerous ways to enliven classroom curriculum, and present fun and engaging lessons. There is no reason to visit neither the dusty old tomes of standardized history text chapters, nor the lackluster task of answering period questions. Instead you can put students in the drivers’ seat of exploration. They can plan their trip to America taking on Leif Erikson's role. They can create a map, timeline of the journey, research the items they will need, and construct a list of tips and information they will need to survive. While researching the basics of planning their own exploration, students can look at a key component of early travel and exploration, the ship. They can build a scale model or representation of Erikson's ship the Restauration. 

As students bring Leif Erikson to life in the classroom, extensions can be made to modern times and continued efforts to explore our globe. Implementing strategies similar to geocaching you can design a treasure hunt in which students use their map skills and a compass to find clues around the school campus. They might also explore the modern classroom with the eyes of an early explorer, logging or creating an archive of the cultural objects they find around the room. They could also take on the roles of early explorers choosing a part from the historical period (explorer, specific historical figure, oarsman, wife of a Norseman, etc . . .) and move around the classroom interviewing one another to glean the details their classmates researched and enacted. 

The exciting lessons below will help you bring the Norseman and early European explorers to life.

Leif Erikson Day Lessons:

Westward With the Vikings!

Bring light and color into your classroom with this fun art lesson in which students create a Viking ship out of poster-board. After researching and identifying the components and construction of Norse exploration vessels students design their own version of a Viking ship including sails, oars, and flags in their replica. 


This full unit is chalk full of engaging activities and ideas to incorporate explorers in your classroom. Students create Viking songs, read folklore, explore historical figures lives, write letters to Vikings and explorers and much more. 

Guess the Explorer

After reading about, researching and discussing a variety of early explorers students craft riddles about their favorite explorers. They use the writing process to design their riddle book focusing on the explorers' motivations and achievements.