Making State History Fun

Does your child know the history of your state? Is he familiar with the Native Americans that once lived within its borders or the early pioneers that settled the land? Can he recognize the state flag, quote the state motto, or identify your state’s flower, bird, and tree? Does your child know your state’s nickname or the name of your capital and governor? If not, now’s the time to start him on a fun learning adventure about your state.

Although you’ll want to give your child a solid background on your state’s history with an engaging curriculum like Switched-On Schoolhouse® State History, you can also teach state history by weaving additional lessons into any subject area. With the following projects in science, art, and other subjects, you can teach your child a new love for the state you call “home”.

Stop and read the memorials to your state’s past. Roadside historical markers describe important facts about your state’s heritage that can peak a child’s interest in state history. Develop individual unit studies that expound on an event, such as using markers in western Nebraska to study the early pioneers on the Oregon Trail.

Play historical detective. Visit local museums and have your child choose one unfamiliar historical object. Ask your child to speculate on the mystery object’s use and then find out the real story behind it. Have your child identify the object, explain its function, and share why it was significant when it was used. (Hint: Older family members and retired people in your church or community are excellent resources for information.)

Give younger children a head start in learning your state’s capital (plus the names of all fifty states and their capitals) with puzzles or fun learning activities like the States and Capitals Card Game.

Encourage older children that love to hike and explore to study their state’s geography with geocaching. Using a Global Positioning System (GPS) or other navigational techniques, treasure hunters hide and seek small waterproof containers containing a logbook and inexpensive “treasures”. Caches in your state and near your city can also be found online.

Get the musician in your homeschooling family excited as he learns, plays, and sings your state’s song. Incorporate a biographical study on the song’s writer or spark your child’s creative juices - ask him to write an additional line, verse, or stanza that reflects some significant fact about your state.

Social Studies
Look for famous personalities that were born and raised in your state – Presidents, explorers, movie stars, sports heroes, or politicians. Let your homeschooler pick his favorite and write an in-depth biography about the person.

Do a unit study on the Native Americans that were the first inhabitants of your state. Discuss their cultural influence on the state and their life today. Explore the tribe’s history and construct a shoebox diorama illustrating a typical Indian village.

Create a genealogy of your child’s ancestors using a large tag board. Discover whether you have any family roots in your state.

Visit local parks or reserves and spend a day studying your state’s native plants, insects, birds, and animals. Send your child on a photo scavenger hunt to find species unique to your state and then record his findings with a disposable camera. Your state’s department of natural resources may also provide tours and fact finding information on native wildflowers, prairie grasses, and soil types.

Study your state’s climate and weather patterns. Make a chart of average rainfall and monthly temperatures and list types of severe weather found in your state.   

Discover your state’s recorded past in autobiographies, journals, diaries, and historical fiction written by pioneers and past leaders of your state. Stories can be found in archived newspapers, books, and reference materials at your local library.

Business and Commerce
Familiarize your child with your state’s main forms of commerce by taking field trips to local industries. Whether your state is agriculturally based or known for fishing, manufacturing, mining, or some other industry, your child will remember more if he sees the steps in producing the resources.

Arts and Crafts
Teach your child the meaning of the symbols and colors on your state flag while sewing a flag from leftover scraps of material.

Using plaster of paris, clay, or paper mache, create a 3-dimensional relief map and label the major lakes, rivers, mountains, and other physical features of your state.

Decorate a large plastic coffee container and make a time capsule with items of historical significance – native grasses, seeds from the state tree, picture or feathers from the state bird, copy of the state constitution, etc. 

Schedule a visit to your state capitol while the legislature is in session to observe the process of a bill becoming law. While you’re there, study the history of your state’s admission to the union and view your state’s constitution.

Although some of these activities may overlap into several subject areas, choose the ones you think your child will enjoy most. Studying your state’s history doesn’t have to be boring or monotonous. Make it as easy and fun as your next trip around town.

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