Pennsylvania – A Mini Unit Study
This mini unit on PENNSYLVANIA uses the cross curricular approach to education. There are several activities from different academics subjects for you to choose from. One of the most important things is to have fun!
University of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania, the second state to ratify the Constitution, was nicknamed “the Keystone State” because it was the center, or keystone, of the arch of the original thirteen colonies. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia.
The name “Pennsylvania” means Penn’s Woods. Forests still cover approximately 3/5 of the state. William Penn, a Quaker, established the colony as a place where people of all faiths could enjoy religious freedom.
Below are some activities to help you study PENNSYLVANIA. You may choose to do all, some, or none of the activities. You can also alter the activities to better suit your individual child’s needs. Some of these activities overlap each other, choose the one you think that you and the children will enjoy most. The main point of this unit is to make learning about PENNSYLVANIA and enjoyable for all who are participating.
Pennsylvania has such a long history and has played such a pivotal role in our nation’s beginnings that there is no way I can cover absolutely everything about the state in this unit. In addition to what is in this unit, be sure and study individual cities and areas such as Hershey, PA with its chocolate theme; Philadelphia, PA with its many historic areas; Pittsburgh, PA and steel; etc. There is also the capital, Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania’s State Flag
Pennsylvania's State Flag is composed of a blue field on which is embroidered the State Coat of Arms. The first State Flag bearing the State Coat of Arms was authorized by the General Assembly in 1799. An act of the General Assembly of June 13, 1907, standardized the flag and required that the blue field match the blue of Old Glory.
Create a State “Infodesk”:
Before you begin this unit you may want to set up a research area. Place a desk or table in front of a bulletin board area. This will be where you can place relevant books, magazines, photographs, posters, newspaper articles, maps, scrapbooks, games, puzzles, computer software, task cards, travel brochures, etc. that you collect.
Print a blank map of the state, or draw one on tag board, that you can place on the bulletin board. As you study the political and physical features of the state, have the children fill in the name of the state capital, large cities, and major geographical features. Color the map using different shades for varying elevations.
Place a chart next to the map called “State Facts.” List any information on here that you would like to be able to find at a quick glance. Have the children fill this chart up as the unit progresses.
Build a Mini Museum
Build a mini museum to exhibit any artifacts or memorabilia about the state you are working on. Label the items with a date and a brief explanation of their history. Also display any state maps and projects made by the children.
Create a Unit Portfolio
During this unit, you can have the child(ren) prepare a portfolio to keep their notes and completed projects in. Include an outline map of the state or a copy of the state flag to go on the cover of the portfolio. Have them include the date they begin and complete the unit.
Use any or all of the following sub-topics to gather information on the state. This can even be used as your “State Facts” sheet mentioned in “Infodesk” section above.
1. State Name:
2. State Nickname:
4. Rank in population:
5. Total Area:
6. Rank in size:
10. Capital City:
12. Manufactured Goods:
13. Agricultural Crops:
17. State Motto:
18. State Flower:
19. State Bird:
20. State Tree:
21. State Song:
22. Date State Entered Union:
23. Tourist Attractions:
24. Historical Facts:
25. Largest Cities
§ By area
§ By population
26. State Preserve:
27. State Seashore:
28. State Monuments:
29. State Parkway:
30. State Wonders
31. Average January Temperature:
32. Average July Temperature:
33. Endangered Species:
34. National Parks:
35. National Historical Parks:
36. National Memorials:
37. National Historical Sites:
38. Famous People:
39. Amazing Facts:
40. U.S. Representatives:
41. U.S. Senators:
42. Electoral Votes:
44. Annual Events:
45. Name and address of state’s tourist information center:
When you have completed gathering the above information, you could do use the facts to:
§ Create a “State A to Z Fact Book” with a person, place, or fact for each letter of the alphabet.
§ Create a “State Book of Facts” by cutting paper into the shape of the state and writing one interesting fact along with an illustration on each page. Bind the pages together in a cover of the same shape as the pages.
§ Use the facts to help with other activities in this unit.
List what you know before you begin the unit and what you would like to learn during the unit and then when the unit is over what you learned throughout the unit.
Information Scavenger Hunt:
As an ongoing part of this unit, have a “state scavenger hunt” to answer questions about the state. State archives, history books, museums, artifacts, photographs, old newspapers and magazines, and experts on various topics of interest will help gather an overall picture of the state.
Set up categories (i.e., in the beginning, early immigrants, statehood, geography, famous people, etc.) and provide containers (i.e., folders, boxes, etc.) to keep the material and information you gather in to keep them organized.
Information you gather on your “scavenger hunt” can be used to prepare reports on the state. The complexity and method of presentation of the reports will depend on the level of your child(ren).
As you work on this unit, gather information, you may wish to create a state timeline so that you can see important events in the states’ history presented in a chronological format.
Timeline Example #1
Timeline Example #2
The First Inhabitants:
The first inhabitants of the United States were Native Americans, also called Indians. Native Americans were the descendants of nomadic tribes who crossed the Bering Strait’s land bridge between Russia and what is now the state of Alaska thousands of years ago. When Columbus sailed, there were approximately 350 Native American tribes in North America.
Determine what tribes lived this the state originally. Gather as much information on this/these tribe(s) as possible. Explore both the history of the tribe and life for the tribe members. Some questions you may wish to consider in this area are:
§ Was the state named after an Native American tribe or some aspect of Indian history or culture?
§ As European settlers arrived in the state, what happened to the Native American population and why?
§ How did the Native American culture influence the state’s culture?
§ Describe life of the Native Americans in the state today.
§ What problems do Native Americans face in the state today?
To enhance this part of your study, you may wish to construct a shoe box diorama of an Indian village as it would have been long ago. Find out what their particular dwellings looked like (i.e., wigwam, adobe bricks, log cabin, etc.). What would the vegetation have looked like?
The First Pioneers:
Arriving in America was just the beginning for many immigrants. Many settlers began their treks in different ways, using different means of transportation, and coming and going in many different directions.
Who were the first pioneers to arrive in the state? When did they come? Why did they come? How did they get there?
Use encyclopedias, history books, internet search engines, etc. to answer the above questions and to find out about particular groups that immigrated to the state and when.
One question you might find interesting to answer is to find out whether you have any family or family roots (also known as genealogy) in this state. [For an interesting mini unit on Genealogy check out http://www.easyfunschool.com/article1099.html.
Find a description of how the state applied for and achieved statehood.
Pennsylvania's admission to the union
What were the main reasons that this state applied for statehood? Identify the possible political, social, and economic reasons why a territory applied for statehood.
Historical Monuments and Natural Wonders:
Research how historical signposts and markers are used. Find several examples in your own area. Historical monuments are sometimes marked with signposts or even become the centerpiece of a state or national park.
Pennsylvania State Parks
Pennsylvania Historic Places
Now that you know what a historical place is, research some of the historical places and monuments in this state. You may wish to check the National Park System website at http://www.nationalparks.org/index.html for help in this area. The URL http:// www.nps.gov may also prove useful as soon at the National Park Service reopens their sites.
States are not only filled with historical monuments and sites, but with natural wonders. For example, Arizona has the Petrified Forest, Kentucky has Mammoth Cave, and Florida has the Everglades. Look at a map, an encyclopedia or atlas, or various travel books and brochures to find the natural wonders of the state you are researching. Choose one or more of the following activities to complete:
* Choose one natural place and write a descriptive essay explaining what they like about that particular place. Create a picture to accompany the essay.
* Create a mobile with pictures showing the highlights from their chosen natural place.
* Collect postcards of natural wonders from the state or make your own picture postcards.
Some of the people who have made great contributions to our country may have lived and/or worked in the state you are researching. You may wish to make a set of flash cards using tag board or index cards to complete this section.
Make photocopies of pictures of famous people from the state.
Glue the picture to one side of a 3” x 5” piece of tag board or an index card.
Be sure to include the individual’s name, the dates that they lived, and a list of the individual’s accomplishments on the side opposite of the picture.
Make up your own games using your homemade flashcards.
Famous Folks of Pennsylvania
Land Form Maps
Making state maps of various kinds is an excellent way to learn about land forms, locations, and state resources. A “land form” map shows the shape and height of the land. It shows mountains, plateaus, hills, plains, rivers, etc.
State Map of Pennsylvania
Create your own landform map of the state’s geographical features.
1. Determine the state’s features by looking up a state map in an atlas, an encyclopedia, or a geography book.
2. Make a landform key at the bottom of your blank map form. Include symbols for each of the different landform types in your state.
3. Color in the areas in your state to match the key. Your key should be color-coded. Make the highest land form the darkest color and the lowest land form the lightest color. You can use colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc.
4. Label the large rivers and mountain ranges with their names.
You could also make a relief map of the state. A relief map is a 3D version of a landform map. You could use paper mache or salt dough to make your own relief map.
Historical Maps of the US
State Resource Map:
Resources are things that people use every day. Resources are found and developed from the land itself, or made into other things we use.
1. What resource or manufactured good is your state best known for?
2. How does this resource or product affect the state’s economy?
3. How does the state’s resources/products affect how people live?
4. What products from neighboring states are used by the state?
Make a product map:
1. Look in an atlas, encyclopedia, or geography book to find a map showing the location of products raised or produced in the state.
2. Create a product map showing where these products are grown or manufactured in the state. Use a symbol key to represent the products on your map.
3. Show important cities situated near these resources on your map.
Make a mineral map:
1. Look in an atlas, encyclopedia, or geography book to find a map showing the location of minerals in the state.
2. Create a minerals map showing what minerals are mined in the state, if any. Minerals are natural substances obtained by mining such as coal, ore, salt, or stone. Use a symbol key to represent the minerals.
3. Show important cities situated near these resources on your map.
Names, Nicknames, Mottos, and Songs:
Each state’s name has its origin in some part of American history. Some states were named after explorers, and some after monarchs, kings, or presidents. Many states’ names have Indian or Spanish origins. Every state also has a nickname, a motto, and a state song.
Find out this state’s name, nickname, motto, and song and then find the origins of each. A great internet search engine that can help with this is www.google.com . An online encyclopedia and/or a printed encyclopedia or atlas can help with this research as well.
State Motto Information from Geobop
Pennsylvania State Information
Each state has adopted one bird that represents their state. Find out what this state’s bird is and then find out the following information:
1. name of state bird
2. bird’s habitat
3. colors and markings of this bird
4. food of choice for this bird
5. enemies this bird may have
6. protective behaviors
8. type of nest
9. egg size and shape, as well as incubation time
10. migration habits
11. beak shape and function
12. feet type
13. adaptations to environment
14. songs and calls
15. other interesting behaviors
16. endangered or not
17. how it became the state bird
Draw a picture of the state bird and write a paragraph about what you have learned. Add this to your unit portfolio.
The ruffed grouse was adopted as Pennsylvania’s state bird on June 22, 1931, the same day its state tree was adopted. Little has been recorded about the grouse’s adoption. It was championed by Mrs. Harry J. Shoemaker, Chairman of birds and flowers and the officers of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs.
The ruffed grouse is found in most of Pennsylvania’s counties. It is one of the most popular game birds in the eastern United States.
Pennsylvania’s State Bird
State Tree and State Flower
Every state has adopted a tree and a flower to represent it. Find out the tree and flower this state chose.
1. Sketch and color a picture of both the state tree and state flower.
2. Label the parts of each.
3. Find out if the tree or flower is on an endangered list, and if yes, what is being done to protect it.
4. If possible, visit a botanical garden to see a real, live example of the tree or flower. Or, look at seed and gardening catalogs to find examples of these.
Pennsylvania’s State Tree
Is this state home to any endangered species? If yes, what are they? What is being done in this state to protect the endangered species? Where are these endangered species located?
You could make your own flashcards on the endangered species of this state by drawing or pasting a picture of the plant or animal on the front of an index card and on the reverse, writing some descriptive information.
Every state is affected by conditions of climate and geography. States experience floods, earthquakes, sinkholes, erosion, hurricanes, tornadoes, hailstorms, firestorms, blizzards, drought, mudslides, volcanic activity, and electrical storms.
Make a list different weather types that affect the state you are researching. Look in newspapers, travel brochures and books, tourism sites, etc. to find this information out.
1. Make a table of the state’s average monthly rainfall, then record the information on a bar graph.
2. Make a table of the state’s average monthly temperature, then record the information on a line graph.
3. List various severe weather found in this state and any state-wide plans for dealing with it. For instance, Florida has hurricane evacuation routes in flood prone areas.
Hot Chocolate -- A Mini Unit
Chocolate Fudge Clay
Pennsylvania Dutch Stenciling
HGTV Pennsylvania Dutch crafts
Anything that has to do with the Colonial era of American history would probably work well with this unit. The city of Philadelphia itself is one our premier historic sites. Anyone having access to the AAA Travel Guide for the state of Pennsylvania should really check out the section on Philadelphia, there is even a walking tour. I’ve been there, and used the AAA book as our guide, and it is a wonderful family activity.
Kids in the Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Candy
Colonial Cooking: Philadelphia Pepper Pot
Pennsylvania Dutch Recipes
Any kind of colonial recipe would probably be a good inclusion for this unit, especially if you can tie it in to a particular event, culture, or person from the state.
Pennsylvania History in the Classroom
Pennsylvania History – from colony to 1997
Info Please - Pennsylvania
The US 50
About the Amish
Great General Resource
Pennsylvania State Unit
Just Plain Fancy: An Amish Unit Study
Pennsylvania Geography & more
Pennsylvania Lesson Plans
Philadelphia’s Historic Mile
Pennsylvania Lesson Plans
Meet You At The Point – Pittsburg
Lessons from the US Mint
Historical Text Archive
I’ve said it several times, but again, almost anything having to do with the colonial era and/or the American Revolution would be a good resource for this unit.
You can use Easy, Fun, Safe Explosions to simulate cannon fire.
Gardening experiments or planting trees is good for Pennsylvania because of it vast agriculture and forests.
Pennsylvania: Early History wordsearch
Thirteen Colonies Word Search
A lot of printables from enchantedlearning.com
The Keystone State: A "keystone" is a central, wedge-shaped stone which holds all the other stones of a structure in place to form an arch. In early America, Pennsylvania played a vital geographic and strategic role in holding together the states of the newly formed Union. Today, Pennsylvania continues to be of key importance to the social, economic and political development of the United States.
The Commonwealth: Pennsylvania is officially a Commonwealth, a word which comes from Old English and means the "common weal" or well-being of the public. In Pennsylvania, all legal processes are carried out in the name of the Commonwealth, although the word does not appear on the State Seal.
The State Coat of Arms: Pennsylvania's Coat of Arms is probably the state's most familiar symbol. Based on a 1778 design by Caleb Lownes of Philadelphia, it features a shield crested by an American Bald Eagle, flanked by horses and adorned with symbols of Pennsylvania's strengths - a ship carrying state commerce to all parts of the world; a clay-red plough, signifying our rich natural resources; and three golden sheaves of wheat, suggesting fertile fields and Pennsylvania's wealth of human thought and action. An olive branch and cornstalk cross limbs beneath - a message of peace and prosperity. The state motto is festooned below.
The State Flag: In 1799, the General Assembly authorized the official Pennsylvania State Flag, a banner fringed in gold with the Coat of Arms embroidered on a field of blue. During the Civil War, some Pennsylvania regiments carried battle flags modeled after the American flag, but with our Coat of Arms in place of the block of stars in the corner. This kind of creative license was discouraged in 1907 when the General Assembly acted to standardize the State Flag.
The State Seal: Authorized by the General Assembly in 1791, the Seal of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a symbol of authenticity which verifies that proclamations, commissions and other papers of state are legal and official. The face of the Seal displays symbols identical to the Coat of Arms, without the supporting horses, and is used most frequently as an imprint. The reverse side, or counterseal, pictures Liberty dominating Tyranny in the form of a lion, along with the warning "Both Can't Survive."
State Bird: Ruffed Grouse -- Settlers relied on this plump, red-brown bird with the feathery legs as part of their food supply. Sometimes called a partridge, the Ruffed Grouse is still a familiar sight in Pennsylvania's forests.
Designated June 22,1931
State Tree: Hemlock -- The Hemlock was a sturdy ally to the state's first settlers. Many a pioneer family felt better protected from the elements and their enemies inside log cabins made from the patriarch of Pennsylvania's forests.
Designated June 23,1931
State Flower: Mountain Laurel --In mid-June, every sunny mountainside in Pennsylvania is a still-life in pink pastels — a sight which delighted members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate as well as the wife of Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot. Together, they prevailed over Pinchot's preference for the azalea to name the Mountain Laurel as the official state flower.
Designated May 5,1933
State Animal: The Whitetail Deer -- Indians and settlers depended on the Whitetail Deer to feed, clothe and shelter them year round. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the nation's first game laws in 1721 to protect these valuable animals, some of whom grew to 350 pounds. Whitetail Deer continue to flourish today in Pennsylvania's forests.
Designated October 2,1959
State Dog: Great Dane -- The next time you visit the Governor's Reception Room in Harrisburg, look for a portrait of William Penn with his Great Dane. Now a popular pet, the Great Dane was a hunting and working breed in frontier Pennsylvania. The choice of State Dog is also unique for the vote that approved it. When the Speaker of the House called for a voice vote to designate the Great Dane, yips, growls and barks assaulted his ears from every part of the chamber! With a rap of his gavel, the Speaker confirmed that the "arfs have it" and the "Barking Dog Vote" entered the annals of legislative history.
Designated August 15,1965
State Fish: Brook Trout -- There is nothing more beautiful than the flash of a Brook Trout beneath a bubbling current — especially for Pennsylvania's 1.1 million anglers. Over 4,000 miles of cold water streams form the natural habitat of this fish, the only trout native to Pennsylvania.
Designated March 9,1970
State Insect: Firefly -- Pennsylvanians know fireflies as "lightening bugs" that brighten a still summer night. That may be why some Pennsylvania citizens heard the word "firefly" and confused it with "blackfly," a pest that plagued the Commonwealth in 1988. To clarify the identity of the State Insect, the General Assembly rewrote the law later that year singling out the firefly by its Latin name -"Poturis Pensylvanica De Geer."
Designated April 10,1974
State Beverage: Milk -- This designation is a fitting tribute to one of the Commonwealth's leading farm products. It also salutes the state's gentle dairy cows who each produce a generous 22 quarts of milk a day.
Designated April 29,1982
The famous daily shows you important history that happened on this day.