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Projects for Learning the 50 States of America

Our Great Nation

Every American student should have a strong knowledge of the geography and history of his native land. Besides reading living books to learn, students can do engaging projects and activities to make the 50 states come alive.

When a child engages in a hands-on activity, the learning sticks. Also motivation is increased simply because the activity is fun. 

Activity Books for Fun and Learning

Learning On the Road

Probably the very best way to learn about America is to travel America. Eating local foods, watching local wildlife, and driving on national highways makes the fifty states come alive. So when at all possible, take road trips with your children.

Give them travel books and atlases to keep them occupied in the back seat and to help them visualize the trip. They won't even realize that they are studying geography as they map out the trip and estimate "how much longer."

On a recent trip to Yellowstone, my 11 year old daughter loved keeping track of the license plates we saw on the road. On our two week trip, she found all but three of the fifty states. Each time she found a new license plate, she put a sticker onto a map of America, using Ultimate Sticker Puzzles book. (You could also mark on this free printable map.) This was a great way to review the location of all the states!

The Traveling Praters is a homeschool blog that I enjoy reading. This family takes frequent field trips which they always turn into learning opportunities. Discover potential field trip locations and tips for traveling with kids.

Learning Through the Postal System

When you can't actually go, sending and receiving mail are good alternatives. Here are ideas for projects you can do through your mailbox:

Postcard Trading and Collecting

Set a goal such as one postcard from each state in America or a postcard of the capitol house from each state and start collecting. 

Flat traveler exchanges

Send a little paper doll "flat traveler" through the mail to visit the places you can't go in person.

Valentine card exchanges or Christmas card exchanges

Check with your favorite homeschooling forum or Yahoo group to find a group willing to exchange cards.

Request tourist information

Visit Travel and Tourism Sites for U.S. States and Territories for how to request free brochures, maps, and pamphlets about every state of America.

What to do with your mail

  1. Organize your mail into a notebook or lapbook.
  2. Or keep track of the states from where you've received mail on a markable map.

Learning With Hands-on Projects

These are two of my favorite hands-on projects for geography:

  1. Salt-dough maps -- Easy to make with inexpensive household ingredients, a salt dough map is a very versatile project. Make simple outlines for younger children, and require detailed geographical features from older students.
  2. Dioramas -- Recreate a scene from the American landscape with a three-dimensional diorama. No box on hand? No problem. The pyramid diorama requires only paper for its construction.
  3. Cooking -- Choose a recipe that is characteristic of each state in America and cook it. Involve your children in selecting the recipe, shopping for ingredients, and of course preparing the dish in the kitchen. When you eat it, be sure to discuss how the recipe is associated with that particular state. Take a photograph of your food and keep a notebook of your culinary discoveries.
  4. Biography projects -- Choose a famous person from a state. Dress up as that person or do some other hands-on project about him or her.
  5. Cootie catcher -- Make a moving paper craft out of a square shape of paper. Fill the flaps with questions and answers about the state.
  6. Map Drills -- Memorizing the American map doesn't have to be dreary and time intensive. With the frequent but short repetition of map drills, your children can learn the locations and shapes of every state in America.

Read Your Way Through the 50 States

A selection of living books can carry you through the states of America. An engaging story will help your children remember facts about each state better than rote memorization.

Or for quicker reading, choose a poem to represent a region of America. The book featured to the right is a perfect guide for a 50 States poetry study.

50 States Book Lists


Othercat on December 14, 2011:

When I was young, I learned the names of the states by singing a song. It went through each state alphabetically. I think the song is called the Fifty Nifty United States. It's so weird that of everything I learned, that song still runs through my mind quite often!

Evelyn Saenz from Vermont on December 14, 2011:

I love the idea of reading a book from each of the 50 States. Jimmie, you always have the best suggestions for making a topic hands-on and fun. Thanks for sharing.

kirsteno on May 13, 2011:

My son and I are doing a 50 state postcard exchange that we're really enjoying! I like some of your other ideas.

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