I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.
This is part 7 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Construct sugar cube igloos, host a luau complete with grass skirts and hula dancing, carve soap scrimshaw, dramatize the Iditarod, sample regional foods, and more! My lessons are geared toward 4th-5th grade level children and their siblings. Another creative mom planned this lesson to do with our weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 33 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!
Noncontigious States: Alaska & Hawaii
Noncontigious States: Alaska & Hawaii
1. Pray. Read and discuss Matthew 4:18-21. Briefly discuss how Alaska is the leading state in seafood production and its the biggest producer of salmon in the world. The fishing industry is big business in Hawaii as well. Jesus called two fishermen, Peter and Andrew. He told them, "Follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" They dropped their fishing poles and followed Him. Jesus wants us to "fish" for people too. He wants us to tell others about what He has done for us and what He wants to do for them.
YOU WILL NEED: a rod and reel or other fishing equipment (optional)
2. Quickly introduce the Pacific States by showing the US map from “It’s a Big, Big World Atlas.” Point out which states make up the Noncontiguous States (HI & AK) and have the children repeat the states as you say them and point to them on the map. Mention that the noncontiguous states are the ones that are not connected by land to the rest of the United States. Ask the children what they see pictured on the atlas map. Have the children color in the Noncontiguous States pink on their map worksheet. Have them use a pen or pencil to write “Noncontiguous” next to that section of states.
YOU WILL NEED: atlas (“It’s a Big, Big World Atlas”) & items brought by families: map worksheets, markers, & writing utensil
3. Ask children what they associate with Alaska. [Allow them to answer.] Ask children what they think is the “last frontier.” You may think that the “last frontier” is the deepest part of the ocean or the furthest star in outer space. For the United States, the “last frontier” is Alaska. It is rugged, sparsely populated, and beautiful. Alaska contains some of the last areas of unsettled wilderness in the world. Alaska is the biggest state by size of land. It is more than twice the size of Texas, which is the next largest state by land size.
-Read a book about Alaska, This Place Is Cold by Vicki Cobb.
YOU WILL NEED: book about Alaska: This Place Is Cold by Vicki Cobb
Book to read for activity 3
4. Alaska is the only place in America where you can see the Aurora Borealis, also called the Northern Lights. Mention a bit about what they are and what causes them. Show a picture of them using a book or your laptop. You could also just show them the below video clip.
-Lead the children in making a pastel landscape scene of the Aurora Borealis. Hold your paper in such a way that the children can see what you are doing, and show them step-by-step what to do. Create a quick, simplified drawing of the below video clip.
YOU WILL NEED: a picture of the Aurora Borealis from a book or your laptop, an easel or other item for you to use to draw in a manner that the children can see what you are drawing, half a sheet of black construction paper, pastels (pink, green, white, & black), & items brought by families: black paper and pastels
The video does a wonderful job of explaining what causes the Northern Lights - You can show it to your class/co-op if you have the time.
We created a quick, simplified drawing of this.
5. (Option A: If you did not cover glaciers during the Rocky Mountain States Lesson) Talk about glaciers in Alaska. Mention how glaciers move in a similar fashion to oobleck. Have children make oobleck. Give each child a sandwich baggie that has about 2 tablespoonfuls of cornstarch. Tell the children the bags have cornstarch in them. To make their oobleck glacier mixture, they will need to add about 1-2 spoonfuls of water to their bags. They will want the consistency of honey Squish them together. Add more water or cornstarch if needed until you have the consistency of honey. Pour the mixture out into your hand, roll it into a ball, etc. They should not touch the wax paper or dirt yet!
-Explain how oobleck works and how it relates to glacial movement: Each season, new snow falls on glaciers. The snow compresses on top of itself and turns to solid ice. That weight pushes the edges of the glacier outward.
-Have children work together as pairs. Pour oobleck in the middle of wax paper. This represents a glacier. Add a tablespoon of the oobleck onto the glob on the wax paper. This represents new snowfall. How does the “glacier” react? Sprinkle some dirt around and on top of the oobleck-glacier. The dirt will represent rocks that have been collected by the glacier. What does the added “snowfall” do to the dirt “rocks?”
YOU WILL NEED: laptop or book to show pictures of glaciers in Alaska, cornstarch, 7 small cups of water, 7 spoons, 7 sheets of wax paper, about 1 cup of dirt (can be from outside the church), & item brought by families: plastic container
5. (Option B: If you did cover glaciers while studying the Rocky Mountain States) Have children make a sugar cube igloo. (We had the children work in pairs with their sibling.) You can watch the below YouTube video to get an idea of how to make it. Have the children turn their plates upside down and write their names on the plates. If desired, draw a circle on the plate to give an idea of where to put the cubes. Spread the icing to make a circle of icing on the plate. Lay the sugar cubes in a circle on top of the icing, leaving space for the entrance. Spread icing over that layer of sugar cubes, and stack subsequent rows of sugar cubes to the igloo, always applying icing between the layers. Decrease the layers and push they slightly inward as you go up. This is challenging to do, since the blocks of igloos are cut on various shapes (i.e. they are not simply cubes). To build the entrance, line up 2-4 sugar cubes on one side of the opening and 2-4 sugar cubes on the other side. If desired, sprinkle powdered sugar over the igloo to make it look like snow. Cover the icing after children are finished using it or else it will dry out.
YOU WILL NEED: 1 paper plate (per child), 1 box of sugar cubes (per 5 children), white icing (made from confectioner's sugar and water), and a disposable knives or Popsicle sticks (per child)
6. Tell the children we are going to read a true story about a very brave dog named Balto. Ask, “If it is s true story, would it be fiction or non-fiction?” Ask, “When reading a book what is the difference between a fiction and nonfiction book?” (Non-fiction books deal with information that is factual. Fiction deals with information or events that are imaginary, or not factual. Think of it in terms of fictional means “fake.” Non-fictional means “not fake.”) Ask, “What kind of book did I say “Balto” is? (Non-fiction)
-Balto was a half-wolf, half-husky that got a chance to become a hero when an outbreak of diphtheria threatened the children of Nome, Alaska in the winter of 1925. He led a dog team on a 600-mile trip across the Alaskan wilderness to get medical supplies so the entire town wouldn’t die of diphtheria. Balto’s trek inspired an annual dog sled race that now occurs in Alaksa, the Iditarod dog sled race.
-Read Balto: The Bravest Dog Ever.
YOU WILL NEED: book Balto: The Bravest Dog Ever
Book to read for activity 6
7. Briefly discuss the Iditarod dog sled race, Dog sledding, and Eskimo dogs. You can look for info at Iditarod_Trail_Sled_Dog_Race . Show pictures of the Iditarod from a book or your laptop. You can mention that sleds brought hunters long distances over ice and frozen ground. The sleds were pulled by huskies. These dogs have thick fur; they can swim without getting wet. They can sleep in the snow and not get cold. A well-trained team of huskies can pull a sled 20 miles per hour. A good dog team would have 10 to 12 dogs. The loads they pulled were very heavy. Hunter’s gear - a tent, lamps and oil, tools, blankets, and food for men and dogs - could weigh as much as eight or nine hundred pounds. Dogs were the only tamed animal in Alaska, but they were not pets for your family. Huskies had to be firmly raised and trained so they could perform the hard job of pulling sleds for days at a time.
-Divide the children into 3 teams. The smallest child will sit in the wagon, which we’ll pretend is a sled. Give that child a coat to put on, sunglasses (or snow goggles), gloves, and a scarf.
-The rest of the children will pretend to be huskies. Assign an older and more responsible child to be the one to hold the handle of the wagon. After that have the children line up in front of wagon with the smallest child closest to the wagon and the strongest child in the front, furthest away from the wagon. Mention to the children that the lead dog, the one that is in front, needs to be a dog that the other dogs respect and will follow. The sled driver has to make sure s/he picks the right dog for the job. If the other dogs don’t respect the lead dog, they won’t work together to pull the sled.
-Have each child hold a jump rope between them. Each child will hold a jump rope in one hand to “connect” them to the person behind them and a jump rope in the other hand to “connect” them to the person in front of them. If you think it wouldn’t hurt them, you can tie the jump rope around their waists instead of having them hold the jump ropes.
- When all the “sled dogs” are “harnessed” hold an Iditarod dog sled race. Tell them that they are going to race “600 miles,” or maybe 60 feet, across this grassy field of “snow and ice.”
YOU WILL NEED FOR LEADER: pictures of the Iditarod from a book or your laptop, wagon, child’s winter coat, sunglasses or snow goggles, children’s gloves or mittens, a scarf, & item brought by families: jump ropes
YOU WILL NEED FOR ASSISTANT #1: wagon, child’s winter coat, sunglasses or snow goggles, children’s gloves or mittens, a scarf, & item brought by families: jump ropes
YOU WILL NEED FOR ASSISTANT #2: wagon, child’s winter coat, sunglasses or snow goggles, children’s gloves or mittens, a scarf, & item brought by families: jump ropes
iii. Alaskan sampler plates. Have children each get a prepared plate that already has a sample-size amount of all of the below items on it. Remind the children to not eat yet. Eat the items at the same time so you can talk about each one. To get an idea of what you can say, go to foodtimeline.org. We served the children canned salmon, canned cranberry sauce (or use fresh if they're available), blueberry cobbler, and sourdough biscuits.
YOU WILL NEED: props for Balto dramatization (can include: wagons, 2 ropes, winter jackets, hats, gloves, canned food, tools such as a hammer and small shovel, blankets, snow goggles/sunglasses, & a small box to be used for the medicine), plates, forks, canned salmon, canned cranberry sauce (or use fresh cranberries if they're available), blueberry cobbler, and sourdough biscuits.
9. Use the atlas to show the children that we are going to head southwest to the Hawaiian Islands.
-Briefly discuss the main types of volcanoes. Demonstrate the types of volcanic eruptions using a full bottle of water over a large bowl:
a. Not all volcanoes erupt with a violent explosion. There are 4 main kinds of eruptions:
Hawaiian: gentle, lava is runny and flows out continuously [Squeeze the bottle ever so slightly so that water dribbles out the top.]
Strombolian: small explosions [Gently squeeze the bottle in little spurts.]
Vulcanian lava is thicker, so trapped gases escape explosively [Squeeze the bottle 3 times so that a large squirt of water comes out each time.]
Plinian (Named after the boy who witnessed and recorded the eruption of Mount Vesuvius) lava is very thick, so trapped gases cause massive explosions & lots of ash thrown into air [Get a new bottle of water. Squeeze it really hard so that a huge burst of water pours out. If desired, also toss up a handful of flour to represent the large amounts of ash that are thrown out.]
YOU WILL NEED: 2 water bottles (preferably ones made from flimsy plastic), a large bowl, a large towel, and a handful of flour (optional)
10. (Prep: Ask another teacher/mom to assist you. Go outside and lay the buckets with bottles in them in an oval. Leave a bit of space between each bucket/bottle. Use a funnel (made by rolling a sheet of paper into a funnel shape) to pour 1/4 cup of baking soda into each bottle. Pour about 3/4 cup of vinegar into each cup. Place a drop of red food coloring into each cup. Place a cup next to each bucket.) Underground volcanoes formed Hawaii’s islands. Over many years, lava mountains pushed up from the ocean. Hawaii is made up of eight main islands, Hawaii, Maui, Kaho’olawe, Lanai, Moloka’i, O’ahu, Kaua’i, and Ni’ihau. Some of the islands still have volcanoes that are active and are constantly bubbling up with hot lava.
-Ask children, “What is a volcano?” (A volcano is an opening in the earth’s crust through which, ash, gases, and molten rock from below ground erupt onto the Earth’s surface or into the atmosphere.)
-Discuss the parts of a volcano. You can use photos if desired. A volcano has a cone that is made up of material from its past eruptions. Below the volcano is a magma chamber, which contains molten rock. (Molten rock is called magma when it is below the Earth’s surface) The magma rises through a central tube, called a conduit, to an opening on the surface, called a vent. Magma may also emerge from side vents. The typical bowl-shaped depression at the top of a volcano is called a crater.
- We are going to create the ring of fire in the Pacific Ocean by each creating a bunch of volcanoes. Tell the children that each bottle has baking soda in it and each cup has vinegar with red food dye in it. When baking soda combines with vinegar, it creates a chemical reaction that forms a gas called carbon dioxide.
- Have the children pour the vinegar into their bottles.
YOU WILL NEED: at least 5 cups of baking soda, 1/4 cup measuring cup, 1-2 funnels or you can use paper rolled up to look like a funnel, liquid measuring cup, 19 disposable cups that can hold at least 1 cup of liquid (medium sized disposable cups), at least 13 cups of vinegar, item brought by families: sand buckets with bottles
11. Have hula dancing music playing. As the children come back inside, place out a lei over the neck of each child and greet them by saying, "Aloha!"
-Mention that when the people of Hawaii think of a party, they normally think of a luau. A luau is a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment. Frequently the centerpiece of the luau is a pig wrapped in leaves and roasted whole in a pit. In addition to feasting, there is usually also entertainment, such as Hawaiian music and hula dancing. Show children photos of Hawaiians dressed for the luau. (You can get photos and info from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luau.)
-Hula is a dance form accompanied by chant (oli) or song (mele). It was developed in the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians who originally settled there. The hula dramatizes or portrays the words of the oli or mele in a visual dance form.
-Teach children some basic hula moves. You can use some of the steps shown at the below video. Hula dancing is always done barefoot, so everyone will need to take off their shoes.
***Keep playing the luau music for the next activity.***
YOU WILL NEED: 25 leis (optional - if you can purchase a set of them inexpensively at the Dollar Tree), pictures of Hawaiians dressed for a luau (from a book or your laptop), hula dancing music (played on your phone, laptop, or CD)
We used the steps shown on this video to teach the children some basic hula moves.
Hawaiian Luau Cuisine & Review
12. (Prep: Make Hawaiian Coolers by blending together 1 cup sweetened cream of coconut, 6 cups canned pineapple, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 3 cups ice cubes. Pour into cups. Sprinkle shredded coconut on top (optional) and add a cocktail umbrella to each cup. Place the cups on a tray in the freezer until you are ready to serve them.)
-(The Hawaiian luau music should still be playing.)
-Ask some moms to assist you in sanitizing hands and passing out napkins, Hawaiian Pineapple Coolers, macadamia nuts, and papaya pieces to the children and adults. The nuts and papaya can go on the napkins.
-Mention that Hawaii is known for producing pineapples, sugar cane, macadamia nuts, and papayas.
-The drink is made from pineapple. Pineapples are not grown from a seed. If you have a fresh pineapple, you can cut the top part off and plant it. If you live in the right climate (Hawaii or South Florida), a new pineapple will grow from that top.
-Macadamia nuts grow on tall evergreen trees. Who remembers what an evergreen tree is? Is it a coniferous or deciduous tree?
- Show the children the inside of the papaya. The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper. Allow children to taste one if desired or hold one and squeeze it.
(-After children finish eating, you can turn off the music.)
YOU WILL NEED: 25 cups, blender, 1 tray, 1 cup sweetened cream of coconut, 6 cups canned pineapple, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, 3 cups ice cubes, shredded coconut (optional), 20 cocktail umbrellas (If you can’t find these, e-mail out to the group.), 25 macadamia nuts, and 1 papaya (Cut the papaya in half and keep 1 half together so that the children can see the inside with the black seeds. Cube the other half so that children can try a small piece.) & napkins
13. Ask the children what Alaska is known for. What about Hawaii? Why is Alaska called the “last frontier”? (It is rugged and sparsely populated.) What are the Aurora Borealis, also called the Northern Lights? What causes them? What did you learn about glaciers? Who was Balto? What happens at an Iditarod race? What food is Alaska known for? (salmon, blueberries, and sourdough biscuits) What discovery caused Americans to be happy that the United States had purchased Alaska from Russia? (gold) Tell me about a Hawaiian volcanic eruption. (gentle, lava is runny and flows out continuously) What is something you learned about volcanoes? When the people of Hawaii think of a party, what do they normally think of? (a luau) What kind of dancing is frequently done a luau (hula) What foods are Hawaii known for producing? (pineapples, sugar cane, macadamia nuts, and papayas) What was your favorite activity from today? (Have each child answer.)
-Have them take out their maps again. To the top of the Pacific States they should write or draw 3 things they think are important to the Pacific States.
YOU WILL NEED: items brought by families: maps, markers, and a writing utensil
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
12 small cups
- 1/3 cup sweetened cream of coconut
- 2 cups cubed pineapple
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup ice cubes or crushed ice
- shredded coconut (optional)
- cocktail umbrellas (optional)
- Blend cream of coconut, pineapple, lemon juice, & ice for 15 seconds on high speed. Stir and then blend for another 15 seconds more on high speed. Pour the mixture into cups. Add a cocktail umbrella to each drink and sprinkle with shredded coconut if desired. This recipe came from marthastewart.com.
While studying the 50 States of the United States, we spent one day studying each individual state. For about an hour each day we read picture books related to that state and completed a state fact sheet. We then spent about 30-60 minutes watching YouTube clips related to that state. Each week my 9 year old son also read at least one chapter book on his own related to each region. He would complete a book report or write an essay using information from that book. My 6 year old son would complete a brief book report sheet on one of the picture books we read together. Occasionally during the week we made regional foods for dinner. At the below links I have posted our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook page links, and tidbits about what makes Alaska and Hawaii each unique.
Alaska for Teachers and Travelers - Check here to find fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Alaska, the Last Frontier.
Escape to Hawaii: Hawaii for Teachers & Travelers - Included are fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Hawaii, the Aloha State.
Materials Needed for This Lesson
Each Family Needs to Bring PER CHILD:
-this map of the US from last week: http://www.eduplace.com/ss/maps/pdf/uscap.pdf
-small plastic container with a lid (such as Tupperware or a small sour cream container)
-half a sheet of black construction paper
-pastels (pink, green, white, & black)
-a volcano model prepared as follows: You will need an empty bottle (a glass bottle such as a glass root beer or beer bottle will work best but a plastic water or Gatorade bottle will also work), a larger container (such as a sand pail), & dirt. Place the bottle in the sand pail. Fill the sand pail with dirt so that about half the water bottle is covered in dirt. Do not get dirt in the bottle. The dirt is simply there to keep the bottle from falling over when we create eruptions. You can assemble these at the school, but they need to be assembled before class/co-op begins.
Items to be assigned for families to bring to use to share with the entire class:
-(optional) a rod and reel or other fishing equipment
-atlas such as It’s a Big, Big World Atlas
-book about Alaska: This Place Is Cold by Vicki Cobb
-a picture of the Aurora Borealis from a book or your laptop, an easel or other item for you to use to draw in a manner that the children can see what you are drawing, half a sheet of black construction paper, pastels (pink, green, white, & black)
-laptop or book to show pictures of glaciers in Alaska, cornstarch, 7 small cups of water, 7 spoons, 7 sheets of wax paper, about 1 cup of dirt (can be from outside )
-book: Balto: The Bravest Dog Ever
-pictures of the Iditarod from a book or your laptop, wagon, child’s winter coat, sunglasses or snow goggles, children’s gloves or mittens, a scarf
-wagon, child’s winter coat, sunglasses or snow goggles, children’s gloves or mittens, a scarf
-wagon, child’s winter coat, sunglasses or snow goggles, children’s gloves or mittens, a scarf
-25 small plates, 25 forks, canned salmon, blueberry cobbler or plain blueberries, and 25 pieces of sourdough biscuits (or biscuits similar to sourdough biscuits)
-2 water bottles (preferably ones made from flimsy plastic), a large bowl, a large towel, and a handful of flour (optional)
-at least 5 cups of baking soda, 1/4 cup measuring cup, 1-2 funnels or you can use paper rolled up to look like a funnel, liquid measuring cup, 19 disposable cups that can hold at least 1 cup of liquid (medium sized disposable cups), at least 13 cups of vinegar
-25 leis (optional - if you can purchase a set of them inexpensively at the Dollar Tree), pictures of Hawaiians dressed for a luau (from a book or your laptop), hula dancing music (played on your phone, laptop, or CD)
-25 cups, blender, 1 cup sweetened cream of coconut, 6 cups canned pineapple, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, 3 cups ice cubes, shredded coconut (optional), 20 cocktail umbrellas (If you can’t find these, e-mail out to the group.), 25 macadamia nuts, and 1 papaya (Cut the papaya in half and keep 1 half together so that the children can see the inside with the black seeds. Cube the other half so that children can try a small piece.) & napkins
Cook and eat regional foods, play rodeo games, enjoy a luau, dance zydeco, celebrate a Southwest Fiesta, and more while studying the 50 States of the United States. Since there were so many great resources we found for each individual state, I've also created a webpage featuring our favorite books, YouTube clips, & more for each state. You can find the links for each state on my 50 States Lesson Plans lens.
- New England States Lesson - This is part 1 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on U.S. States & Regions. Bake and eat Boston Brown Bread, create lighthouse models, dissect crayfish, enjoy New England cuisine sampler plates, and more!
- Mid-Atlantic States Lesson - This is part 2 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Sculpt the Statue of the Liberty, act out Rip Van Winkle, hold an Amish barn-raising, and more!
- Great Lakes States Lesson - This is part 3 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the U.S. States & Regions. Make and eat ice cream, construct Lego's cars on an assembly line, dig the Erie Canal and sail boats down the water, assemble Harley Davidson motorcycles out of cheese, and more!
- Midwest States Lesson - This is part 4 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Bake and eat Midwest cornbread, deliver mail on the Pony Express, carve Mount Rushmore, grind wheat, construct sod houses, sample regional foods, and more!
- Rocky Mountain States Lesson - This is part 5 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the U.S. States & Regions. Cook & eat Cowboy Stew, paint a mountain landscape scene, compete in a rodeo round-up, hold salt flat races, and more!
- Pacific Coast States Lesson - This is part 6 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Bake & eat Washington Apple Pie, create “Starbucks” coffee grounds play-dough, piece together “fossils” excavated from the “La Brea Tar Pits,” make “Salmon” fish prints, build and test out marshmallow structures for earthquakes, and more!
- Alaska and Hawaii Lesson - This is part 7 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the U.S. States & Regions. Construct sugar cube igloos, host a luau complete with grass skirts and hula dancing, carve soap scrimshaw, dramatize the Iditarod, sample regional foods, and more!
- Southwest States Lesson - This is part 8 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the Fifty States. Celebrate a fiesta, compete in an Oklahoma Land Run, play Texas rodeo games, create a Sonora desert diorama, and more!
- Visiting Southern States - This is part 9 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the U.S. States & Regions. Race in the Kentucky Derby, make and eat Key Lime Pie & homemade peanut butter, celebrate Mardi Gras, make a swamp diorama, dance Zydego, and more!
- 50 States Projects - This is the end of the unit project following a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Perform a play about the fifty states while enjoying a dinner that features regional foods from across the United States. Also included are regional recipe links and field trips we attended while studying this unit.
- Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.
I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful Christian curriculum and was created by moms with active children!
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!
© 2012 Shannon