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Florida for Teachers and Travelers

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Coconut Palms on the beach in the Florida Keys

Coconut Palms on the beach in the Florida Keys

Looking for great video clips, children's books, points of interest, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about Florida? These are the resources we found to be most helpful when studying Florida as part of a larger unit study on the 50 states of the United States. Whether you're planning a trip to Florida, learning or teaching about the state, or on the lookout for a way to "visit" the state without paying for the plane ticket, look no further! You can find the links for my pages for each of the 50 states at Teaching the 50 States of America .

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

What Makes This State Special: St. Augustine

St. Augustine is the oldest permanent European settlement in America. The original Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos, is now a National Park and is a popular tourist destination. The city offers tours of numerous other historic locations (some original and some more modern renditions) such as the first school house and the Fountain of Youth.

This gives a quick overview of why St. Augustine is important

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What Makes This State Special: Disney World

Disney World in Orlando is the most visited entertainment resort in the world. They also offer popular on-site resorts, additional theme parks (such as Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, water parks, and more. We try to drop by the Lego store in Downtown Disney whenever we pass through Orlando.

If your child is not already familiar with Disney World, this commercial gives a fast overview of what they would see there.

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What Makes This State Special: Citrus

Florida is known for its oranges and other citrus fruits. It grows over 70% of the world's grapefruits. My father grows a number of varieties of grapefruit in South Florida, so I used to get to pick my own grapefruit straight from the tree each morning for breakfast. We have tried growing them in North Florida without much success.

How Florida Orange Juice Is Made

Visiting an Orange Grove: Florida's Orange Juice - America's Heartland

The Everglades

Airboat ride through the Everglades

Airboat ride through the Everglades

What Makes This State Special: The Everglades

The Everglades are the largest subtropical wetlands area in America. As I child I loved it when we would go on airboat rides (as shown in this picture) through the Everglades in order to spot alligators and other wildlife.

Get a Glimpse of the Ecosystem of the Everglades as Bear Grylls makes his way through the swampy area. My children loved watching this!

Everglades by Jean Craighead George - Image is from amazon.com

Everglades by Jean Craighead George - Image is from amazon.com

Our Favorite Picture Book on the Everglades

Everglades by Jean Craighead George was our favorite picture book on the Everglades. It includes both the flora and fauna and emphasizes the need for people to protect this amazing habitat. It has gorgeous illustrations as well!

One Night in the Everglades (Long Term Ecological Research) by Laurel Larsen is a bit longer than other picture books, so it is better for upper elementary aged children. It has great information on the research done by scientists in the Everglades. It has illustrations rather than photographs.

Welcome to the River of Grass by Jane Yolen has more simplistic text and nice, realistic looking illustrations. It is part of a series written on different ecosystems.

She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader by J.G. Annino is an inspiring picture book about a Seminole tribal leader (the first woman Seminole tribal leader in fact) and her life as she grew up in the Everglades.



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What Makes This State Special: Lightening

Florida, known as the "Lightening Capitol of the United States" has more lightning strikes hit the ground than any other state. It also has the highest number of fatalities due to lightening. My children know to head indoors if we see lightening nearby!

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What Makes This State Special: Diving in Key Largo

Key Largo claims to be the "Diving Capital of the World" due to its popular coral reef.

Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville

Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville

What Makes This State Special: Dames Point Bridge

The Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville is the longest cable-stayed bridge in America. We drive over it quite frequently whenever we're in Jacksonville. My children love watching the boats, barges, and cruise ship as they sail below the enormous bridge.

Dolphin, Florida panther, and manatee

Dolphin, Florida panther, and manatee

What Makes This State Special: The Symbols

Each state has some unique state symbols. Florida has a variety of state animals. The dolphin is the Official State Saltwater Mammal. The Florida panther is the Official State Animal. The manatee is the Official State Marine Mammal.

Panther Project: How We Collar a Florida Panther

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Florida's State Flag

Florida 's state flag includes a red Cross of St. Andrew, similar to what flew over St. Augustine and other Spanish settlements. The seal in the middle Includes sun rays, steamboat, a palmetto palm (the state tree of Florida), and a Seminole Indian woman.

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Florida 's State Quarter

Florida 's state quarter features a Spanish galleon (allusions to both Ponce de Leon & Hernando de Soto), a space shuttle because the Kennedy Space Center is located there, and Sabal palm trees.

My Favorite Picture Books on Florida

More Wonderful Picture Books We Enjoyed That Are About Florida

Sunken Treasure (Reading Rainbow Books) by Gail Gibbons includes a brief description of how a Spanish galleon sunk off the coast of Florida and then describes numerous attempts of divers to recover and preserve the ship. My boys wanted to take up scuba diving after reading this book!

Celebrating Florida: 50 States to Celebrate (Green Light Readers Level 3) by Marion Dane Bauer describes many of the iconic tourist sites and wildlife of Florida as children follow Mr. Geo throughout the state. It includes swimming with manatees, oranges, hurricanes, fishing, and much more.

Sunny Numbers: A Florida Counting Book (America by the Numbers) by Carol Crane is very similar to the above book, S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet, but it uses numbers rather than letters of the alphabet to go through the sites, history, geography, and animals of Florida.

Manatee Winter - a Smithsonian Oceanic Collection Book by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld was our favorite book on Florida manatee. It follows a calf and her mother as they swim through the warmer Florida waters during the winter. My children (ages 2-9) enjoyed this book.

How to Draw Florida's Sights and Symbols (A Kid's Guide to Drawing America) by Jennifer Quasha combines state geography with art. The book includes the state artist, the state flag, bird, tree, capitol building, areas of interest, and animals along with a photograph and general description. The opposite page provides step-by-step instructions drawing that state symbol or location. Even my 6 year old could follow the drawing directions.

This is the Way to the Moon by Miroslav Sasek provides a history of Kennedy Space Center. It has nice, retro illustrations and plenty of interesting information.

Panther: Shadow of the Swamp by Jonathan London describes the life of a Florida panther mother as she lives in the fragile ecosystem of the Florida Everglades.


The Best Board Books for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

More Good Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

My toddler loved learning about Florida using these board books! Also look for Good Night Florida Keys by Mark Jasper, Good Night Miamiby Lisa Bolivar Martinez, Little Florida (Little State) Board book by Carol Crane, and Hello, Florida! (Hello, America!) Board book by Heather Tomasello.

Chapter Books Related to Florida

More Chapter Books Related to Florida

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (208 pages) is a story of historic Florida. A girl and her family move to Florida to farm, but they have challenges with both the dry land and the neighbors. This includes many of the daily activities of farmers in Florida in the early 1900s including grinding sugar cane, growing strawberries, using paraffin, and more. This book won a Newbery Medal.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (405 pages) is about life in historic North Florida. A teenage boy desperately wants a pet, and he adopts a yearling. The story includes quite a bit of adventure as the boy and his family deal with alligators, rattlesnakes, wolves, bear cubs, and more. This book won a Pulitzer Prize.

The Missing 'Gator of Gumbo Limbo by Jean Craighead George (160 pages) is about an impoverished girl and her mother who live in the Everglades with an alligator. When the alligator enters a condominium, there is a chance that it will be killed. The girl and her mother work to save the alligator.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (192 pages) is the story of a 10 year old girl who was abandoned by her mother and is now living in Naomi, Florida. It is there that she adopts a dog, which she found at the grocery store, Winn-Dixie. It is through her friendship with her dog that she learns many life lessons. This won a Newbery Honor Award.

One of the Florida pages from my oldest son's U.S. States and Regions Notebook

One of the Florida pages from my oldest son's U.S. States and Regions Notebook

The key lime pie we made during our study of Florida and the other Southern states

The key lime pie we made during our study of Florida and the other Southern states

Homeschoolshare.com offers free lapbook pages and activity ideas for The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. This webpage, homeschoolshare.com, also offers free lapbook pages and activity ideas based on these other books related to Florida: The Sea of Tranquility by Mark Haddon and An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco. All of these books take place in Florida and the lapbook includes some activities and pages on Florida.

Florida and Southern States Hands-on Lesson Plan describes and shows the activities we did when studying Florida and the other Southern states.

Florida Worksheets and State of Florida Worksheets includes wonderful printable worksheets, activity ideas, and book suggestions.

Manatee Lapbook offers free lapbook pages, book suggestions, and activity ideas related to manatees. This is a good option since manatees are Florida's official state marine mammal.

Fun Facts About Florida lists numerous points of interest about Florida. The site also includes a number of helpful worksheets, links, and information.

Good Overview of Florida

When searching out YouTube video clips that provided helpful information about Florida and were completely child-friendly, these were our favorites.

Florida Crackers (The First Cowboys in America Were From Florida.)

Living with Florida Black Bears

Visit Florida Commerical

Florida Caverns State Park

Weird US at Florida's Coral Castle

I live in Florida. Have You Visited Florida Yet?

Where is Tallahassee, the capital of Florida?

© 2012 Shannon

What first comes to mind when you think of Florida? - Or just let me know you dropped by. I LOVE getting feedback from you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on September 30, 2012:

@KimGiancaterino: Thank you!

KimGiancaterino on September 26, 2012:

I really need to go back. I was in Orlando last year for a conference, but didn't get to see much. Thanks for featuring my quiz lens. Glad you aced it!