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 5 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Ready to cook & eat Cowboy Stew, paint a mountain landscape scene, compete in a rodeo round-up, hold salt flat races, 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!
Rocky Mountain States
1. Pray. Read and discuss Matthew 5:13.
2. Briefly discuss what comes to mind when you think of the Rocky Mountain States. Quickly introduce these states by showing the US map from "It's a Big, Big World Atlas" and asking the children what they see.
*Each group of children will rotate between 3 stations twice, visiting 6 stations in all. Each station will last about 20 minutes.*
Chuck Wagon Recipes
3a. i. On the cattle drives through the Rocky Mountain States, the cooks were called "cookies" as they traveled with a "chuck wagon," which would carry all the food and cooking supplies. Cowboys sought out good cooks so they could have something to look forward to as the men on cattle drives had few other comforts.
ii. We will become "cookies" and will be making dishes that men would eat when they did cattle drives through the Rocky Mountain States. Each of the 3 rotations will make a different dish. The first rotation of children will make Chuck Wagon Stew. The second rotation of children will make Spotted Pup. The third rotation of children will make Cowboy Biscuits. During each rotation, divide the children into 2 groups of 4-5. Each group will make the below recipes. That means you will make 2 recipes of Chuck Wagon Stew , Spotted Pup, and Cowboy Biscuits. We had the groups that made Chuck Wagon Stew and Spotted Pup mix together the items into 2 bowls (1 for each group of 4-5 children) and then combine them into 1 pot for them to simmer.
iii. After the children have finished cooking, read Cowboys and Cowgirls by Gail Gibbons.
YOU WILL NEED: 2 large mixing bowls, 2 sets of measuring cups and spoons, 2 mixing spoons, 2 rubber scrapers, 2 pots, 4 baking sheets, non-stick cooking spray, 2 pounds of ground beef, 2 packages Simply Potatoes diced potatoes with onions OR 1 chopped onion and 4 diced potatoes, 4 beef bouillon cubes, 2 (14.5 ounce) can kidney beans, 2 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, 4 tsp. salt, 2 cups sugar or molasses + 8 tsp. sugar, 2 cups rice, 6 cans evaporated milk (or you can substitute regular milk), 2 cups raisins, 2 tablespoons nutmeg, 8 c. self-rising flour (or 8 c. flour & 8t. baking powder), 6 c. heavy cream or buttermilk
Chuck Wagon Stew
Usually we separate the children into 2 groups and have them each make an individual recipe. When we made this stew, we simply doubled the recipe and had the older children brown the meat while the younger children combined the other ingredients in a bowl.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 package Simply Potatoes diced potatoes with onions OR 1/2 chopped onion and 2 diced potatoes
- 2 beef bouillon cubes
- 1 cup water
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can kidney beans
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp. salt
- Brown the ground beef with the potatoes and onion in a pot over medium heat. Drain the fat from the pan. Stir the beef bouillon cubes, water, beans, tomatoes, and salt. Allow to simmer at least 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Spotted Pup (Rice Pudding)
Each group of 4-5 children will make this recipe. This was a common dessert out on the range. It required no eggs, sugar, nor fresh milk -- all of which were hard to come by. Sorghum syrup wuld be used instead of sugar and evaporated (canned) milk would be used instead fresh milk. It simmered over the fire while the men ate their meals. It got its name because it looked like a "pup" (or calf), and you knew if was done when it was thick enough that a spoon would stick up straight in it "just like the tail of a pup."
- 1 cups sugar or molasses (or 1/2 c. sorghum syrup if you want to it to be authentic)
- 1 cup rice
- 1.5 quarts milk or evaporated milk
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon nutmeg
- Combine all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the rice is soft and a wooden spoon can stand up straight in the pan, about 30 minutes. (The information and recipe are from recipegoldmine.com.)
Each group of 4-5 children will make this recipe.
Serves: about 30 miniature biscuits
- 4 c. self-rising flour (or 4 c. flour & 4t. baking powder)
- 1 t. salt
- 4 t. sugar
- 3 c. heavy cream or buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 450. Combine all ingredients. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden on the top.
Rocky Mountains and Landscape Painting
3b. i. Show photos of the Rocky Mountains. Have the children paint a watercolor landscape scene of the Rocky Mountains by generally following the directions at artgraphica.net . Demonstrate each step as you paint right along with the children.
ii. As some of the children finish up, mention how Pike's Peak in Colorado was the inspiration to Kathrine Bate's song "America the Beautiful." Sing the song as you flip through America the Beautiful illustrated by Neil Waldman.
YOU WILL NEED: watercolors, paintbrushes, bowls for water, paper towels, and paper
3c. i. Show children pictures from a book about rodeo events and briefly discuss a rodeo, which were originally held so that cow hands could should off their skills in handling cattle and horses.
ii. Lasso the Calf. If you have cowboy hats, allow children to wear them. Have children try to lasso a "calf." Set up as many chairs as you have ropes. Have children stand back from the chair and try to lasson the back of the chair with their rope. use bouncy balls to have a mock cattle round up.
iii. Rodeo Round-up. Try to round up "rowdy calves." Set up 2 "pens" by either taping off 2 squares in opposite corners or by setting up chairs and/or tables to form 2 squares. Dump a large bucket of various sized balls that will bounce. These bouncing balls represent calves. Have children work in 2 teams to round up the "rowdy cows." Keep in mind that cowboys can't pick up their cows, so they cannot pick up the balls. Instead they will have to push them toward their pens. See which team can corral the most "cows." Repeat.
iv. If you have extra time, begin reading Rodeo Time by Stuart J. Murphy.
YOU WILL NEED: ropes pre-tied in a lasso fashion, chairs, balls of all sizes that will bounce, & cowboy hats (optional)
*While parents/teachers set up the next stations, briefly review what the children have learned so far about the Rocky Mountain States.*
Glacier National Park & Oobleck
4a. i. Briefly discuss Glacier National Park is located in the northwest corner of the state and show some pictures of glaciers.
ii. Mention how glaciers move in a similar fashion to oobleck. Have children make oobleck by following the directions found at sciencecafe.org. Give each child a sandwich baggie, 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch, and 2 tsp. of water. 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.
iii. Use the explanation from ehow.com to 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. 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?"
iv. Begin reading a book on glaciers.
YOU WILL NEED: cornstarch, measuring spoons, water, wax paper, dirt, & sandwich bags
Yellowstone National Park: Hot Springs & Geysers
4b. i. Show pictures of Hot Springs and briefly discuss what they are.
ii. Hot Springs Demonstration. If desired, you can have children work in pairs to perform this activity or you can do what we did and simply do one demonstration with the assistance of a few of the children.
-Fill 2 identical jars to the top with cold water. Place 3 drops of blue food coloring in each jar. Add a few more drops of cold water until a bulge of water forms over the rim of the jars.
-Next, fill 2 more identical jars to the top with hot water. Place 3 drops of red food coloring in each jar. Add a few more drops of hot water until a bulge of water forms over the rim of the jars.
-Place an index card over the top of 1 hot water jar and 1 cold water jar.
-Using 1 hand to keep the index card on the mouth of the cold water jar, quickly turn the jar over on top of the hot water jar. Try to align the 2 mouths of the jars together.
-Using 1 hand to keep the index card on the mouth of the hot water jar, quickly turn the jar over on top of the cold water jar. Try to align the 2 mouths of the jars together.
-Holding both jars steady, have a child carefully remove the index cards while another person keeps the mouths of the jars together as much as possible. What happens to the water?
-When the red/hot jar was on top of the blue/cold jar, the water didn't mix much. When the blue/cold jar was on top of the red/hot jar, the colors quickly mixed together very rapid mixing of colors because cold water is "heavier" (more dense) than hot water.
-Use this explanation from hometrainingtools.com : When water is heated, the water molecules start moving around quickly, so they move apart from each other. The water molecules in the cold water, however, are packed closer together. So, in our 2 equal-sized jars, more cold water molecules can fit in their jar than hot water molecules can fit in their jar. When hot water is placed beneath cold water, it will rise up while the cold water sinks down. This causes the mixing of the water you saw earlier. However, when the hot water is placed on top of the cold water, nothing moves because the hot water is already where it wants to be - at the top. The water in hot springs generally originates as cold rainwater or snow melt. This cold water sinks into the ground until it reaches a layer of rock that is being heated by a chamber of magma. The hot rock heats the water, and the hot water rises back up to the surface of the Earth in the form of hot springs. This cycle of cold water sinking and hot water rising is known as convection. (The same is true of air - hot air rises while cold air sinks.)
YOU WILL NEED: 4 identical, clear, wide-mouthed jars (or just reuse the 2 identical jars), hot & cold water, red & blue food coloring, 2 index cards or pieces of wax paper, & towels
iii. Briefly discuss Old Faithful and geysers while showing pictures from a book.
iv. Mentos Geyser. Roll a sheet of paper into a circle and shove a stack of mentos into the paper as shown at stevespanglerscience.com. Place 2 diet cola bottles somewhere outside. Drop the mentos in the bottle and run away as fast as possible and the cola will burst upward just like a geyser. Whoever drops the mentos will get wet. If you would like to keep everyone clean, you can purchase a Mentos Geyser Tube that allows you to drop the mentos into the soda from a safe distance. Repeat with the second cola bottle. You can explain what just occurred by using the explanation found at stevespanglerscience.com.
YOU WILL NEED: at least 6 2L bottles of diet cola, 6 rolls of mentos, 6 pieces of paper, & towels
The Great Salt Lake
4c. i. Briefly discuss he Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats.
ii. Pass out an ice cube and a string to each child. Lay a few salt shakers on the table. Tell the children to pick up the ice by the string without touching the ice with their fingers. Older children may be able to figure it out on their own. Younger children may need some prompting. The children should lay the string across the ice cube and sprinkle some salt on top of ice. After at least 10 seconds, the salt will cause the top part of the ice to melt around the string. As the ice melts, it will lose its heat, get colder, and then freeze again -- this time over the string. Mention that most of the salt that we get from the Great Salt Lakes is used to sprinkle on roads before an ice storm so that the ice can't form on the roads and people can drive more safely on the roads.
YOU WILL NEED: ice, string, small plates, & salt
Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway
iii. Mention that the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway is used by many people wanting to set world records for land speed. In 1997, Andy Green set the current world record, driving 760 mph. That is faster than the speed of sound! Two annual events, Speed Week and World of Speed, draw thousands of spectators to watch as various competitors race in an attempt to set records using race cars and other vehicles. Spectators do have to come prepared, though, as the salt flats are as dry and hot as a desert. Do a mock Bonneville Salt Flats Race. Allow each child to select a Hot Wheels car. Have them line them up along a line and then shove them off after you say, "Go!" We had one race for the first to cross a particular line and one race for which car went the furthest. If you have extra time, you can allow children to select a different car and race again.
YOU WILL NEED: Hot Wheels type cars and a long, smooth surface (like a tile floor)
Chuck Wagon Dinner & Review
5. Come back together as a group and enjoy Chuck Wagon Stew, Cowboy Biscuits, & Spotted Pup. You can also serve water and maybe some "Campfire" Decaf Coffee.
YOU WILL NEED: bowls, spoons, napkins, cups, & decaf coffee (optional)
6. While children eat, review what the children learned about the Rocky Mountain States.
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 each Rocky Mountain state unique.
Visit Montana Now: Montana for Travelers & Teachers - Are you looking for fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Montana, the Big Sky Country? Included are links to wonderful worksheets,...
Learning About Wyoming - Are you looking for fun worksheets, books, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Wyoming, the Equality State? Included are links to wonderful worksheets, book suggestions...
Visit Idaho Now: Idaho for Teachers & Travelers - Included are links for fun worksheets, books, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Idaho, the Gem State.
Utah for Travelers & Teachers - Included are links for fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Utah, the Beehive State.
Colorado for Teachers & Travelers - Included are links for fun worksheets, books, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Colorado, the Centennial State.
Visit Nevada Now: Nevada for Teachers & Travelers - Look here to find links for fun worksheets, books, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Nevada, the Silver State.
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.
- Best Resources on Teaching the 50 States - Included are links to my favorite resources (books, video clips, lapbook pages, etc.) for each individual state in addition to my favorite resources for teaching all 50 US States.
- 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! You can even watch free on-line videos as Jessica, one of the co-authors of Konos, walks you through a unit. (Look for the Explanation Videos tab.)
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!
What first comes to mind when you think of the Rocky Mountain states? - Or just leave a note to let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback from you!
Shannon (author) from Florida on January 13, 2014:
@penny-richens: Thank you so much! It was a fun lesson!
penny-richens on January 10, 2014:
This is a fantastic lens! So many fun details. I love that you included recipes too.