Florida for Teachers and Travelers
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!
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
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.
What Makes This State Special: Citrus
Florida is know 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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Our Favorite Children's Books on Florida
My Favorite Picture Books on Florida
There are so many children's books on individual states. We sorted through quite a number of them before concluding that this series on individual states is the absolute best for my family, with children of multiple ages. The book features something unique about the state (geographical landmarks, historical events, agricultural products, regional animals, etc.) that begins with each of the letters of the alphabet. The gorgeous illustrations even kept the attention of my 2 year old. It includes a simple rhyme about it (perfect for preschoolers) and then includes additional information (perfect for reading to elementary and middle school aged children).
This is a great Florida cracker-style tall tale that includes an enormous hurricane, giant alligators, and more as it explains how Lake Istokpoga came to be. The illustrations are fun as well! Also look for "Kissimmee Pete, Cracker Cow Hunter" by the same author.
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
In this board book children can visit many of the sites that make Florida famous, including the Everglades, Daytona 500, orange groves, Atlantic Ocean, and more. The text is very simple and the illustrations are appealing to even the youngest of listeners.
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
(292 pages) This is about a couple middle school aged boys who befriend each other as they attempt to save the habitat of burrowing owls. This takes place in Florida and includes Florida's wildlife (alligators, cottonmouth snakes, etc.) and habitat in the humorous narrative. A movie has been made based on this book. This book won a Newbery Honor Award.
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.
Our Favorite Free Worksheets and Lapbook Pages on Florida
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.
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.
More of Our Favorite Family-Friendly Video Clips Giving an Overview of the State
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?
I live in Florida. Have You Visited Florida Yet?
Where is Tallahassee, the capital of Florida?
© 2012 Shannon