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Great Lakes States Lesson

Updated on December 13, 2016
Photo Credit: http://notjustcute.com/2009/11/24/the-story-of-milk-making-butter-with-preschoolers/
Photo Credit: http://notjustcute.com/2009/11/24/the-story-of-milk-making-butter-with-preschoolers/

This is part 3 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. 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! My lessons are geared toward 4th-5th grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a 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 co-op!

Which Great Lakes State would you like to visit?

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Do this the day before the class:

At least 1 day before the class, have each child use a sharpie marker to create a simple dot-to-dot shape or pattern on a metal soup or canned fruit/vegetable can. Fill the can with water and freeze it. You'll use this to make a tin can lantern. The frozen water helps to keep the can from collapsing.

Image credit: http://www.crhaac.org/
Image credit: http://www.crhaac.org/

Great Lakes States

1. Pray. Read and discuss Ephesians 2:10.

2. Quickly introduce the Great Lakes States by showing the US map from “It’s a Big, Big World Atlas.” Point out which states make up the Great Lakes States (MN, WI, MI, IL, IN, OH), and have the children repeat the states as you say them and point to them on the map. Ask the children what they see on the map. If desired, have the children color in the Great Lakes States orange on their map worksheet. Have them use a pen or pencil to write “Great Lakes” next to that section of states.

YOU WILL NEED: atlas such as "It’s a Big, Big World Atlas” & optional items: maps to label, markers, & writing utensil

*Each group of children will rotate between 3 stations twice, visiting 6 stations in all. Each station will last about 20 minutes.*

Wisconsin: Cheese & Harley Davidson

Edible Harley Davidson motorcycle made from Wisconsin cheese and pretzels
Edible Harley Davidson motorcycle made from Wisconsin cheese and pretzels

3a. Explain that most of the Great Lakes region is also well known for dairy farming. Wisconsin in particular is known for its cheese and dairy industry. Have the children locate Wisconsin on their maps.
-Quickly mention a few fun facts about the cheese.
-Another famous business found in Wisconsin is Harley Davidson. Who knows what Harley Davidson produces? (motorcycles)
- We are going to make a Harley Davidson snack out of cheese, because both are products of Wisconsin. We will be using the assembly line process to make our motorcycles. What is an assembly line?
-Show the children an example of the edible motorcycle that they will build.
-Sanitize hands.
-Divide the children into 3 groups with 7 children in each group. Each child will receive 1 ingredient. They will be in charge of adding that one item to the edible Harley Davidson motorcycles. Afterward, you should have 7 motorcycles.
-To assemble the motorcycles:
a. One child will place a piece of cheese on the plate. This will be the back wheel.
b. Another child will stick a pretzel in the cheese. This will be the body of the motorcycle.
c. A child will stick the other end of the pretzel in another piece of cheese. This will be the front wheel.
d. A child will stick a pretzel in the front wheel piece of cheese. This will be the front of the motorcycle.
e. A child will stick a piece of cheese at the top of the pretzel.
f. A child will stick half a piece of pretzel in one piece of the cheese. This will be one part of the steering handle bar.
g. A child will stick half a piece of pretzel in the other piece of the cheese. This will be the other part of the steering handle bar.
-Allow children to eat their edible Harley Davidson motorcycles.
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 1 small plates, 3/4 of a mozzarella cheese stick (ahead of time divide a cheese stick into 4 cylinder pieces), & 3 pretzel sticks (one broken in half)

Our version of the Erie Canal - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison, who attends our class https://www.facebook.com/MichelleHarrisonPhotography
Our version of the Erie Canal - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison, who attends our class https://www.facebook.com/MichelleHarrisonPhotography

Great Lakes & Erie Canal

3b. i. Review the names of the great lakes and show a map of them. Use the acronym: HOMES = Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. Most of the names are based on the Native American names for that area or body of water or they were named after the Native Americans that were in that area.

ii. Quickly discuss a few facts about the Erie Canal and the lock system and how it works. Mention that the Erie Canal was only in New York. It allowed for a navigable water route from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

iii. If desired, play The Erie Canal song during the next activity while the children dig.

iv. Dig your own version of the Erie Canal. Go outside to a place where the grass isn't growing really well, to a sandbox, and/or to a dishwashing bin of sand. Lay 2 plastic shoeboxes containing water a few feet apart from one another. One shoebox is Lake Erie. The other is the Hudson River, which will eventually connect to New York City. The kids need to dig a canal to connect the two bodies of water. Give each child a sand shovel or hand trowel and let them dig. (If desired, you can lay some cups of water next to the Hudson River shoe box because in some towns, to motivate the workers to dig faster, the townspeople would put a keg of a "refreshing beverage" every 40 miles. The men would dig hard so that they could get to that keg. When they got there, they could rest for the day and enjoy their refreshing drink. Let the kids drink some water.) After they've dug out the canal, pour a bucket of water into it. Place a toy boat in the water. How can we get it to move? Place a toy donkey/mule/horse on each side of the canal. Use string to tie the horse to the toy boat. Have the youngest 2 children move the horses and pull the boat along. When they get the boat to the Hudson River shoebox, ask them how they are going to get the boat up to that high place. They'll use the lock system! Place a small plastic container (like a small Tupperware container) in the water. Place the boat inside. It's floating into the lock. Add water & gradually lift up the plastic container at the same time. In the lock, which is kind of like a bathtub, they fill it up until it's on the level of the water and then release the boat. When they want to go to a lower elevation, the lock releases water (dump out the water from the plastic container holding the boat) until it's at the level of the next body of water. Then it releases the boat. For each of the additional groups, separate the distance between the 2 shoeboxes to emphasize that different groups built the canal over a long period of time.

YOU WILL NEED: CD player (optional), The Erie Canal song (optional), digging tools (sand shovels, hand trowels, and/or shovels), a place to dig (outdoors, a sandbox, and/or to a dishwashing bin of sand), a water source (a hose, bucket of water, or large pitcher of water), 2 plastic shoe boxes, 1 small plastic container, at least 1 toy boat, 2 toy mules/donkeys/horses, & string

Book to use for showing the Great Lakes

Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)
Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)

This is the book we used to show the Great Lakes. It's too long to read to the group but has nice illustrations. I read this with my children over the course of a few days.

 
Demonstration of the lock system
Demonstration of the lock system

Book to use for showing the Erie Canal

Amazing Impossible Erie Canal (Aladdin Picture Books)
Amazing Impossible Erie Canal (Aladdin Picture Books)

This is the book we used to show pictures of the Erie Canal. It's too long to read to the group but would be fine to read aloud with a small group or just your family. It does have nice illustrations.

 

Metal Working Industries & Tin Can Lanterns

Option 2: Punched Tin Ornament
Option 2: Punched Tin Ornament

3c. i. Explain that most of the Great Lakes states have a metal working industry. They build automobiles, fabricate metal, make machinery, and more. Show some pictures of these from books.

ii. Option 1: Fabricate metal by creating a tin can lantern. You can follow the directions at education.com. Use 1 towel to go under the frozen can to keep it in place and let children have a second kitchen towel to hold the cold can. Hammer holes in the can all over. If desired, they can hammer out the pattern on the can using their dot-to-dot design. Children ages 6 and under will probably need adult assistance. The ice in the can keeps it from collapsing. Also have everyone hammer two large hoes near the top on each of to place a handle. After children have finished hammering the pattern on their cans, they can use a piece of wire cut from a clothes hanger to form a handle. Needle-nose pliers will help with this! Pass out a tea candle to each child to carefully place in their lantern. Be careful because the inside of the cans may have sharp metal that can cut you.

iii. Option 2: Creating a punched tin ornament. Have children decide on a simple design they would like to make on their canning lid jar. They should draw the picture on the sheet of paper and then draw dots over it like a dot-to-dot picture. They can then tape the picture to the lid. They should use their nail and hammer to made holes in the lid. When they think they are done, they should flip over the lid to the back to make sure they did punch all the holes. Have them each punch a hole at the top so that they/you can thread a string through it to hang it. Tell the children that when they get home, they can glue ribbon or other materials to the edges to make a pretty hanging ornament.

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED FOR OPTION 1: (per child): 1 tin can with water frozen in it, 1 regular nail, 1 hammer, 1 piece of wire cut from a clothes hanger, 2 kitchen towels, and 1 tea candle. For the whole group you'll also need at least 1 set of needle-nose pliers to assist with the handle.

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED FOR OPTION 2: (per child) piece of string/yarn cut about 6 inches long, canning jar lid, regular nail, hammer, writing utensil, sheet of paper about the size of the lid, and tape and an example of a finished punched tin ornament that you have made (one idea can be found at http://wmcraftgoodies.blogspot.com/2010/11/day-24-punched-tin-ornament.html)

*While parents/teachers set up the next stations, briefly review what the children have learned so far about the Great Lakes States.*

Dairy Industry & Homemade Ice Cream

4a. i. Remind the children that the Great Lake States have a large dairy industry. Ask the children to name different dairy products. Hopefully someone will mention ice cream.

Clarabelle: Making Milk and So Much More
Clarabelle: Making Milk and So Much More

This is the children's book we used to talk about cows and the dairy industry. It does a wonderful job of showing and explaining what happens every day on a dairy. *If you'd prefer to use a book with illustrations rather than photographs, use "Milk Makers" by Gail Gibbons or "Milk: From Cow to Carton" (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Book) by Aliki.

 

ii. We will be making ice cream in a bag. This time the teachers/moms are going to form the assembly line.
-Lead the children in making ice cream in a bag. Have the children stand in line and the moms stand in another line.
-Teacher #1 will hand each child a quart-size zip-lock bag.
-Teacher #2 will add 2 Tbsp. of sugar to the bag.
-Teacher #3 will add 1 cup of half and half to the bag.
-Teacher #4 will add 1/2 tsp. of vanilla to the bag.
-Teacher #5 will seal the bag tightly and help the child drop it into a gallon-size ziplock bag that is half-full of ice. She will add 1/2 cup of rock salt in it.
-Teacher #6 will help to seal the gallon-size ziplock bag tightly and will tell the child to go outside onto the walkway and begin shaking around the bag.
YOU WILL NEED: a quart-size zip-lock bag per child, 2 Tbsp. of sugar per child and tablespoon, 1 cup of half and half per child and liquid measuring cup, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla per child and 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon, gallon-size ziplock bag per child, half a gallon of ice per child, and 1/2 cup of rock salt per child and 1/2 cup measuring cup

iii. After all the children have gotten their ice cream in a bag ingredients, lead them outside to continue to shake around their bags. Give them kitchen towels for holding their bags so their hands won't get as cold. Tell them that the rock salt in the ice will help to make the ice get even colder so that the ice cream will freeze. If they shake their bags vigorously for about 5 minutes, they’ll get a milkshake like consistency. To help pass the time, we’ll read a book about cows.
-Read “Clarabelle: Making Milk and So Much More” by Cris Peterson. As you’re reading, remind the children to continue to shake around their bags.
-After you finish reading, hand out spoons and let children enjoy their ice cream.
YOU WILL NEED: 1 plastic spoon per child, 1 kitchen towel per child, & book: "Clarabelle: Making Milk and So Much More” by Cris Peterson

Ice cream in a bag
Ice cream in a bag

Serving Size

Serves: 1

Ice Cream in a Bag

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup salt (Rock salt or Kosher salt works best but table salt will work too.)
  • Ice cubes (enough to fill each gallon-size bag about 1/2 full)
  • 1 quart-size ziplock bag
  • 1 gallon-size ziplock bag

Instructions

  1. Combine the sugar, half and half, & vanilla extract in the quart-size bag and seal it tightly. Make sure it is sealed well! Place the salt and ice in the gallon-size bag. Put the sealed smaller bag inside the gallon-sized bag. Seal the larger bag. Shake the bags until the mixture hardens. It will take 5-10 minutes for the ice cream to reach a smoothie/soft serve hardness. We stopped there. To get firm ice cream, it will take 15+ minutes. (You can feel the smaller bag to determine when it's done.) Take the smaller bag out of the larger one and enjoy! This recipe is from familyfun.go.com

Henry Ford, Assembly Lines, & Lego's Cars

Option 1: Lego Car Assembly Line - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison, who attends our class
Option 1: Lego Car Assembly Line - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison, who attends our class
Option 2: Wooden car kit assembly line activity
Option 2: Wooden car kit assembly line activity

4b. i. Ask children who has a Ford vehicle. Quickly mention about how Ford created a fast and less expensive way of creating automobiles. Review assembly lines.

ii. If you have a computer available, watch some of the below YouTube Clip on Henry Ford's Assembly Line.

iii. OPTION 1: Ahead of time separate Lego's into types so that each child will have a pile of only 1 shape of Lego brick. Show children the model of the car they'll build. Start with a pre-made base. Have each child add their 1 Lego brick in the same location as the model car. Use black construction paper to represent the conveyor belt at the lego assembly line plant. You could use a bed sheet and have someone pull it along it you want an assembly line that moves "on its own." Have a team of 5 at each table ready to build a Lego's car (simple small car with or without wheels). Each station (child) will build a small part and pass it down to the next person. All the cars should look exactly the same. (You can tell from the picture that the cars didn't quite come out identical but the attempt was made.)

*OPTION 2: If you don't have a large number of similar Lego bricks, use balsa wood sets (sold at a craft store like Michael's) or wooden car kits (sold at Wal-Mart). Divide children into 2 teams. Each team will assemble 5 cars. Ahead of time divide up the 10 balsa wood car kits into their individual pieces. Each child will get 5 identical pieces (i.e. 5 wheels, 5 windows, etc.) from the kits. Each child will be responsible for putting that one piece onto the car model. See which team finishes all 5 cars that fastest.

iv. Read some of "Along Came the Model T" by Robert M. Quackenbush. (Summarize the first few pages.)

YOU WILL NEED FOR OPTION 1: Lego's bricks and construction paper or a bed sheet and "Along Came the Model T" by Robert M. Quackenbush

YOU WILL NEED FOR OPTION 2: balsa wood sets (sold at a craft store like Michael's) or wooden car kits (sold at Wal-Mart)

Book to use to introduce Henry Ford

Along came the Model T!: How Henry Ford put the world on wheels
Along came the Model T!: How Henry Ford put the world on wheels

Even though this is a longer picture book, all the children were still quite interested in the story and quietly listened to this story about how Henry Ford developed the Model T car. If you click on this link, you can see the picture of the book.

 

Ice Hockey & Water

4c. Briefly talk about ice hockey. We compared it to soccer but with sticks and a puck and played on ice. Divide the children into 2 teams and have them play "ice hockey." We used sticks from trees and toy golf clubs as sticks, a pasta jar lid as the puck, and hula hoops for the goals. Be sure to leave time for the children to get cups of water since water is the official state beverage of the Hoosier state.

YOU WILL NEED: 1 stick per child (sticks from trees, toy golf clubs, or real hockey sticks), a pasta jar lid or hockey puck, 2 hula hoops, cones, or goal nets for the goals, and cups of water

Review

5. Ask the children what the Great Lakes States are known for. Ask questions such as: Name a Great Lakes State. (Have the children name them all.) (MN, WI, MI, IL, IN, OH) What is something you learned about Henry Ford? (Ask a few children to answer.) What happens when you build something using an assembly line? (Ask a few children to answer.) What is metal fabrication? (Allow a few children to answer.) Tell me something you learned about the Erie Canal. (Allow a few children to answer.) Where are Harley Davison motorcycles manufactured? (Wisconsin) What other type of industry are the Great Lakes States known for? (Dairy) What was your favorite activity from today? (Have each child answer.)

-If desired, have them take out their maps again. To the top of the Great Lakes States they should write or draw 3 things they think are important to the Great Lakes States.

YOU WILL NEED: optional items: maps, markers, and a writing utensil

Material List for the Lesson

ITEMS FOR FAMILIES TO BRING FOR EACH OF THEIR CHILDREN:
-this map of the US from last week: http://www.eduplace.com/ss/maps/pdf/uscap.pdf
-scotch tape (1 per family)
-orange marker
-pen or pencil
-1 canning jar lid
-1 sheet of paper about the size of the lid
-1 regular nail
-1 hammer
-digging tool (a shovel or hand trowel would be preferred but a sand shovel will work if needed)
-kitchen towel

ITEMS TO BE ASSIGNED TO USE FOR THE GROUP:
-atlas such as “It’s a Big, Big World Atlas”
-book: "Along Came the Model T" by Robert M. Quackenbush
-10 balsa wood car kits
-1 piece of string/yarn cut about 6 inches long per child and an example of a finished punched tin ornament that you have made (one idea can be found at http://wmcraftgoodies.blogspot.com/2010/11/day-24-punched-tin-ornament.html
-2 plastic shoe boxes with water in them, 1 small plastic container (like a sandwich size Tupperware container), at least 1 toy boat, 2 toy mules/donkeys/horses, 2 pieces of string, a 5 gallon bucket of water
-(optional) laptop you can use to show this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIIM1mHfJ0U
-PER CHILD: 1 small plate, 1 mozzarella cheese stick divided into 4 cylinder pieces, & 3 pretzel sticks
-a quart-size zip-lock bag per child, 2 Tbsp. of sugar per child and tablespoon, 1 cup of half and half per child and liquid measuring cup, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla per child and 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon, gallon-size ziplock bag per child, half a gallon of ice per child, and 1/2 cup of rock salt per child and 1/2 cup measuring cup
-1 plastic spoon per child & book: "Clarabelle: Making Milk and So Much More” by Cris Peterson
-1 stick per child (sticks from trees, toy golf clubs, or real hockey sticks), a pasta jar lid or hockey puck, 2 hula hoops, cones, or goal nets for the goals, and cups of water

Looking for our favorite resources on the individual states?

Chicago on Lake Michigan
Chicago on Lake Michigan | Source

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 Great Lakes state unique.

Ohio for Travelers & Teachers - Are you looking for fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Ohio, the Buckeye State? Included are links to wonderful worksheets,...

Illinois for Teachers & Travelers - Are you looking for fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Illinois, the Prairie State? Included are links to wonderful worksheets,...

Indiana for Teachers and Travelers - Included are fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Indiana, the Hoosier State.

Visit Michigan Now: Michigan for Teachers & Travelers - Included are fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Michigan,the Great Lake State.

Visit Minnesota Now: Minnesota for Travelers and Teachers - Check here to find fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Wisconsin for Teachers & Travelers - Check here to find fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Wisconsin, the Badger State.

Ready for the next lesson?

Whaling Dramatization from Lesson 1: New England States
Whaling Dramatization from Lesson 1: New England States

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.

Konos Volume III
Konos Volume III

Konos Curriculum

Konos Curriculum

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!

Konos Home School Mentor

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 iijuan12

Have you ever visited the Great Lakes States? What do you love about them? - Or just leave a note to let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback from yo

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