Midwest States Lesson
This is part 4 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Bake and eat cornbread, deliver mail on the Pony Express, carve Mount Rushmore, grind wheat, construct sod houses, sample regional foods, 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 homeschool co-op!
Prep Work Needed for the Lesson
Do this at least a few days before your class:
*At least a few days before your class/co-op, place some popcorn kernels and dried lima beans in moist paper towels. Place the paper towels with the kernels & seeds in a plastic bag. Keep the paper towels moist. The seeds will soon begin to germinate! You'll use the seeds to show the children the difference between monocot and dicot seeds. They are always amazed to see popcorn kernels sprouting!*
Do this at least the night before your class:
*At least the night before your class, prepare Plaster of Paris (purchased at a hardware or craft store). Place about 1/2 cup of prepared Plaster of Paris in disposable Dixie bathroom cups so that children can easily tear off the cup. You'll use these for the children to carve after studying Mount Rushmore. Prepare 1 cup per child and then a few extra.*
Midwest States Lesson Plan
(West North Central Midwest)
1. Pray. Read and discuss Ps. 65:9-13.
2. Briefly discuss what comes to mind when you think of the Midwest 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.
This is my absolute favorite atlas to use. It's quite sturdy (board book thickness) and large (about 1 1/2 x 2 feet) which makes it great for using with large groups. It also includes what is found in each of the various regions. It includes a world map, each of the continents, and then a map of the US. I have used this for numerous unit studies (Africa, Native Americans, Explorers, etc.). My children also love flipping through it just for fun. I am so glad that I bought this! I have used it over and over again.
*Each group of children will rotate between 3 stations twice, visiting 6 stations in all. Each station will last about 20 minutes.*
Corn Belt & Cornbread
3i. a. Briefly discuss the corn belt. (wikipedia.org). Use a book to show pictures of corn.
ii. Make cornbread. Let children do all the measuring, mixing, and pouring. Moms should simply assist to make sure that all the children get a turn. Divide children into 2 groups. Each group of 4-5 children will make the below recipe.
iii. Let children observe a kernel of corn. Briefly mention the difference between dicot and monocot seeds. (Monocot seeds will not separate into two halves. Instead, the food is stored around the embryo. Monocots have one seed leaf, which is generally long and thin, like grass. Some monocot seeds are rice, wheat, corn, coconuts and grasses.) Point out the parts of the corn seed (coleoptile, cotyledon, plumule, radicle, & seed coat).
iv. Have children look at an ear of corn and try to estimate how many kernels are on the ear. Mention that this is useful for farmers when calculating how much their farm will produce. Emphasize that each corn kernel can turn into a new corn plant. (To determine approximately how many kernels are on the ear, count the number of kernals around the cob and down the cob. Multiply those 2 numbers.)
YOU WILL NEED: 4 mixing bowls (2 large & 2 small), 2 sets of measuring cups and spoons, 6 8-inch square baking pans, at least 9 cups of flour, at least 4 cups of sugar, at least 6 cups of cornmeal, at least 6 Tbsp. baking powder, at least 1 Tbsp. salt, at least 3 sticks of butter or margarine, at least 7 1/2 cups of milk, 1 dozen eggs, at least 2 cups of cooking oil, 10 kernels of corn, 10 dicot seeds (such as a lima bean or a peanut), ear of corn, book on corn
Each group of 4-5 children will make this recipe.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1/3 cup oil
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350. Spray with non-stick cooking spray an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Melt butter in the microwave in a small bowl. Add milk and oil. Beat in eggs. Add to flour mixture and stir just until blended. Pour into baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. This recipe came from food.com.
This was also a great picture book on corn! It is probably the better one to read to a larger group because it has large illustrations.
Carving Mount Rushmore
3b. i. Quickly show pictures from a book about the creation of Mount Rushmore. Briefly explain how it was created as you show the pictures from the book. (wikipedia.org). Briefly mention the statue of Crazy Horse as well. (wikipedia.org).
ii. Pass out cups of prepared Plaster of Paris. Have children remove the cup and then use plastic knives and metal nail files to carve into their block "mountain."
iii. As children carve their blocks of Plaster of Paris read a book about Mount Rushmore and/or Crazy Horse. Be sure to mention that there were MANY different tribes of Native Americans in this area, and there are still some today.
YOU WILL NEED: books on Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, picture of Crazy Horse monument, prepared Plaster of Paris, 30 kitchen knives, metal nail files, 30 small plates
This is a great story to read aloud to the children about the trues story of how Lincoln Borglum finished Mount Rushmore after his father, Gutzon Borglum. It includes many of the difficulties encountered while creating Mount Rushmore, which really keeps the children's attention.
This gives a nice overview of the creation of Mount Rushmore. It is a great book to read aloud if you have children who know little about Mount Rushmore.
This was our favorite book on Crazy Horse.
This is our favorite picture book on Crazy Horse.
3c. i. Briefly talk about pioneers. Many immigrants from Europe came to the Midwest in the 1880's. Other families headed West in the hopes of finding a better way. What they found out West was large, flat prairies with grass and no trees. This presented a problem in an age when you built houses out of trees. What do you think the settlers did? They built their homes out of the grass and soil (also called sod). The houses were called sod houses or soddies. (edsitement.neh.gov)
ii. Make a play-dough model of a sod house. Have children flatten out a container of play-dough or clay. This is going to be our sod. Then have them use plastic knives to cut the play-dough into small squares. After that have them stack the small squares together to try to form houses. Make sure to leave room for doors!
iii. If you have extra time, begin reading a book on pioneers.
YOU WILL NEED: book on pioneers, play-dough (preferably green or brown but any color will work), plastic knives
This picture book gives a nice overview of what it was like to live in a sod house. It has accurate and interesting illustrations too! It's a good option for a book to read aloud to a group.
*While parents/teachers set up the next stations, briefly review what the children have learned so far about the Midwest States.*
Midwest States Sampler Plates
4a. i. Midwest Samples Plates *Be sure to prepare these ahead of time!* - Tell the children to NOT eat or drink anything. We will eat everything together. Let children each get a Midwest Sampler plate and drinks. Again, remind them to NOT eat anything yet. Go through each item one at a time and have them eat and drink only that one item as you discuss it.
- Sodas/cokes are called "pop" in the Midwest. Sundrop is a popular version of pop in the Midwest.
- Kool-aid is Nebraska's "official soft drink" because it was developed by a man from Nebraska. He originally called his drink that he had created in his mom's kitchen Fruit Smack. He eventually figured out a way to remove all the water and form a powdered drink. That made it a hit. Today there is a big Kool-aid festival held in NE each year.
- Cornbread & popcorn: All the Midwestern states produce corn. Iowa is the nation's leading producer of corn, and it has the largest popcorn processing plant in the country.
- Sunflower seeds - You'll also find lots of sunflowers in these states. While these sunflower seeds are tasty, most of the sunflowers are used to make oil.
- Steak: For many years, this was the land where cows roamed, led through the prairies by cowboys. That's why it also has some of the nation's leading meat packing companies in Omaha, Nebraska and Dodge City, Kansas.
- Barbecue Sauce - Different regions are known for their special type of barbecue sauce. Kansas City is known for thick, sweet barbecue sauce.
- Spam - "spiced ham" is a common food in the Midwest. It is produced in Minnesota and NE. It's commonly served sliced and fried. It's canned, pre-cooked meat.
- Wheat rolls - All the Midwestern states grow lots of wheat. Kansas is the nation's largest producer of wheat.
ii. The Midwest is known as America's Breadbasket. Why do you think that is the case? If you have a wheat grinder available, show the children how wheat kernels are ground into flour.
iii. If you have extra time (which we didn't), show the children Grant Wood's painting, "American Gothic." Have them describe what they see in the picture and what message they think the artist was trying to portray. How might they change the painting to model what America looks like today?
YOU WILL NEED: plates, cups, popcorn, steak, spam, sunflower seeds, wheat rolls, Sun Drop, Kool-Aid, Barbecue Sauce (KC Masterpiece or Kraft Bull's-Eye Kansas City style), wheat kernels (optional), flour grinder (optional), & picture of "American Gothic" (optional)
Home on the Range & Pony Express
4b. i. For a long time the Midwest was home to pioneers and cattle ranchers. That's why the state song of Kansas is, "Home on the Range." Sing the song together while showing pictures from a book.
This is such a cute book! It's about a young boy who dreams of being a cowboy out on the range. The illustrations are delightful and kept the attention of all the children (ages 1-13). The words are simply the lyrics to the song, so we flipped through the pages as we sang along.
ii. Briefly discuss the importance of Missouri as the "Gateway to the West." Saarinen built an arch in St. Louis to remind people of this. (Show a picture in a book of the Gateway Arch.) Missouri was called the Gateway to the West. St. Louis is where Lewis and Clark started their journey. Who knows what they explored? Yes, the Louisiana Purchase. They traveled through all the states that we're studying today and recorded what they saw. After they explored this land, many more pioneers headed West. Most of them started in St. Louis. They'd meet up together in their horse-drawn wagons in St. Louis where a guide would take a group of them out West. Why would they want to travel together? (hostile Natives, in case they run out of something, help crossing rivers, company, help finding where to go).
iii. Briefly discuss the Pony Express. Missouri was also the place to go for news and for delivering mail. Show some pictures from a book and briefly talk about the Pony Express. In 1860 the Pony Express was used to deliver mail between Missouri and California. (wikipedia.org)
iv. Act out the Pony Express: Divide the children into 2 teams. Hand out a toy gun and a stick horse to each child. Set up the children, spacing them apart from each other. Give the first person the mochila (a purse) and have them "ride" the stick horse to the next person, passing off the mochila, and then continue on. After the mochila has arrived in "California," hand the last rider a different mochila, and have them race back to the next person, then that person passes it to the next person, and so on. Have the 2 teams race to get to "California" and back with the mail. There were actually races like this between various companies. (*If you have 7 or fewer children, don't do race. Simply have all the children line up in one line.*) Let children continue to deliver mail/race until the time is up.
YOU WILL NEED: "Home on the Range" book , stick horses (or brooms, pool noodles, etc), 4 purses/bags, toy guns (optional), books on Missouri and Pony Express
This is a great picture book on the Pony Express and their experiences. It has wonderful illustrations.
This is another good picture book about the Pony Express. We used the map of the route that is included in this book.
4c. i. Briefly discuss Tornado Alley. (wikipedia.org)
ii. Read a book about Tornadoes such as Tornadoes by Gail Gibbons.
iii. Have children make tornadoes in a bottle. Fill a plastic bottle 2/3 full of water. Add some food coloring along with about a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and some glitter and food coloring if desired. Put the lid on the bottle and shake it vigorously for about 20 seconds. Turn it upside-down and give the bottle a good twist. A funnel shape should form. It may a few attempts to twirl the water fast enough.
YOU WILL NEED: plastic bottles, dishwashing liquid, yellow or red food coloring (optional), glitter, book on tornadoes
I read MANY children's books about tornadoes with my children. This was our favorite for reading to a group. It has excellent illustrations and quite thorough explanations about all aspects of tornadoes.
If you want to create some serious tornadoes in a bottles, this is a great gadget. It fits on two 2 liter bottles just like a cap would. Just fill one bottle with water and flip it over. As the water pours into the other bottle, it creates a phenomenal tornado-like funnel. My children LOVE playing with this!
5. Come back together as a group and review what the children learned about the Midwest States. Ask questions such as: Name a Midwest State. (Have the children name them all.) Midwest States (ND, SD, NE, KS, IA, MO). What is the corn belt? What is the difference between monocot and dicot seeds? Which type of seed is a corn kernel? What other type of grain grows in the Midwest States? What is something you learned about wheat? What did you learn about tornadoes? What is the area called that has lots of tornadoes? (tornado alley) In which state would you find Mount Rushmore? (SD) Name the 4 presidents whose faces are on Mount Rushmore. What other monument is getting built near Mount Rushmore? (Crazy Horse) What type of houses did immigrants sometimes build on the Midwest plains? (sod houses or soddies) Why was Missouri known as the Gateway to the West? What monument is in St. Louis to represent this? (Gateway Arch) What was the name of the artist from Iowa who painted farm scenes? (Grant Wood) What is something you learned about the food in and from the Midwest states? (Allow a few children to answer.) What was your favorite activity from today? (Have each child answer.)
Joke: Which rock group has four guys who can't sing?
Looking for my favorite books, video clips, and lapbook pages on each state?
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 Midwest state unique.
North Dakota for Teachers & Travelers - Included are fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about North Dakota, the Peace Garden State.
South Dakota for Teachers and Travelers - Included are looking for fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about South Dakota, the Mount Rushmore State.
Visit Iowa Now: Iowa for Teachers & Travelers - Look here to find fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Iowa, the Hawkeye State.
Visit Kansas Now: Kansas for Teachers & Travelers - Look here to find fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Kansas, the Sunflower State.
Missouri for Travelers & Teachers - Included are fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Missouri, the Show Me State.
Visit Nebraska Now: Nebraska for Teachers & Travelers - Included are fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Nebraska, the Cornhusker State.
Ready for the next lesson?
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!
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!