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Southern States Lesson

Updated on December 10, 2015

This is part 9 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. 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! 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!

Image credit: http://mapsof.net/map/usa-south-map
Image credit: http://mapsof.net/map/usa-south-map

Southern States + Florida

1. Pray. Read and discuss Job 12:7-10.

2. Briefly discuss what comes to mind when you think of the Southern 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.*

Talking about Key Limes from Florida - Some photos on this page were taken by one of the mothers in our co-op who operates Michelle Harrison Photography
Talking about Key Limes from Florida - Some photos on this page were taken by one of the mothers in our co-op who operates Michelle Harrison Photography

Florida Citrus

3a. i. Briefly discuss Florida.

ii. Divide children into 2 groups of 5 children and have each group make a key lime pie using the recipe below.

iii. Mention to the children that they will drink Florida Orange Juice during the second rotation. Most of the oranges grown in Florida are turned into orange juice concentrate.

iv. Read some of S Is For Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet by Carol Crane.

YOU WILL NEED: 2 large mixing bowl, 2 handheld-mixers (optional), 2 mixing spoons, 2 measuring cups, 2 can openers, 2 rubber scrapers, 6 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk, 3 cups key lime juice (such as Nelly and Joe's Key Lime juice) or 3 cups lime juice, 6 (8 ounce) container thawed frozen whipped topping like Cool Whip, 6 graham cracker pie crusts, & 1 lime (optional)

Key Lime Pie

Each group of 5 children will make this recipe. You can use lime juice instead of the key lime juice, but you really can tell the difference. Key lime juice is much more potent in flavor.

  • Prep time: 10 min
  • Ready in: 10 min
  • Yields: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup key lime juice (such as Nelly and Joe's Key Lime juice) or 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 (8 ounce) container thawed frozen whipped topping like Cool Whip
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • lime zest (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. (To make a thicker filling, beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.) Fold in the Cool Whip. Spoon the mixture into a pie crust. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Decorate with lime zest if desired. (This recipe came from food.com.)
Cast your vote for Easy Key Lime Pie
S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet (Discover America State by State)
S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet (Discover America State by State)

This is my favorite book on Florida. Each page has a simple rhyme concerning the word starts with that letter and then includes a bit more about Florida's animals, locations, etc. It provides a wonderful overview of what makes Florida unique. Both modern and historical aspects of Florida are included. Plus, the illustrations are beautiful!

 

Cotton

3b. i. Discuss the structure of the cotton plant. If available, pass around a cotton bole.

ii. If you can get cotton with seeds in them, have children try to pull a seed out of the cotton. Briefly discuss the cotton gin.

iii. If available, pass out a cotton seed for children to take home and plant.

iv. Make a cotton plant craft: Punch a hole in the middle of the brown construction paper. Glue or tape the 4 cotton balls onto the piece of construction paper. Put the green piper cleaner through the hole in construction paper, leaving about 1/2 inch on the top. Wrap the green pipe cleaner around the bamboo skewer. "Plant" the skewer into soil/dirt or play-dough inside a Styrofoam cup.

v. Briefly discuss cotton picking. Sing "Pick a Bale o' Cotton."

YOU WILL NEED: per child: cotton boles & cotton seed pods (optional), 1 2"x2" brown construction paper, Styrofoam cup, soil/dirt or play-dough, green pipe cleaner, bamboo skewer stick, 4 cotton balls, glue or double-stick tape, & hole-puncher

Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin (Inventions and Discovery)
Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin (Inventions and Discovery)

This was our favorite book on the cotton gin. The pictures are small, though, so it is not an ideal book for reading to a large group of children. *Cotton Now & Then: Fabric-Making from Boll to Bolt by Karen B. Willing would be another okay option.*

 

Kentucky Derby & State Flag

3c. i. Discuss Kentucky's nickname as the Bluegrass State. Read some of B Is For Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet by Mary-Ann McCabe Riehle. Play bluegrass music while the children create the state flag.

B Is For Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet (Discover America State by State)
B Is For Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet (Discover America State by State)

This is my favorite book on Kentucky. Each page has a simple rhyme concerning the word starts with that letter and then includes a bit more about Kentucky's animals, locations, etc. It provides a wonderful overview of what makes Kentucky unique. Both modern and historical aspects of Kentucky are included. Plus, the illustrations are beautiful!

 

ii. Briefly discuss the Kentucky Derby. Have each child get a stick horse and race around an oval course. If you have enough children, divide the children into 2 groups by age. Pass out extravagant hats to all the children who are not racing as Kentucky Derby spectators are well known for their elaborate hats.

YOU WILL NEED: blue, yellow, & white construction paper, grass clippings, scissors, markers, glue or tape, pencils, bluegrass music, stick horses or homemade "stick horses" (use a broom handle or pool noodle & tape a picture of a horse head that you print off the internet)

Seabiscuit vs War Admiral: The Greatest Horse Race in History
Seabiscuit vs War Admiral: The Greatest Horse Race in History

If you'd prefer to read a picture book the focuses only on the Kentucky Derby, this is a great option. It's an action-packed account of the 1938 race that included Seabiscuit, who has become famous due to the children's movie.

 

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

Peanuts

4a. i. ***Check with parents for peanut allergies.***

ii. Discuss peanuts and peanut growing by reading most of The Life and Times of the Peanut by Charles Micucci. Show children a peanut plant and/or peanuts in shells if you have them.

iii. Make homemade peanut butter using the recipe below. Serve peanut butter on crackers. Also serve slices of Key West Key Lime Pie that the children made earlier. Pass out Florida Orange Juice to drink.

iv. While children eat the peanut butter and pie, read A Weed Is a Flower : The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki.

YOU WILL NEED: peanut plant (optional), peanuts in shells (optional), 5 cups of unsalted peanuts, 3 Tbsp. peanut oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, food processor, measuring spoons, measuring cup, rubber scraper, crackers, napkins, plates, cups, orange juice, & forks

  • Prep time: 2 min
  • Ready in: 2 min
  • Yields: 10-12

Homemade Peanut Butter

  • 1 1/2 c. unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Measure out the 1 1/2 c. unsalted roasted peanuts and let each child grab a small handful and toss it into the food processor. Make sure that each child is able to put some peanuts in the food processor. Add in the peanut oil and salt and process the mixture until it is smooth.
The Life and Times of the Peanut
The Life and Times of the Peanut

We read most of this book. It has excellent illustrations and information. I think everyone learned something they hadn't know before about peanuts from reading this book.

 
A Weed Is a Flower : The Life of George Washington Carver
A Weed Is a Flower : The Life of George Washington Carver

This is a good picture book on George Washington Carver.

 

Swamps

4b. i. Briefly mention the swamp lands of the South: Atchafalaya Swamp of Louisiana, Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia and North Florida, Everglades of South Florida, & Dismal Swamp of Virginia. Show pictures from a book.

ii. Make a Swamp Diorama. Drizzle lots of glue all over the bottom of the diorama container (a shoe box, disposable plate, etc.). Cut an aluminum foil oval or rectangle that will cover about 1/3 of the bottom of the container. Crumple it slightly to give it some texture. Lay it over one third of the bottom. This is your water. Sprinkle grass over 1/3 of the bottom. Sprinkle dirt over the last 1/3 of the bottom. Give each child 3-5 one-inch balls of play-dough, 3-5 Popsicle sticks, & 3-5 pieces of green construction paper. Put lots of glue on the bottoms of the Play-dough balls and glue them to the bottom of the diorama container. These will hold the trees. Cut the green construction paper to look like leaves on a tree and paste them to the top part of the Popsicle sticks. Press the Popsicle sticks into the balls of Play-dough. Glue in the gummy worms or licorice (to be snakes) and Swedish fish or goldfish crackers (to be fish) as well. (Be sure to have extras of the edible items so the children can eat them.)

YOU WILL NEED: per child: a container (shoe box, container, or disposable plate), grass clippings, aluminum foil, scissors, dirt, Popsicle/craft sticks, green construction paper, gummy worms or string black licorice, Swedish fish or goldfish crackers, a small amount of green play-dough, & Elmer's or tacky glue

Marshes & Swamps
Marshes & Swamps

This gives a nice overview of most of what the children will need to know about the swamps.

 

Louisiana Mardi Gras & Zydeco

4c. i. Briefly discuss the history of Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras parades. (By the way, most Mardi Gras parades are family friendly events.)

ii. (Optional) Briefly discuss a King Cake and let children taste a piece. (You can read more about a King Cake at wikipedia.org.) A King Cake is kind of like a coffee cake with a tiny plastic baby cooked into it. It usually has white icing on top and green and purple colored sugar on top. Whoever gets the plastic baby in their cake, gets to be the "king" of the parade and gets to throw out the Mardi Gras "beads" (Mardi Gras necklaces).

iii. Have the children stand in a line as if they were standing on a sidewalk as a parade was going by. Either the child who found the baby in the King Cake or the teachers/parents will march in front of the children and throw beads out to them. The children can collect them and wear them.

iv. Briefly discuss Zydeco music and dancing. Play Zydeco music while teaching the children a few of the basic Zydeco steps. Have the children stand in a straight line. Have the boys on one side and the girls one one side. Have one teacher stand in front of the boys and one teacher stand in front of the girls. Stand in front of them with your back facing them. One teacher will call out the steps for the boys: Left, Right, Left, [Pause], Left, Right, Left, etc. One teacher will call out the steps for the girls: Right, Left, Right, [Pause], Right, Left, Right, etc. After the children get the hang of that, add in the rock step (which is just stepping back with one foot). For boys it will be: Left, Right, Left, Rock Step, Left, Right, Left, Rock Step, etc. For girls it will be: Right, Left, Right, Rock Step, Right, Left, Right, Rock Step, etc. If desired, you can try to have the boys and girls dance together.

v. Allow children to each take 2 Mardi Gras necklaces and then leave the rest for the other groups. At the end of the class/co-op, you can divide up the remaining beads.

YOU WILL NEED: 3 Mardi Gras King Cakes (optional), 1 knife (optional), napkins (optional), Mardi Gras "beads" (necklaces), & Zydeco music

Gaston® Goes to Mardi Gras (Gaston® Series)
Gaston® Goes to Mardi Gras (Gaston® Series)

This is a fun picture book to read about Mardi Gras in Louisiana. It includes parades, beads, King cakes, and more.

 
Amscan Miniature Baby Charms Plastic Baby Shower Party Favors, Tan
Amscan Miniature Baby Charms Plastic Baby Shower Party Favors, Tan

These are the types of babies that you bake into a King Cake. Add 1 baby to each cake.

 
33 Inch 07mm Round Metallic 6 Color Mardi Gras Beads - 6 Dozen (72 Necklaces)
33 Inch 07mm Round Metallic 6 Color Mardi Gras Beads - 6 Dozen (72 Necklaces)

My children love these necklaces and have continued to wear them and play with them even after our lesson on the Southern States.

 

Review

5. Come back together as a group and review what the children learned about the Southern states.

Looking for my favorite books, video clips, and lapbooks on each state?

Pearl River backwater in Mississippi
Pearl River backwater in Mississippi | 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 Southern State unique.

Georgia for Teachers & Travelers - Check her to find fun worksheets, books, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Georgia, the Peach State.

Alabama for Teachers & Travelers - Included are fun worksheets, books, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Alabama, the Yellow Hammer State.

Kentucky for Teachers & Travelers - Look here to find fun worksheets, books, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Kentucky, the Blue Grass State.

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

Florida for Travelers and Teachers - Check here to find great video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about Florida, the Sunshine State.

Arkansas for Travelers and Teachers - Ready for great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about Arkansas, the Natural State? Here you will find my favorite picks...

Visit Mississippi Now: Mississippi for Teachers and Travelers - Check here to find great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about Mississippi, the Magnolia State.

Visit North Carolina Now: North Carolina for Teachers & Travelers - Look here for great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about North Carolina, the Tar Heel State.

Visit South Carolina Now: South Carolina for Teachers and Travelers - Included are great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about South Carolina, the Palmetto State.

Visit Tennessee Now: Tennessee for Teachers & Travelers - Included are great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about Tennessee, the Volunteer State.

Virginia for Teachers & Travelers - Check here for great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about Virginia, Old Dominion.

West Virginia for Teachers & Travelers - Check here for great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about West Virginia, the Mountain State.

Ready for the lessons?

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.
  • 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

Want to teach this way every day?

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! 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.)

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!

Which Southern state would you like to visit?

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

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