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Southwest States Lesson

Updated on December 9, 2015
Learning about cacti of the Southwest States
Learning about cacti of the Southwest States

This is part 8 of a 9 part hands-on unit study on the 50 States. Celebrate a fiesta, compete in an Oklahoma Land Run, play Texas rodeo games, create a Sonora desert diorama, 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 group!

Southwest States

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

Southwest States

1. Pray. Read and discuss Isaiah 35.

2. Briefly discuss what comes to mind when you think of the Southwestern 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. The first stations will be 10 minutes. The children will then stay together to decorate the balloons. The second set of stations will each last about 20 minutes.*

Desert Dioaramas

*At the first 3 stations, the children will be making various components in order to assemble a complete shoe-box dessert diorama. They will carry their shoe-box to each station.*

Southwest Deserts

3a. i. Briefly discuss the deserts of the Southwest and show pictures from a book.

ii. Allow children to scoop sand in the bottom of their shoe box. They can then add small rocks and "tumbleweed" (rolled up Spanish Moss). If children have already visited other stations, they can add their saguaro cacti and play-dough/clay desert animals.

iii. Read some of G Is for Grand Canyon by Barbara Gowan.

YOU WILL NEED: sand, small pebbles or rocks, and moss-like plants to resemble tumbleweed (such as Spanish Moss)

G Is for Grand Canyon : An Arizona Alphabet (Alphabet Series)
G Is for Grand Canyon : An Arizona Alphabet (Alphabet Series)

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

 
This Place Is Dry: Arizona's Sonoran Desert (Imagine Living Here)
This Place Is Dry: Arizona's Sonoran Desert (Imagine Living Here)

If you'd like a book that focuses exclusively on the Sonora Desert, this is a good pick. It's a little longer than many other picture books, but it provides excellent information and has great illustrations.

 

Animals of the Desert

3b. Discuss some of the animals found in the Southwest deserts as you read some of Who Lives Here? Desert Animals by Deborah Hodge. We also showed the children rattles from a rattlesnake. Lead children in making snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, hares, etc. out of play-dough or clay. Place them in the diorama.

YOU WILL NEED: rattles (optional) & play-dough or clay

Who Lives Here? Desert Animals
Who Lives Here? Desert Animals

This includes realistic looking illustrations of various desert animals and some basic information about each one. This book is not limited to animals in the Southwest, though most of the animals in the book are ones in the Southwest deserts.

 
Way Out in the Desert
Way Out in the Desert

This is the desert version of "Over in the Meadow." It introduces a number of desert animals but does not include much information about them. It's quick to read. It is a good choice if you have young children and/or limited time.

 

Saguaro Cactus

3c. i. Read some of Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson.

ii. (Optional) Show children a cactus plant and discuss a little bit about cacti.

iii. Make 1-2 pop art style saguaro cacti. Have children two different cacti shapes on corrugated cardboard and color them green. Put a slit in the top of one cactus and a slit in the bottom of the other. Fit them together. Add toothpicks that have been broken for spikes. Cut out a small dome for the base. Cut a slit in the top of the dome and in the bottom of the cactus and piece them together. If desired, add hot glue or use tacky glue to make it a bit more sturdy. Place the a saguaro cactus or cacti in the diorama and cover the base with sand if you already have sand. If children have extra time, they can glue small bits of white paper as flowers.

YOU WILL NEED: cactus plant (optional), corrugated cardboard, toothpicks, green markers, white paper, scissors, & hot glue gun with glue sticks or tacky glue (optional)

Cactus Hotel (Rise and Shine)
Cactus Hotel (Rise and Shine)

This is a great picture book on the animals that live in and around the saguaro cactus.

 
Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus (Tree Tales)
Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus (Tree Tales)

This is another good picture book option that focuses on the life that surrounds and relies on the saguaro cactus.

 

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

4. Have children find New Mexico on their maps. Mention a little bit about the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, which is the largest hot air balloon festival in the world. (You can get info from http://en.wikipedia.org/ or any other resource.) Show pictures of some of the hot air balloons.

-Pass out a balloon to each children. Allow them to blow it up and tie it. Have children decorate their balloon using markers and construction paper.

-While children are designing and decorating their “hot air” balloons, explain how hot air balloons work and do this demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Hv07HLRlbc . When the air molecules are heated, they move around a lot more, which causes the balloon to rise. When the air cools off, the air molecules don’t move around as much, so the balloon comes back down.

YOU WILL NEED: pictures of hot air balloons from the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival (from a book or your laptop), 30 balloons (not inflated), a toaster, a piece of cardboard (can be from a cereal box) that will fit in a circle around the toaster, a kitchen-size trash bag, tape, and items brought by families: markers, tape, construction paper, and scissors

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

Oklahoma Land Run Activity
Oklahoma Land Run Activity
Chocolate syrup oil derrick
Chocolate syrup oil derrick
Oklahoma and Texas Oil Activity
Oklahoma and Texas Oil Activity

Oklahoma Land Run and Oil Boom

5ai. Oklahoma Land Run: -Ahead of time, place numbered "stakes" throughout the field/yard. (For our stakes, we used bamboo shish-kabob skewers and taped a sheet of white paper that had a number written on it.) Each of these stakes will represent the 160 acre lot in Oklahoma.

-Briefly discuss the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run.

-Have each child "register." They will stand in a line and give you their name. Write it down and then hand them a "stake" with a colored construction paper claim flag, also with a number written on it.

-While you are "registering" the children, have another teacher/parent secretly pull aside 2 children to be "Sooners." They will sneak out into the field and hide behind a tree. Instruct them that as soon as we tell the other children to go, they are to come out of hiding, pull up a white flag and place their colored claim flag into the ground.

-Have all the children line up. If desired, have some children pull wagons and some "ride" on stock horses. Tell them that as soon as you tell them to go, they are to run to one of the white flags, pull it out, and replace it with their colored claim flag. They then need to wait there until their plot of land has been "confirmed." (We also told the older children to allow the younger children to get the flags that were closer to the starting line.)

-Either tell the children to go or shoot off a toy cap gun.

-Have a teacher/parent walk around write down the children's names and the numbers of the white flags they pulled.

-Be sure to point out who the Sooners were and what they did.

-If you have extra time, either watch the below YouTube clip of the Oklahoma Land Rush scene from Far and Away or read some of The Oklahoma Land Run by Una Belle Townsend.

YOU WILL NEED: 24 bamboo shish-kabob skewers (12 with a white sheet of paper that has a number written on it & 12 with a colored sheet of paper that has a number written on it), cap gun (optional), paper & writing utensil, wagons (optional), & stick horses (optional)

ii. Oil Boom: Ask for the children to come up who have the stakes that are numbered 3, 7, and 11. Tell them to hold out their hands. Squirt some chocolate syrup onto their hands.

-Tell the children that oil was found on some of the land in Oklahoma and in the state just south of Oklahoma, which is which state? (Texas)

-Briefly explain that oil was found in Oklahoma in the mid-1800’s by accident. They were mining for salt but instead found this black ooze. It was oil! For decades Oklahoma produced the most oil of any state or territory in the United States.

-Give the children baby wipes to clean off their hands. As you give them baby wipes, tell them that they are now millionaires thanks to that black ooze.

-(Squirt some chocolate syrup into the air.) In the early 1900’s oil was discovered in Spindletop, Texas and the areas around Spindletop, which is about an hour away from Houston. Oil just squirted up out of the ground, and it was known as a gusher. There was so much oil that investors and businesses rushed into Texas. Before Spindletop, oil was used mainly for lamps and lubrication. After Spindletop, oil was used as a major fuel for the new inventions as the airplane and car. There are still major oil companies in both Texas and Oklahoma today. Even after more than 100 years, they are continuing to pull oil out of the ground in both states.

YOU WILL NEED: a bottle of chocolate syrup (preferably dark chocolate) with a picture of an iron oil derrick taped to the front of the bottle (so it will look like the chocolate syrup is oil gushing out of the derrick) and baby wipes

"Far and Away" has a nice, brief "Hollywood-version" scene showing the Oklahoma Land Rush.

Oklahoma Land Run, The
Oklahoma Land Run, The

If you want to include a picture book to read aloud, this is a good option which features a 9 year old boy and his family who participate in the Oklahoma Land Run.

 
Pappy's Handkerchief (Tales of Young Americans)
Pappy's Handkerchief (Tales of Young Americans)

This is another good option. It features a 10 year old boy and focuses on the hardships of his family.

 

Texas Rodeo Games

5b. Briefly discuss rodeos. Play 2 rodeo games:

- Kids Scramble: Sometimes during an intermission, someone ties a ribbon on a calf's tail and then releases the calf into the arena. Children chase after the calf and try to be the first one to get the ribbon. Since we don't have a calf, have the children take turns being the calf. Either use a flag football belt with one flag on it or tuck a tube sock or ribbon in the person's waistband. Give the child a few seconds to run off and then have the other children chase him/her down and try to pull the flag or sock. Whoever gets the flag or sock gets to be the next calf. If the winner has already been the calf, he/she gets to pick who will be the next calf from among the children who have not yet had a turn. Make sure everyone gets a turn at being the calf.

-Barrel Racing (on Foot): Place 3 objects (such as chairs or cones) about 100 feet away from the children. The object in the middle should be the furthest distance away. Have each child circle the object on the right, then the one on left, the one in the middle, and then run back. Time each child to see who is the fastest. If you have a variety of ages, see is fastest in each age division (such as 5 & under, 6-8, 9+). If you have extra time, allow children to race a second time and see if the can beat their first time. If you are short on time, simply divide children into 3-4 groups by age, and have them race around the "barrels." A stopwatch will not be required if you do that.

YOU WILL NEED: flag football belt with a flag or a tube sock or a ribbon, a stopwatch, & 3 objects (such as chairs or cones) that children can run around

Breaking open the pinata
Breaking open the pinata
Tex-Mex Sample Plates
Tex-Mex Sample Plates

Fiesta

5c. i. Briefly discuss the Mexican influence on the Southwest States (since they were all part of Mexico at one point).

ii. Let children break open a pinata, which is a popular birthday activity. Make sure that everyone gets a turn at hitting the pinata. (To make an inexpensive "pinata," fill an oatmeal container with candy. Poke 2 holes in the sides and attach it to a thin rope. If desired, decorate it with streamers.)

iii. Play mariachi or Mexican music while children enjoy some Tex-Mex snacks. We served nachos and salsa, food from Mexican frozen meals (enchiladas, Mexican rice, & re-fried beans), apple-flavored soda (from the Mexican food section at Wal-Mart), and a Mexican pastry (from a Mexican grocery store).

YOU WILL NEED: 3 pinatas, a wooden broom/mop handle or bat, blindfold, plates, cups, napkins, forks, Tex-Mex foods, and mariachi or Mexican music

Review

6. Come back together as a group and review what the children learned about the Southwest States. Ask questions such as: Name a Southwestern State. (Have the children name them all.): AZ, NM, OK, & TX . In which state would you find the Grand Canyon? (AZ) In which state would you find the Sonoran Desert? (AZ) What might you find there? (saguaro cacti, rattlesnakes, scorpions, etc.) What is pop art? Where might you go to see lots of hot air balloons? (Albuquerque International Balloon Festival in NM) How do hot air balloons rise? (When the air molecules are heated, they move around a lot more, which causes the balloon to rise. When the air cools off, the air molecules don’t move around as much, so the balloon comes back down.) How did settlers first start getting land to live in Oklahoma? (Land Run) Who were the sooners? (Settlers who hid out ahead of time so they could claim the best spots.) In what 2 states can you find lots of oil? (TX & OK) What else are those 2 states known for? (rodeos and cowboys) In what way can you see the influence of Mexico on the Southwestern states? (piñatas, Spanish words used, Tex-Mex food) What was your favorite activity from today? [Have everyone answer.]

Joke: A Texas cowboy rode into Amarillo on Friday and left Amarillo three days later on Friday. How did he do it?

His horse's name was Friday!

Material List for the Lesson

ITEMS FOR FAMILIES TO BRING FOR EACH CHILD:
-Mexican hats or Mexican (senior and senorita) clothing or cowboy/cowgirl hats or clothing worn to class (optional)
-markers (Sharpies/permanent markers would be preferred as we’ll be drawing on a balloon, but you can use regular markers if you don’t want your children to use permanent markers.)
-pen or pencil
-a shoebox, disposable aluminum pan, or other container with a layer of 1 inch of sand that covers the bottom (*You can use dirt if desired, but “desert” sand would be preferable. We will be using these to make a desert diorama scene.)
-a few small rocks or pebbles (to be used in the desert diorama)
-play-dough
-2 pieces of corrugated cardboard that are at least 4”x6” but can be larger
-construction paper
-scissors
-tacky glue (can be shared)
-scotch tape (can be shared)
- wagons, strollers, or stick horse (or something like a broom that you can pretend is a stick horse)

ITEMS TO BE BROUGHT TO BE SHARED WITH THE CLASS:
-atlas
-bOOK: G Is for Grand Canyon by Barbara Gowan
-book: Who Lives Here? Desert Animals by Deborah Hodge
-book: Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson
-cactus plant (optional) & toothpicks
-pictures of hot air balloons from the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival (from a book or your laptop), 30 balloons (not inflated), a toaster, a piece of cardboard (can be from a cereal box) that will fit in a circle around the toaster, a kitchen-size trash bag, tape
-24 bamboo shish-kabob skewers (12 with a white sheet of paper that has a number written on it & 12 with a colored sheet of paper that has a number written on it), cap gun (optional)
-a bottle of chocolate syrup (preferably dark chocolate) with a picture of an iron oil derrick taped to the front of the bottle (so it will look like the chocolate syrup is oil gushing out of the derrick) and baby wipes
-flag football belt with a flag or a tube sock or a ribbon, a stopwatch, & 3 objects (such as chairs or cones) that children can run around
-3 pinatas, a wooden broom/mop handle or bat, blindfold, plates, cups, napkins, forks, Tex-Mex foods, and mariachi or Mexican music
-moss-like plants to resemble tumbleweed (such as Spanish Moss)

Looking for my favorite books, video clips, and lapbooks on individual states?

The Delicate Arch at Arches National Park
The Delicate Arch at Arches National Park | 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 Southwest state unique.

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

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

Visit New Mexico Now: New Mexico for Travelers & Teachers - Ready for great YouTube video clips, books, and free worksheets and lapbooks for teaching and/or learning about New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment? Here you will find my favorite picks...

Visit Texas Now: Texas for Teachers & Travelers - Check her to find fun worksheets, books, video clips, and activity ideas for teaching and/or learning about Texas, the Lone Star 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.
  • 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 learn 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!

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 Southwest State would you like to visit?

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© 2012 iijuan12

Have you ever visited the Southwest 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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