50 States Research Activity
Are you looking for a fun research project to do during the last few weeks of school? We borrowed this idea from a co-worker of ours who completed this activity with his 3rd-6th grade social studies class, but it could work in a variety of settings.
Students work in groups, partners, or individually, to research one or more of the 50 states. Depending on how much time you have, you can make this a very quick activity, or something more in-depth (including computer and book-based reading activities, note-taking, drawing/art, and a presentation).
This part is a little time consuming (great for a parent volunteer if you’re lucky enough to have one of those). Project an outline image of the United States onto a large piece of butcher paper. You may need to actually use a few pieces of paper so that your U.S. outline is quite large. Using a black marker, trace the outline of all 50 states.
Create individual maps of each state that match the same size as the outlines on your large map. Our co-worker used different colors and this really made the states pop. If you were in a time crunch you could use a solid color (different color than the base-map). Outline the states and then cut these maps out.
We recommend using some sort of research template so that your students are able to stay focused. We have one for each of the 50 states, focusing on facts from each state. You can get it here, and it comes with an answer key. Some things that students can research are: state symbols (flower, animal, bird, fish), state seal, state motto, important landmarks, famous people from that state, historical events, physical features, etc.
As each student presents his/her state, they get to put their map piece up on the wall. It’s really fun to watch the map fill out over the span of several weeks. Again, you can go in-depth with these presentations, or just have each person/group share a few fun facts about their state.
We loved having conversations with students about the giant wall map throughout the semester. Many students liked to talk about states they had visited, or where they planned to travel in the future. We definitely noticed a vast improvement with geography skills as the weeks progressed.
You can start off each class period by playing a 50 States song, such as 50 Nifty United States. It’s just over 2 minutes long. After several weeks, students will really begin to memorize the song.
Think about how much time you would like to spend on this activity. Some students may prefer to work alone, rather than in groups, so determine the purpose of the activity before beginning. Are you working on cooperative group skills? If so, you may want to choose roles for each student, such as:
If you would like students to research and present individually, you may want to assign students 2-3 states (depending on the size of your class) and give deadlines for each.
We would also recommend choosing one state and creating a model before you turn students loose. Make sure they know exactly what you expect. How many visuals should be included on the state itself? Does a research template or paper need to be completed as well?
We hope you and your students enjoy learning about the 50 states!