Welcome to Notebooking Across the USA, a series of unit studies covering each state in the U.S. in order of admission to the union. You can find the landing page for this series with links to each states unit study as they are published, along with tips, suggestions, and recommended resources for this series here: Notebooking Across the USA. These unit studies are written with homeschool students grades 3-8 in mind.
The most recommended resource for this series is the USA States Pack, and while I believe it will be very helpful if you will be studying all of the states, it is not required. If you do wish to purchase the pack, use the code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount.
New York Unit Study
On July 26, 1788 New York became the 11th state to be admitted to the Union. Less than eight months later, New York City became home to the nation’s first capital under the Constitution. George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States and Congress met for a short period during the time that New York City was the capital.
Made up of a total of 54,555 square miles, New York ranks 27th in size in the nation. It is the most populous state in the Northeast region of the United States. New York is also considered part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The international border that New York shares with the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario is to the west and north. It is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south and Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to the east. It also borders Rhode Island to the east. The climate in New York is classified as humid continental. This means that most of the state is warm from late spring to early fall, followed by cold winters with snow as a common occurrence.
The state of New York has a varied geography that includes coastline, mountains, forests, lakes, and urban areas. The climate is affected by the geography. Across the state the climate is typically described as humid continental meaning that New York sees large seasonal temperature differences. The summers will be warm to hot, and often humid and the winters could be severely cold. New York City lies in the warm temperate climate zone meaning that while the rest of the state may be experiencing extremely hot or below freezing temperatures, New York City will be slightly warmer. The Great Lakes have an affect on the climate in western New York causing them to see the most rain and snowfall. It is interesting that New York state has an average of ten tornadoes to touch down every year. The varied climate affords residents and visitors with opportunities to many recreational activities from snow skiing to boating along the rivers and the coast.
Nickname: “The Empire State”
Though not officially confirmed, it is believed that New York is called “The Empire State” because of the variety of resources found throughout the state and it’s prosperity. Another theory credits George Washington for the state’s nickname because he referred to New York as “at present the seat of the Empire.”
Motto: Excelsior (“Ever Upward”)
Agriculture: apples, cattle and calves, greenhouse (flowers) and nursery products, hay, eggs, poultry, hogs and sheep, maple syrup, oats, potatoes, soybeans and wheat, grapes, cabbages, cucumbers, green peas, onions, snap beans, squash, sweet corn and tomatoes
Fishing Industry: lobster, crabs, black sea bass, bluefish, horseshoe crabs, and summer flounder
Industry: pharmaceuticals, photographic and industrial chemicals, soap, paint, plastics, fertilizer, computer products, and equipment for communication, surveillance, and navigation.
Mining: wollastonite, salt, sand, gravel, garnets and zinc
Have your students color and label an outline map of New York. Include the state capital of Albany and the largest city of New York City. Also include the cities of Buffalo and Rochester. Be sure to include the Erie Canal, Ellis Island, the Adirondack Mountains, and Niagara Falls.
The state flag of New York was adopted in 1901. It features the state coat of arms on a deep blue background. A ship and a sloop pictured in the middles of the coat of arms represent inland and foreign commerce. The vessels are on the Hudson River surrounded by grasslands and a mountain range behind them. The state motto is inscribed on a banner below the scene. The figures of Liberty and Justice are on either side of the shield and an American eagle sits at on a globe of the world at the top.
The state seal of New York was adopted in 1778. It features the state coat of arms that is also featured on the state flag. The figures of Liberty and Justice on the coat of arms symbolize freedom from the Kingdom of Great Britain, impartiality, and fairness. The seal also has the words “The Great Seal of the State of New York.” almost completely encompassing the coat of arms.
New York State Bird: Eastern Bluebird
New York designated the eastern bluebird as official state bird in 1970. The eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) is a songbird with blue wings and tail. It is one of the first birds to return to the north each spring. The eastern bluebird is typically found in an open habitat such as an orchard, park, or large grassy area.
New York State Flower: Rose
The rose was declared as the official state flower in 1955. The rose is typically thought of as a symbol of love and beauty. It is also the national flower of the United States.
New York State Tree: Sugar Maple
In 1956, New York designated the sugar maple tree as the official state tree. The tree is often referred to as a hard maple or rock maple tree. It is a very important hardwood tree species. An important use for the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) tree is using it’s sap to make maple syrup.
State Song: “I Love New York”
Learn about New York’s state government: Government
Visit this page for a kids area on the state government site.
Flora and Fauna
Trees commonly found in New York are white ash, American beech, black cherry, yellow birch, eastern cottonwood, cucumber tree, pignut hickory, silver maple, sugar maple, northern red oak, eastern white pine, sassafras, shadbush, and shadbush. More information on trees distinctive to certain regions of New York can be found here.
Mammals native to New York include white-footed mouse, bobcat, black bear, woodchuck, beaver, gray squirrel, striped skunk, muskrat, raccoon, eastern chipmunk, red fox, short tail weasel, and short tail weasel
Common birds to New York by geographical region are:
New York History
New York, named for the Duke of York, has a history that reaches back to the early 1500’s when French explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed into what is now New York Harbor. Almost 100 years later, Henry Hudson sailed to the New World and explored the river that is named for him. In 1624, the colony of New Netherland was established by the Dutch. They ruled over the colony for 40 years until the British army conquered the colony and renamed it New York.
Fast forward to 1765 when New York hosted the first Colonial Congress to discuss the King of England’s Stamp Act. The capture of Fort Ticonderoga was the first victory in the Revolutionary War for America. Although the war did not end until 1783, New York declared independence from Great Britain on July 9, 1776. In 1789, New York became the first capital of the United States under the Constitution. It remained the capital until 1790.
New York has a history of leading the nation in industry, commerce, transportation, art, music, and the publishing industry. The New York Stock Exchange was founded in New York City in 1792. The US Military opened West Point in. The first steamboat traveled from New York City to Albany in 1807 and the Erie Canal opened in 1825. New York was a major thoroughfare for the Underground Railroad with leaders like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass leading the way. In the early 1900’s the first skyscraper was built and the first subway opened in New York City.
New York’s Ellis Island was an important gateway for immigrants from all over the world to begin a new life in America. Between the 1890s and 1954, over 12 million immigrants passed through the gates of Ellis Island. New York has hosted the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1932 and 1980. In 1932 and 1964, New York hosted the World’s Fair hosting millions of people for the two events. In 1952, New York City became the permanent home of the United Nations.
In 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Centers claiming the lives of thousands and injuring more. This was not the first attack on the Twin Towers. In 1993, the World Trade Center was attacked. Six lives were lost and thousands of people were injured. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York. The state survived the hurricane upholding it’s proven history of being a state that America can be proud of.
Famous People from New York
George Eastman – innovator and entrepreneur who popularized the use of roll film
John D. Rockefeller – founder of Standard Oil Company
Frank Baum – author of The Wizard of Oz
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – First Lady of the United States
Grandma Moses – artist
Frances Cleveland – First Lady of the United States
Eleanor Roosevelt – First Lady of the United States
Lou Gehrig – baseball player
E.B. White – children’s author of “Charlotte’s Web,” ” Trumpet of the Swan,” and “Stuart Little”
Emma Lazarus – poet whose sonnet appears on the base of the Statue of Liberty
Norman Rockwell – artist
Michael Jordan – basketball player
Walt Whitman – poet
Sojourner Truth – African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist
Herman Melville – author of “Moby Dick”
Washington Irving – author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
Millard Fillmore – 13th President of the United States
Melvil Dewey – inventor of the Dewey Decimal system
Edgar Allen Poe – author
Elizabeth Monroe – First Lady of the United States
John Jay – Founding Father of the United States
Edward Hopper – artist
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 32nd President of the United States
Theodore Roosevelt – 8th President of the United States
Ira Gershwin – songwriter
Martin Van Buren – 8th President of the United States
George Westinghouse – inventor
Louis Tiffany – artist
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip New York
The New York State Museum is a center of art, science, and history dedicated to exploring the human and natural history of the state. Established in 1836, it is the oldest and largest state museum in the country.
Jane’s Carousel, now residing in Brooklyn Bridge Park, is a 94 year old carousel that has been restored by Jane Walentas. Jane and her husband purchased the carousel at an auction in Youngstown, Ohio in 1984. It’s original home, Idora Park, had been through a fire prior to it’s closing. Fortunately the carousel’s 48 horses and 2 chariots only saw minor singing to a few of the horses. The meticulous restoration process took 27 years to complete. Jane, and a few others, worked tirelessly to bring the carousel to it’s original beauty for residents and visitors to the park to enjoy. Click here to view an interview with Jane about the restoration of the carousel.
The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 is the connector between Lake Erie the Hudson River. The canal, 363 miles long, opened the western part of the United States to the east. It was once a major thoroughfare for commerce and transportation, however, today is mostly used for recreational purposes. Click here for tour of the canal from Lake Ontario to the Hudson River. Click here to listen to the well known song about the Erie Canal.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France in 1886. At the time of her building, Lady Liberty was truly an engineering phenomenon. She is considered the symbol of freedom for millions of immigrants as they entered New York Harbor to begin a new life in the United States.
Ellis Island was the nation’s busiest immigration station from inspection station from 1892 until 1954. Through the doors of Ellis Island over 12 million people were entry into the United States. They had left their homes in countries such as Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Turkey, Russia; to name a few, because of war, famine, religious persecution. Today, Ellis Island is a museum that shares the history of the people who came to New York in hopes of great opportunity in the United States.
Niagara Falls is made up of three waterfalls the lie on the international border between New York and Canada. The combined falls give Niagara Falls the highest flow rate of any other waterfalls in the world. Though only 165 feet high, the falls are extremely wide. Power plants on both the American and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls produce almost 2.5 million kilowatts of electricity. This form of power is known as hydroelectricity. Visit this site to view live webcams of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River
For many years the Adirondack Mountains have been a popular destination in upstate New York. Not only is it a place for outdoor adventures but locations all over the Adirondacks have played key parts in America’s history. Use this interactive map to learn more about the Adirondack region of upstate New York.
Although settlers had discovered the cavern sometime in the 1770’s, the history and entrance to the cabin were lost for a little more than 70 years. In 1842, Lester Howe gave credit to his cow, Millicent, for discovering a hidden entrance to the cave. In May of that year, Mr. Howe noticed his cow was grazing on his neighbor’s farm instead of his own. Upon further inspection, he discovered that the herd was gathered near the cave’s hidden entrance where they could feel cool air coming from below. Mr. Howe and his neighbor, Henry Wetsel entered the cave that day. The rest, you might say, is history.
Cooperstown, New York is the home to The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Hall of Fame is the best place in America to study the history of baseball, see artifacts and exhibits related to baseball, and find out who the most honored players of the sport are.
Lake Placid, New York has had the honor of hosting the Winter Olympics twice. First in 1932 and then again in 1980. The town was originally founded to develop an iron ore mining operation, but by the late 19th century it was seen as more of a recreational destination because of the beautiful lakes and mountains that could be explored. This site gives more information about the Olympic games that took place at Lake Placid.
The “Met” as it is affectionately called is the oldest art museum in the United States. Founded in 1870, it houses over 5,000 years of art from around the world. It is considered to be among the most visited museums in the entire world. Author E. L. Konigsburg used the museum as the setting for her Newberry Award winning book From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
For a look at the kids section of the museum’s website, click here.
If you have a chance to visit the state of New York, be sure you don’t miss these sites. If you won’t be visiting, take a virtual field trip by clicking on the name of the site. Have your student create Travel Journal notebooking pages to record what they learn.
Arts and Crafts
Here are a few ideas to get you started as you learn about arts and crafts in New York:
Make your own stained glass
Build a bridge to honor the design of Brooklyn and other magnificent bridges in New York City
Make a torch like the one the Statue of Liberty holds
Make famous New York Black and White Cookies
Make origami Olympic Rings
Choose one of these Van Gogh art lessons to do
According to the American Century Cookbook, the first Waldorf Salad was created in New York City in 1893, by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d’hôtel of the Waldorf Astoria. Make this simple Waldorf Salad recipe with your students.
Interesting Facts about New York
When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, P.T. Barnum led a parade of 21 elephants across the bridge to demonstrate the weight it could endure.
New York is the nation’s leading producer of apples.
Niagara Falls State Park is the first and oldest state park in the United States.
New York was the first state to require license plates on automobiles
New York State has 1,300 museums and galleries, 64 performing arts centers, and 230 theaters
Yonkers, a suburb of Manhattan, is the home of America’s first golf course.
The New York Post, established in 1803 by Alexander Hamilton, is the oldest running newspaper in the United States.
New York City was the first capital of the United States.
The first presentation of 3D films, before a paying audience, took place in 1915, at the Astor Theater in Manhattan.
The first pizzeria in United States was opened in New York City, in 1905.
The first railroad in America ran a distance of 11 miles between Albany and Schenectady.
The first presentation of 3D films before a paying audience took place at Manhattan’s Astor Theater on June 10, 1915.
Toilet paper was invented by Joseph C. Gayetty, of New York City, in the year 1857.
New York City has 722 miles of subway track.
Take a virtual tour of New York
Learn about making maple syrup
Create your own hydroelectric power with this kit
Learn about New York’s zoos and aquariums
Learn more about public transportation in New York City
Build a Statue of Liberty out of Lego
New York Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsy Maestro
How Pizza Came to Queens by Dayal Kaur Khalsa (out of print but may be available at your local library)
Watch the Stars Come Out by Riki Levinson
Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen. B. Winnick
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift
Book Basket (NonFiction)
New York Facts and Symbols by Emily McAuliffe
New York City Subway Trains: 12 Classic Punch and Build Trains by New York Transit Museum
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities (For Kids series) by
Lou Gehrig: One of Baseball’s Greatest (Childhood of Famous Americans) by
Five Short Stories All Kids Should Know (Kindle Edition) by
Moby-Dick (Classic Starts™ Series) by
E. B. White Box Set by
I suggest creating a “unit study book basket” (a laundry basket will do) to fill with books from the book basket lists. You can use these books in your instructional time, for reading aloud, or for reading time for your students. Some of the nonfiction books have activities, experiments, and other hands-on learning opportunities to enrich your unit study.
View the History Channel’s video series on New York City
View National Geographic New York
During your study of New York, you may wish for your students to learn more about the events of September 11, 2001. I have compiled two lists of resources for that purpose: Elementary and Middle School
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!