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.
Iowa Unit Study
On December 28, 1846, Iowa became the 29th state to join the union. It is the only state that has parallel rivers as its eastern and western borders. The Mississippi River shapes Iowa’s eastern border and the Missouri River, including the Big Sioux branch, make up Iowa’s border to the west. Across the Mississippi lies Wisconsin and Illinois, Minnesota is to the north, Missouri is to the south, and South Dakota and Nebraska are across the Missouri River to the West.
Covering 56,276 square miles, Iowa is the 26th largest of the fifty United States. It ranks 30th in population according to census information from 2016. The land is divided into three main plains or areas: the Young Drift Plains, known for its fertile and flat ground; the Driftless Area, known for its pine tree covered hills and cliffs where farming is almost impossible; and the Dissected Till Plains, characterized by rolling hills, ridges and bluffs that rise above the Missouri River.
The climate in Iowa is considered to be humid continental. This means that the summers are hot, the winters are cold, and there is plenty of rain in the spring. This also means that the temperatures fluctuate during the year as does the precipitation that Iowa receives.
Capital: Des Moines
Population: 3,138,317 million (as of 2016)
Nickname: The Hawkeye State
In 1838, Iowa adopted “The Hawkeye State” as its official nickname. The nickname was chosen to honor chief Black Hawk, a leader of the American Sauk tribe. His tribe was relocated to Iowa after losing land that they were trying to claim in Wisconsin.
Motto: Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain
The state motto was adopted in 1847 as part of the official state seal.
Agriculture: Corn, soybeans, oats, apples, hogs, beef cattle, milk production, chickens, and eggs.
Industry: Corn related food production – corn oil, cornstarch, corn sugar, and glucose; cereal, and popcorn processing.
Mining: Limestone, clays, gypsum and sand and gravel.
Have your students color and label an outline map of Iowa. Include the state capital, and largest city, of Des Moines. Be sure to include West Branch, home to Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States. Label the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and don’t forget Pikes Peak in McGregor, IA. For those Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, be sure to note Bur Oak on your map. This is where Laura and her family lived on the banks of the Silver Creek.
Iowa did not adopt an official flag, or banner as they call it, until 1921. It was then, during World War I, that National Guardsmen from Iowa were stationed in Mexico and felt they needed a state banner to help their unit better be recognized. The flag is made up of three vertical stripes – blue on the left, white in the middle, and red to the right. The colors symbolize loyalty, justice and truth; purity; and courage. On the white background is an eagle in flight. The eagle is holding a ribbon that proclaims the state motto: “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.” IOWA is underneath the eagle in red.
The state seal was one of the first official acts of the Iowa General Assembly in 1847. The seal is circular and features a soldier standing in a field of wheat. He is enveloped by tools used both in farming and industry. The Mississippi River is shown beyond the field and the same eagle shown on the flag is in the sky above the river. The state motto is shown on the seal on the ribbon being held in the eagle’s mouth.
Iowa State Bird: Eastern Goldfinch
The Eastern Goldfinch, a common bird found in Iowa throughout the year, was adopted as the official state bird in 1933.
Iowa State Flower: Wild Rose
The Wild Rose became the official state flower in 1897. Chosen because of its use as decoration on a silver service that was presented to the battleship USS Iowa in 1897.
Iowa State Tree: Bur Oak
Due to its abundance across the state of Iowa, the Bur Oak is considered to be the official species for the state tree. In 1961, the adoption was simply stated as the “oak tree.”
“Song of Iowa”, words by S.H.M Byers was designated as the official state song in 1911. It is sung to the music of “Tannenbaum” or as many know it “O Christmas Tree.”
Learn about Iowa’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
American Hornbeam, Quaking Aspen, Downy Serviceberry, Hackberry, Black Walnut, Red Cedar, Kentucky Coffeetree, Silver Maple and the Honey Locust are trees native to Iowa that can be found all over the state.
Mammals native to Iowa include opossum, eastern mole, masked shrew, white-footed mouse, southern bog lemming, prairie vole, plains pocket gopher, hoary bat, little brown myotis, coyote, badger, mink, and the white-tailed deer
Common birds to Iowa are: Ross’s goose, Cinnamon teal, Greater prairie chicken, Pacific loon, Double-crested cormorant, Anhinga, Tricolored heron, Mississippi kite, Swainson’s hawk, Merlin, Piping plover, and the Barred owl.
There are mounds, built by the Woodland Culture Indians, that are still seen today along the Mississippi River in Iowa. These Indians were already in Iowa when the French explored and claimed the area in the late 1600’s. It was not until 1788 that a settlement was built for the Europeans that came to the area. In 1803, the United States purchased Iowa as part of the famed Louisiana Purchase. Shortly after Lewis and Clark set out to explore the land that the U.S. had purchased from France. It was Lewis and Clark’s description of the fertile land in Iowa that brought settlers there to farm. Unfortunately, as settlers moved in, the U.S. government pushed the Indians out. The Black Hawk War took place in 1832 when the Indians tried, to no avail, to reclaim the land that they had lived on for years.
Iowa was considered part of the Missouri Territory for several years, but in 1838 it became known as the Territory of Iowa. On December 28, 1846, Iowa was admitted to the union with Iowa City as the state’s first capital city. Nine years later the capital was moved to Des Moines permanently. As the country was gearing up for the Civil War, Iowa sided with the union sending soldiers to support the North.
Being no stranger to supporting war efforts, over 114,000 men and women served their country during World War I. On the homefront, Iowa helped with the Allied war effort by continuing to grow the agriculture industry and sending the produce from the farms to troops. Once the war was over, Iowa’s economy suffered as did much of the U.S. To combat this, manufacturing of household appliances, pens, and food products grew. As time has passed, Iowa’s education system has become nationally known. Though they continue to lead the country in corn production, Iowa has also become a top producer of ethanol and wind power.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Iowa
If you have a chance to visit the state of Michigan, 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.
The National Balloon Museum provides the history of ballooning from 1700s to the present. Visitors can see exhibits of the evolution of gas, hot air and smoke ballooning, airships, zeppelins, and all the memorabilia that goes with those experiences.
They have the first modern hot air balloon that flew over the English Channel. The Japanese Fugo paper balloon is also represented in an exhibit. They also have a Children’s Learning Center with a chance to fly balloons via a simulator.
Guided Tours of birthplace of First Lady, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, wife of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States & Five Star General During World War II. Completely restored Victorian home. Chronological exhibits. Photos and mementos of Ike and Mamie’s life. Library of Eisenhower related references and local history. Mamie’s 1962 Plymouth Valiant on display and 1949 Chrysler Windsor.
Come to Eldon, Iowa and view the exterior of the house that inspired Grant Wood to paint American Gothic, one of the most recognized paintings in the world. Tour the adjacent American Gothic House Center which showcases Grant Wood’s life and the history of the house. Props on hand encourage visitors to pose in front of the historic American Gothic House and create their own unique American Gothic portrait. Admission to the Center is free.
The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum is a division of the Iowa Railroad Historical Society. It is a non-profit, operating railroad museum which is dedicated to preserving the history of Iowa’s railroads.
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is home to museum exhibits on the culture and history of America’s rivers. The campus also includes over a dozen aquariums featuring wildlife representative of that found in the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico and other river systems and deltas, including giant catfish, sturgeon, ducks, frogs, turtles, rays, octopus, river otters, and more. There are also outdoor exhibits, featuring river otters, a marsh, and large artifacts, such as steam boilers, boats, a blacksmith shop, a stream, and raptor aviaries including bald eagles.
The Grotto is frequently considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and The Iowan magazine has described the Grotto as a “Miracle in Stone.” A composite of nine separate grottos, each portrays a scene in the life of Christ. The largest man-made Grotto in the world, the Grotto contains the largest collection of precious stones and gems found anywhere in one location!
Lewis & Clark, in their quest for a water route to the Pacific Ocean, opened a window onto the west for the young United States.
The Christian Petersen Art Museum is named for the nation’s first permanent campus artist-in-residence, Christian Petersen, who sculpted and taught at Iowa State from 1934 through 1955. Petersen is considered the founding artist of the Art on Campus Collection.
The site where 13-year-old Abbie Gardner was an eyewitness to one of the few violent conflicts between European-American settlers and American Indians in Iowa (what became known as the 1857 Spirit Lake Massacre). The cabin has been restored to resemble its approximate 1856 appearance. Nearby are a monument to those killed, a one-acre park, and a visitors center full of artifacts.
Highlights of the Museum: View a model railroad diorama of the dramatic Kate Shelley story. Also see her gold medals and the lantern she carried on that stormy night. Explore a recreated slope coal mine. Learn about the environmental history of the area through an extensive collection of mounted animals, birds, and eggs. Military and Gun collection from the frontier days to Desert Storm. Prehistoric and Native American items. Extensive collection of US coins. Early medical equipment. Temporary and special exhibits through out the year. Historical and Genealogical records.
In 1876, when Laura was nine years old, the Ingalls family left Walnut Grove, Minnesota, after suffering through two years of grasshopper plagues. They traveled to Burr Oak, Iowa, to help manage the Masters Hotel, owned by their friend, William Steadman, also from Walnut Grove. Burr Oak is often referred to as “The Missing Link” in the Little House book series.
Famous People from Iowa
Black Hawk (Indian Chief)
Grant Wood (artist)
Herbert Hoover (31st President of the U.S.)
Mamie Eisenhower (First Lady of the U.S.)
Glen Miller (musician)
Interesting Facts about Iowa
Strawberry Point is the home of the world’s largest strawberry.
Crystal Lake is home to a statue of the world’s largest bullhead fish.
Kalona is the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi River.
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art houses the largest collection of Grant Wood artwork.
Fenlon Place Elevator in Dubuque is the world’s steepest and shortest railway.
Quaker Oats, in Cedar Rapids, is the largest cereal company in the world. Learn about the history of Quaker Oats.
Cornell College is the only school in the nation to have its entire campus listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Maynard Reece is the only artist to win the Federal Duck Stamp competition five times.
Herbert Hoover, a West Branch native, was the 31st president of the United States and the first one born west of the Mississippi.
First Lady, Mamie Doud Eisenhower’s birthplace is located in Boone and includes a restored frame house, complete with summer kitchen and original furniture from the family.
Born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, John Wayne was the son of a pharmacist and grew up to become one of Hollywood’s most popular movie stars.
Meredith Willson, who played with the famous John Philip Sousa and the New York Philharmonic before launching his career as a famous composer and lyricist, is a Mason City native.
Glenn Miller, noted trombonist and orchestra leader, was born in Clarinda located in Southwest Iowa.
The town of Fort Atkinson was the site of the only fort ever built by the U.S. government to protect one Indian tribe from another.
Campers and motor homes are manufactured in Winnebago County. They’re called Winnebago’s.
Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are 100% formed by water. Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
The highest double track railroad bridge in the world, the Kate Shelley Bridge, is located at Boone. Learn about the bridge’s namesake, Kate Shelley.
The National Balloon Museum in Indianola chronicles more than 200 years of ballooning history.
Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor, based in Bettendorf, Iowa, claims to be the first pizza restaurant to offer a taco pizza.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Make a taco pizza for dinner!
Choose of these 20 corn crafts to do with your students!
Learn about all of the foods and products made with Iowa corn.
Listen to some Glen Miller music.
Iowa Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
H is for Hawkeye: An Iowa Alphabet by Patricia A. Pierce
Numbers in a Row: An Iowa Numbers Book by Patricia A. Pierce
Corn is Maize by Aliki
Corn by Gail Gibbons
Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood by John Duggleby (out of print but may be available at your library)
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Iowa by Angie Swanson
Iowa: The Hawkeye State by Michael A. Martin
Iowa: The Hawkeye State by Marcia Lusted
Famous Indian Chiefs by John W. Moyer
Grant Wood (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia
Smart About the Presidents by John Buller
Smart About the First Ladies by Sally Warner
Iowa Native Americans by Carole Marsh
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown
Old Town in the Green Groves by Cynthia Rylant
State Fair by Phil Stong
Enjoy this video introduction of Iowa:
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!