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.
Pennsylvania Unit Study
Officially called the Commonwealth of Pennslyvania, Pennslyvania was the 12th of the original 13 colonies and became the second state admitted to the Union on December 12, 1787. Founded by Quaker, William Penn, and 360 settlers seeking religious freedom and a fair government, Pennsylvania was named in honor of the father of the colony’s founder. “Sylvania” means “forest land” giving the state’s meaning, “Penn’s woods.” Pennsylvania is full of rolling hills, lush forests and millions of acres of farmland.
Pennsylvania is the 33rd largest and the 6th most populated of the 50 United States. Located in the northern and mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., Pennsylvania borders six states — New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and West Virginia. The southern border of Pennsylvania is the Mason-Dixon line, the official division between the north and south. Two major bodies of water — Lake Erie and the Delaware River — help make Pennsylvania’s borders. The Canadian province of Ontario is just across Lake Erie. Interestingly, of the 13 colonies, Pennsylvania is the only one that does not border the Atlantic Ocean.
Pennsylvania’s topography is very diverse, making for a diverse climate as well. Winters are cold and summers are hot and humid throughout the state, however in the mountainous interior of the state, the winter climate becomes colder and snowfall amounts are greater. Western areas of the state, particularly locations near Lake Erie, can receive over 100 inches of snowfall per year. Tornadoes occur every year, sometimes in large numbers, such as the 30 recorded in 2011.
Population: 2010 estimate – 12,702,379; 45th among the states
Nickname: The Keystone State
Pennsylvania’s nickname refers to the central stone in an arch which holds all of the other stones together. Pennsylvania was in the center of the original 13 colonies, and was also central to much of the development of the country.
Motto: “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence”
Agriculture: dairy products, poultry, eggs, mushrooms, cattle, hogs, grains
Manufacturing: machinery, printing and publishing, forest products, metal products
Mining: coal, iron, limestone, oil
Have your students color and label an outline map of Pennsylvania. Include the state capital of Harrisburg, the largest city of Philadelphia, Lake Eerie, the Allegheny River, the Susquehanna River, the Delaware River, and the Ohio River.
The state flag of Pennsylvania displays a coat of arms on a blue flag (the same color blue as is in the American flag). The is an eagle above the coat of arms and a horse on either side. The coat of arms depicts a shield with a ship, a plough, and sheaves of wheat. The scroll at the bottom reads Virtue, Liberty and Independence, the state motto. The flag was approved in 1907.
The state seal was adopted in 1893 and shows the state coat of arms.
Saling ship: carrying state commerce to all parts of the world
Clay-red plough: signifying Pennsylvania’s rich natural resources
Three sheaves of wheat: suggesting fertile fields and Pennsylvania’s wealth of human thought and action
Above the coat of arms is an eagle, and on the sides of the coat of arms are a stalk of corn and an olive branch, signifying peace and prosperity. The design is encircled by the inscription “Seal of the State of Pennsylvania.”
State Bird: Ruffed Grouse
The ruffed grouse because the state bird of Pennsylvania in 1931. Sometimes called the partridge, it is a medium-sized grouse occurring in forests from the Appalachian Mountains across Canada to Alaska. It is non-migratory. It is the only species in the genus Bonasa.
State Flower: Mountain Laurel
Mountain laurel was designated as Pennsylvania’s official state flower in 1933. Mountain laurel is an evergreen shrub native to the eastern United States (from southern Maine to northern Florida and west to Indiana and Louisiana).
State Tree: Eastern Hemlock
The eastern hemlock was designated official state tree of Pennsylvania in 1931. Eastern hemlock trees were used by early settlers to build log cabins and as a source of tannic acid (for tanning leather).
State Song: Pennslyvania (click here to sing along)
“Pennsylvania” is the official state song of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The song was written and composed by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner and serves as the official song for all public purposes. The state song was adopted on November 29, 1990.
Learn about Pennsylvania’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Pennsylvania’s common trees include sugar maple, walnut, poplar, oak, pine, ash, beech, and linden, along with sassafras, sycamore, weeping willow, and balsam fir. Red pine and paper birch are found in the north while the sweet gum is dominant in the extreme southwest.
Common Pennsylvania mammals include the white-tailed deer, black bear, red and gray foxes, opossum, raccoon, muskrat, mink, snowshoe hare, common cottontail, and red, gray, fox, and flying squirrels. The ruffed grouse, wood dove, ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail, and mallard and black ducks, along with the robin, cardinal, English sparrow, red-eyed vireo, cedar waxwing, tufted titmouse, yellow-shafted flicker, barn swallow, blue jay, and killdeer are common birds.
Long before the Commonwealth was visited and later settled by Europeans, the area was home to subgroups of the Delaware (also known as Lenni Lenape), Susquehannock, Iroquois, Eriez, and Shawnee Indian nations.
Pennsylvania territory was disputed in the early 1600s among the Dutch, Swedes, and English. England acquired the region in 1664 with the capture of New York, and in 1681 Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn, a Quaker, by King Charles II.
Armed with a charter granted by England’s King Charles II, William Penn and one hundred Quakers arrived in what would later become the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, aboard the Welcome on October 27, 1682
Accepting William Penn’s offer of religious freedom as part of Penn’s “holy experiment” of religious tolerance, the first sizable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720’s or 1730’s.
The nation’s first circulating library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin. Today, the Library Company houses an extensive collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, and works of art specializing in American history and culture during the 17th through the 19th centuries.
Pennsylvania’s capital, Philadelphia, was the site of the first and second Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775. The 2nd Continental Congress produced the Declaration of Independence, and thus, the American Revolution.
Philadelphia was the seat of the federal government almost continuously from 1776 to 1800.
The nation’s first daily newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser , was published in Philadelphia on September 21, 1784. By the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775, there were 37 independent newspapers to be a source of news and information for the colonists.
In July of 1863, during the American Civil War, Pennsylvania was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, in which Union General George Meade defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee, bringing an end to the Confederacy’s Northern invasion. Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address was spoken also spoken here. Watch this video which explains the main points of the Gettysburg Address in 4 minutes.
In 1859, Edwin L. Drake drilled the world’s first oil well and launched the modern petroleum industry.
The first U.S. zoo was built in Philadelphia in 1876. The Philadelphia Zoo, located in the Centennial District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, however, its opening was delayed by the American Civil War until July 1, 1874.
In 1909 the first baseball stadium was built in Pittsburgh. Forbes Field was a baseball park in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh from 1909 to 1970. It was the third home of the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball team, and the first home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the city’s NFL franchise.
Famous People from Pennslyvania
Benjamin Franklin (patriot and inventor — while Franklin was not born in PA, he lived most of his life there, and is considered one of the most famous residents of Philadelphia)
Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women)
Betsy Ross (seamstress; reported to have made the first American flag)
Milton Hershey (candy manufacturer)
Mary Cassatt (American painter and printmaker)
Joseph Priestley (the “Father of Modern Chemistry”)
James Buchanan (the 15th president of the United States)
Benjamin West (historical painter)
Nate Saint (missionary)
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Tourism: Road Trip Pennslyvania
If you have a chance to visit the state of Pennslyvania, 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.
Valley Forge was the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army. The park commemorates the sacrifices and perseverance of the Revolutionary War generation and honors the ability of citizens to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times!
The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North. Often referred to as the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion”, Gettysburg was the Civil War’s bloodiest battle and was also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address”.
The Liberty Bell bears a timeless message: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Go beyond the iconic crack to learn how this State House bell was transformed into an extraordinary symbol. Abolitionists, women’s suffrage advocates and Civil Rights leaders took inspiration from the inscription on this bell.
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal…”
Independence Hall echoes these words. Nearby the old cracked Bell proclaims liberty. The spirit of Franklin is alive in his adopted city. Become part of America’s journey in discovering its past.
The Center features a range of exhibits, live performances, and programs that illuminate constitutional freedoms and immerse you in the extraordinary story of “We the People.” Whether you have 45 minutes or an entire afternoon, you’re guaranteed to be moved by what it means to be American.
Twice this house sheltered George Washington. In 1793, he took refuge here from the deadly yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. The following summer, it was a welcome retreat from the heat of the capital city.
The South Fork dam failed on Friday, May 31, 1889 and unleashed 20,000,000 tons of water that devastated Johnstown, PA. The flood killed 2,209 people but it brought the nation and the world together to aid the “Johnstown sufferers.” The story of the Johnstown Flood reminds us all, “…that we must leave nothing undone for the preservation and protection of our brother men.”
The Senator John Heinz History Center family of museums and programs includes the Heinz History Center, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, Detre Library & Archives, and the new Museum Conservation Center. The 370,000 square-foot museum presents compelling stories from American history with a Western Pennsylvania connection in an interactive environment perfect for visitors of all ages.
Arts and Crafts
Studying states lends itself easily to opportunities for arts and crafts activities. The ideas are endless, but here are a few to get your started:
Watch this video to learn how to draw the Liberty Bell
View the works of artist, Benjamin West
Color your own Mary Cassatt paintings
Interesting Facts about Pennsylvania
Crayola Crayons are made in Easton, PA.
Hershey, PA is home to the Hershey Company. The “sweetest place on earth” is the manufacturer of the # 1 selling candy in the USA, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Punxsutawney’s most famous resident is world-renowned, Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-forecasting groundhog.
There are 166 National Historic Landmarks in Pennsylvania, 67 of which are in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania was the first state to list their web site URL on a license plate.
In 1913 the first automobile service station opened in Pittsburgh.
In Philadelphia in 1775 Johann Behrent built the first piano in America.
The first all-motion-picture theater in the world was opened on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh on June 19, 1905. The Warner brothers began their careers in Pennsylvania.
The earliest successful experiment of Thomas A. Edison with electric lighting was made in Sunbury.
Pennsylvania leads the nation in rural population, number of licensed hunters, State Game Lands, covered bridges, meat packing plants, mushroom production, potato chip production, pretzel bakeries and sausage production.
Pennsylvania is home to the largest number of Amish in the U.S.
Take a virtual Hershey Chocolate World Factory Tour and then eat some Hershey candy
Pretend you are visiting Philadephia. Download the map and Gazette to take a virtual tour of the top 24 stops of historic Philadelphia. Where will you visit first? Can you see and it all? What will you choose?
Learn the history of the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and then make some for your family. Bake a shoofly pie for dessert.
Make whoopie pies.
Watch this video about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Watch this documentary about a real Amish family – Amish: A Secret Life
Pennsylvania Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
Pennsylvania: What’s So Great About This State by Kate Boehm
Pennsylvania (Hello U.S.A) by Gwenyth Swain (out of print, but may be available at your library)
K is for Keystone by Kristen Kane
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy
The Great Big Wagon That Rang by Joe Slate (out of print, but may be available at your library)
Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire
A Child’s Gettysburg by T. Michael Harty
Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco
Groundhog Day! by Gail Gibbons
Amish Children by Phyllis Pellman Good
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Pennylvania by Craig R. Doherty
Pennsylvania by Jill C. Wheeler
The Pennsylvania Colony by Kevin Cunningham
A Kid’s Guide to Philadelphia by Ellen W. Leroe
Who Was William Penn?: And Other Questions About the Founding of Pennsylvania by Marty Rhodes Figley
Pennsylvania: Facts and Symbols by Emily McAuliffe (out of print, but may be available at your library)
Pennsylvania Native Americans by Carole Marsh (out of print, but may be available at your library)
Birds of Pennsylvania Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
Trees of Pennsylvania Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Who Was Milton Hershey? by James Buckley, Jr.
Milton Hershey: More Than Chocolate (Heroes of History) by Janet Benge
Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia by Margaret Cousins
Benjamin Franklin: Young Printer by Augusta Stevenson
Saving the Liberty Bell by Marty Rhodes Figley
The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison by Larson and Winship
William Penn: Founder of Pennsylvania by Ryan Jacobson
Who Was Thomas Jefferson? by Dennis Brindell Fadin
Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
What Was the Battle of Gettysburg by Jim O’Connor
The Winter at Valley Forge by F. Van Wyck Mason (out of print, but may be available at your library)
Nate Saint: On a Wing and Prayer by Janet Benge
End of the Spear by Steve Saint
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.
Discover Pennslyvania — symbools, emblems, facts, figures, and kids pages.