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.
Kansas Unit Study
Fifty-eight years after it was part of the Louisiana Purchase, Kansas became the 34th state to join the union on January 29, 1861. Covering 82,282 square miles, Kansas is the 15th largest state in the United States and 35th largest in population. Kansas is the center of the 48 contiguous states. It’s borders include Nebraska to the north, Oklahoma to the south, Missouri to the east, and Colorado to the west.
There are three main types of weather across Kansas. The eastern part of the state, specifically the northeastern area, has a humid continental climate. With this comes cold winters and hot, humid summers. The climate in the western part of Kansas is classified as semi arid steppe. This means that the summers are generally very hot and the winters range from warm to cold. The southeastern and south-central areas of the state have a humid subtropical climate. They usually have more precipitation than the other areas of Kansas.
Population: 2,920,775 million
Nickname: The Sunflower State
Although many thought of the sunflower as a weed, many others considered the sunflower valuable because it could be used for oil and this, in turn, boosted the Kansas economy. Because of this “the sunflower state” became the official nickname of Kansas.
Motto: Ad Astra Per Aspera (To the Stars through Difficulty)
The state motto is featured on the state flag and the state seal.
Agriculture: cattle, wheat, hogs, dairy products, corn, and soybeans.
Industry: locomotives, aircraft, missiles, meat-packing, newspapers and school yearbooks.
Mining: natural gas, petroleum, salt, limestone, and helium.
Have your students color and label an outline map of Kansas. Include the state capital of Topeka. Also include the largest city of Wichita. Be sure to include Atchison – home of Amelia Earhart, the Missouri River and the Arkansas River. Don’t miss adding Dodge city – the windiest city in America. And lastly, include Meade’s Ranch (about 40 miles south of Lebanon). This is the Geodetic Center of North America. The significance of this is that Meades Ranch is the starting reference point for all land surveying that takes place in North America.
On March 21, 1927, the legislature of Kansas adopted an official design for the state flag. The flag has a field of dark blue with the official state seal in the center. Above the seal is a sunflower and a bar of yellow and blue representing the Louisiana Purchase. In 1961, the word KANSAS was placed under the state seal.
The symbols on the Kansas state seal were selected in 1861. They are as follows: the rising sun represents the east; the river and steamboat represent the commerce and economy of Kansas; the cabin, farmer and horses represent agriculture; buffalo, Indians, and the wagon train are significant to the early days of Kansas. Thirty-four stars are in the sky representing Kansas becoming the 34th state to join the Union. The state motto is above the stars. Around the outside of the scene are the words, “Great Seal of the State of Kansas” and the day when Kansas joined the Union, January 29, 1861.
Kansas State Bird: Western Meadowlark
In 1925, in a contest of schoolchildren, the Western Meadowlark was selected as the state bird. Legislation was passed in 1937 making the selection official.
Kansas State Flower: Wild Native Sunflower
The sunflower was adopted as the official state flower in 1903. Prior to that year, the flower had been considered a weed and most wanted to rid the state of them. In 1901, at a rodeo in Colorado, people from Kansas wore a sunflower on their dresses and lapels as they sat in the stands. According to Senator Morehouse, “It presented a pleasing scene…” After that, the sunflower was recommended as the state flower and it was designated as such two years later.
Kansas State Tree: Cottonwood Tree
In the early pioneer days of Kansas, the cottonwood tree was used for building material by the settlers. It is said that the ability to grow a cottonwood tree, in early pioneer days, was a symbol to the settlers that they would be able to successfully survive on the prairie. The Cottonwood became the official state tree of Kansas in 1937.
In 1871, Dr. Brewster Higley wrote a poem to celebrate living on the prairie entitled “My Western Home.” it was not long until newspapers around the state were publishing the poem. In 1872, Daniel Kelly, a friend of Higley, came up with a tune to go with Brewster’s words. The song was officially published in 1925 and in 1930 was renamed “Home on the Range” to be used in a Broadway show. There was controversy around the song with more than one person claiming the song was their own writing. Higley was even sued for copyright infringement. It was later proven that he did, in fact, write the poem that became “Home on the Range.” In 1947, the song was adopted as the official state song on Kansas.
Learn about Kansas’ state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Green Ash, River Birch, Kentucky Coffeetree, Flowering Dogwood, Hackberry, Shellbark Hickory, Honeylocust, Silver Maple, Bur Oak, Pecan, Eastern Redbud, Sassafras, and the Black Walnut are trees native to Kansas.
Mammals common to Kansas are: Least Shrew, Eastern Mole, Big Brown Bat, Black-tailed Jack Rabbit, Woodchuck, Gray Squirrel, Plains Pocket Gopher, Beaver, Muskrat, Coyote, Gray Wolf, Raccoon, Striped skunk, Long-tailed Weasel, Mink, and the Bobcat.
Common birds to Kansas include Wood Duck, Gadwall, Northern Bobwhite, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Greater Yellowlegs, Swainson’s Hawk, Northern Flicker, Cliff Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Pipit, and the Indigo Bunting.
Like many other states in the U.S., Kansas was once occupied by Native Americans. In 1541, European Francisco Vázquez de Coronado came to explore the land that became what we now know as Kansas. Many years later in 1803 all of the land, except the southwest portion was part of the Louisiana Purchase. At that time, the southwest part remained in the hands of Spain, Mexico and the Republic of Texas. At the end of the Mexican-American War, in 1845, the southwest portion of Kansas became property of the U.S. For many years, goods and travelers, passed over the land of Kansas on what is known as the Santa Fe Trail. This is still visible in the open prairie land today.
In the late 1820s, the first settlement that lasted was built by white Americans at Fort Leavenworth. Differences of whether Kansas should be a “free” or “slave” state were prevalent for many years. It was eventually determined that Kansas would be a “free” state. At the end of the Civil War, many began to settle in Kansas. This did not end the debate of racial issues. Segregation would be a hot topic in Kansas for many years to come. Railroads were built across the state after the Civil War. This allowed for transportation of settlers and, with the increase in population, military posts were set up to offer protection for the railroads and the trails. Cattle was herded in and out of Kansas and by the late 1870s, cattle was a major source of income for the economy of Kansas. This remains true today. Wheat is another source of economic gain for Kansas. In 1874, Russian Mennonites began to grow Turkey Red Winter Wheat. This crop helped to put Kansas on the map as a major wheat producer.
As time progress, natural gas and helium were discovered in Kansas. Oil was being produced and industries for meat pack, the automobile industry, and aircraft production grew taking Kansas in the 20th century as an important source for these goods and services.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Kansas
If you have a chance to visit the state of Kansas, 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.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum – Abilene
The life and legacy of the 34th President of the U.S. can be discovered at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum, including his boyhood home.
Monument & Castle Rocks – Gove County
Monument Rocks and Castle Rock are a sight to see across the western Kansas skyline. These natural chalk formations are sometimes called the “chalk pyramids.” It is a National Natural Landmark where fossils are in abundance.
Cosmosphere (a space museum and STEM education center) – Hutchinson
The Cosmosphere started, in 1962, with folding chairs and a used Planetarium projector on the Kansas State Fairgrounds. It is known for being one of the first public planetariums in Kansas. It now resides on the campus of Hutchinson Community College.
Old Cowtown Museum – Wichita
The Old Cowtown Museum is a living history museum where visitors have the chance to step back in time and learn the progression of Wichita from a frontier settlement to a city booming with industry.
Boot Hill Museum – Dodge City
Famed for being one of the most corrupt towns in the Old West, Dodge City was a cowtown with residents like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. The Boot Hill Museum is a step back in time to what life in Dodge City would have been like. Visitors can experience the food, entertainment, and even gunfights from the 1870’s.
Fort Leavenworth – Leavenworth
Fort Leavenworth, established in 1827, played a key part in the enlargement of the American frontier. It is also the oldest active Army post to date west of the Mississippi. General Sherman made Fort Leavenworth home to his School of Application for Cavalry and Infantry in 1881. Years later, the school is still in existence, however, today it is known as the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family lived in Independence, KS in the late 1800’s. The Little House on the Prairie Museum is located on the land where the Ingalls family lived and exists to educate visitors about Ms. Wilder and the life her family would have experienced on the prairie.
Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve – Strong City
Tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres of North America. Within a generation the vast majority was developed and plowed under. Today less than 4% remains, mostly here in the Kansas Flint Hills. The preserve protects a nationally significant remnant of the once vast tallgrass prairie and its cultural resources. Here the tallgrass prairie takes its last stand.
Oz Museum – Wamego
The OZ Museum is dedicated to all things OZ, offering an experience that attracts visitors from around the globe. The OZ Museum is home to exclusive exhibits featuring the unimaginable, from the earliest Baum books and OZ Parker Brothers board games to today’s collectibles, which can be purchased from the Official OZ Museum Store. It is an enchanting experience appropriate for all ages.
Strataca – Kansas Underground Salt Museum – Hutchinson
Strataca is a salt mine museum, previously known as the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. The museum is built within one of the world’s largest deposits of rock salt and provides the opportunity to go 650 feet (200 m) beneath the Earth’s surface. It is a unique destination attraction for exploring an environs carved from salt deposits formed many years ago. The museum is located in the Hutchinson Salt Company mine which began operation in 1923 as Carey Salt Company.
Famous People from Kansas
Amelia Earhart (Aviator)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President of the United States)
Bill Martin, Jr. (Children’s Book Author)
Langston Hughes (Author and Poet)
George Washington Carver (Agricultural Chemist)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (author)
Interesting Facts about Kansas
The largest ball of twine in the United States is in Cawker City, Kansas. An interesting note is that visitors are invited to add to the ball when they come to see this giant ball of twine.
The Geographic Center of the 48 contiguous U.S. states AND the the Geodetic Center of the United States are both located in Kansas. The Geographic center is in Lebanon, KS. This is not to be confused with the Geographic center of North America that is in Utah. The Geodetic Center is the point where all measurements for North America are taken.
It was once against the law to serve ice cream on top of cherry pie in Kansas.
It is possible to find every type of prairie habitat in Kansas.
Kansas inventors include Almon Stowger of El Dorado who invented the dial telephone in 1889; William Purvis and Charles Wilson of Goodland who invented the helicopter in 1909; and Omar Knedlik of Coffeyville who invented the first frozen carbonated drink machine in 1961.
Dodge City is the windiest city in the United States.Amelia Earhart, first woman granted a pilot’s license by the National Aeronautics Associate and first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean was from Atchison.
Amelia Earhart, first woman granted a pilot’s license by the National Aeronautics Associate and first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean was from Atchison.
Wyatt Earp, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and William B. “Bat” Masterson were three of the legendary lawmen who kept the peace in rowdy frontier towns like Abilene, Dodge City, Ellsworth, Hays, and Wichita.
Handel’s Messiah has been presented in Lindsborgeach at Easter since 1889.
A monument to the first Christian martyr on United States Territory stands along Highway 56 near Lyons. Father Juan de Padilla came to the region with the explorer Coronado in 1541.
Fire Station No. 4 in Lawrence, originally a stone barn constructed in 1858, was a station site on the Underground Railroad.
Kansas has the largest population of wild grouse in North America. The grouse is commonly called the prairie chicken.
Kansas produced a record 492.2 million bushels of wheat in 1997, enough to make 35.9 billion loaves of bread.
The graham cracker was named after the Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851). He was a Presbyterian minister who strongly believed in eating whole wheat flour products.
The world famous fast-food chain of Pizza Hut restaurants opened its first store in Wichita.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Choose one (or more!) of these beautiful Sunflower crafts to make!
Have fun making one of these airplanes!
Celebrate the Wild West with these themed crafts.
Build a replica of a log cabin!
Learn how to make sidewalk chalk!
Make Kansas City Style Ribs for dinner!
Roast sunflower seeds (from the sunflowers in your garden).
Learn about the Pony Express.
Try your hand at growing wheatgrass!
Take a virtual tour of the Tallgrass Prairie
Kansas Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
S is for Sunflower: A Kansas Alphabet by Devin Scillian
The Buffalo Are Back by Jean Craignhead George
One Kansas Farmer: A Kansas Number Book by Devin Scillian
What’s Great about Kansas? by Darice Bailer
A Picture of George Washington Carver by David A. Adler
A Picture Book of Dwight David Eisenhower by David A. Adler
They’re Off! The Story of the Pony Express by Cheryl Harness
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Langston Hughes: Young Black Poet by Montrew Dunham
Amelia Earhart: Young Aviator by Beatrice Gormley
Buffalo Bill: Frontier Daredevil by Augusta Stevenson
Van Gogh and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt
From Seed to Sunflower by Gerald Scrace
Bison by Cherie Winner
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming
Who Was Amelia Earhart by Kate Boehm Jermone
What Was the Wild West? Paperback by Janet B. Pascal
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
George Washington Carver: Man’s Slave Becomes God’s Scientist by David Collins and Robert F. Burkett
Who Was George Washington Carver by Jim Gigliotti
George Washington Carver: From Slave to Scientist by Janet and Geoff Benge
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.
Watch this short video introduction to Kansas:
Learn about Kansas with these online games
Educational materials to print for kids from the Kansas Historical Society
Take a look at this segment on the American Buffalo on the PBS website.
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!