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.
West Virginia Unit Study
West Virginia, formed by seceding from a Confederate state, joined the Union on June 20, 1863 as the 35th state. It is the 41st largest of the United States covering 24,231 square miles. And is the 38th largest in population.
West Virginia is bordered to the north by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; by Virginia to the south; by Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to the east; and Ohio and Kentucky to the west. The climate of West Virginia is generally humid continental. It’s summers are hot and the winters are cold, although the mountains tend to be cooler in the summer.
Population: 1,839,505 million
Nickname: Mountain State
The nickname was given to West Virginia because of the scenic Allegheny Mountains that cross the state.
Motto: “Montani semper liberi” – latin for “Mountaineers are always free”
Agriculture: broilers, cattle, dairy products, hay, apples, and tobacco
Fishing Industry: flounder, sea trout, striped bass, mahi-mahi, and tuna
Industry: industrial chemicals, plastics, steel, tourism, and lumber
Mining: coal, natural gas, salt, sand, and gravel
Have your students color and label an outline map of West Virginia. Include the state capital and largest city of Charleston. Also include the Allegheny Mountains that span across the state. Don’t the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Roanoke.
The official state flag of West Virginia was adopted in 1929. The flag is a field of white surrounded by dark blue. In the center of the white area is the state seal encompassed by the state flower on garland. Above the seal is a banner that reads, “State of West Virginia.”
The state seal of West Virginia became official in 1863, the same year that West Virginia became a state. In the center of the seal is a large rock with the date of its admittance to the Union inscribed on it. On one side of the boulder is a farmer as a symbol of agriculture and a miner as a symbol of industry. An outer circle surrounds the center that has the words, “State of West Virginia” and the state motto. The seal of the West Virginia Governor is the the reverse of the state seal.
West Virginia State Bird: Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal became the official state bird in 1949.
West Virginia State Flower: Rhododendron
In 1903, by recommendation of the Governor and popular vote of the public and school children, the rhododendron was adopted as the official state flower of West Virginia.
West Virginia State Tree: Sugar Maple
Public school children and several civic organizations voted in 1949 for the Sugar Maple to be the official tree of West Virginia.
State Song: “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver, Taffy Nivert, and Bill Canoff. (click here to listen to the state song with lyrics)
In 2014 West Virginia adopted “Take Me Home Country Roads” an official state song. This joined the other three adopted officially in 1963. Those songs are:
- The West Virginia Hills by Ellen King and H.E. Engle
- This is My West Virginia by Iris Bell
- West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home by Julian G. Hearne, Jr.
Learn about West Virginia’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
West Virginia History
Modern day West Virginia was once part of the Virginia Colony covering the western part of Virginia. The colony, as it was known then, was governed by Britain. When secession from the Union became an issue during the Civil War, the western portion broke away from the Virginia Colony and was admitted to the Union in 1863. Building up to West Virginia becoming a state, Native Americans lived in the area and had claimed it as their hunting ground. The land changed hands more than once through treaties and wars. The rivers of West Virginia became a “roadway” to trade posts for commercial crafts. Shipping became a lucrative industry for West Virginia. And eventually steamboats were being built, or simply repaired, along the West Virginia rivers.
The settlers coming into the western portion of Virginia were different from those in the eastern part of the state. Slavery was almost non-existent in the west. This was not the only difference. Political and economic views varied between the east and west also. As the American Civil War began the differences were becoming more prevalent. In 1863, during the Civil War, the western portion of Virginia was admitted to the Union as a separate state called West Virginia. For many years, into the late 1990s, there were disputes over where the actual boundary lines of West Virginia fall. This boundary dispute was finally settled in 2011.
West Virginia became well known for it’s wealth of natural resources, especially salt and coal. Railroads were built across the state to transport these resources across America. As the 20th century dawned, tourism became a source of economic growth for West Virginia. As World War II began, West Virginia sent approximately 68,000 men and women to join U.S. troops. Along with contributing soldiers, West Virginia’s resources were used for the war effort. West Virginia also contributed troops to the Vietnam War. Today, West Virginia is a popular tourist destination attracting visitors to its beautiful mountains, rivers, and resources.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip West Virginia
If you have a chance to visit the state of West Virginia, 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.
New River Gorge Bridge – just north of Fayetteville
The New River Gorge Bridge crosses one of the oldest rivers in North America and is the longest span of steel in the western hemisphere. Once completed in 1977, the once 40-minute drive down the mountain and across the river became less than a minute. The National Park Service placed the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.
Green Bank Observatory – Green Bank
The Green Bank Observatory is home to several telescopes including the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. At one time the observatory was part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – Harpers Ferry
At the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers is the historic town of Harpers Ferry. The town was known, in the 19th century, as a notable center of industry. It also saw the arrival of the first successful American railroad, John Brown’s attack on slavery, the greatest surrender of Federal troops in the Civil War, and one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States. The park actually sits at the intersection of 3 states: West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.
The John Brown Wax Museum – Harpers Ferry
The John Brown Wax Museum graphically tells the story of John Brown and the raid on Harpers Ferry. Voice, music, and animation enhance the experience. Ages 6 through 60 will benefit from this educational and entertaining museum. This is a favorite of junior high schoolers. Lower group rates are available. Everyone’s a student when you bring 10 or more. All adults that accompany 10 or more students pay the student price too.
TAMARACK – Beckley
Tamarack is called “The Best of West Virginia.” It is West Virginia’s Artisan Retail Center where visitors can experience West Virginia culture, learn it’s heritage and history, watch craftsmen as they work, taste regional cuisine and shop for handcrafts items.
Phillips-Sprague Mine – Beckley
Tour the underground mine, visit the Coal Camp, and the Museum. The hands-on exhibitions and underground coal mining tour offer wonderful opportunities for visitors to learn, explore, interact and share. The unique underground mine, the recreated coal camp, the Youth Museum and the Mountain Homestead are surrounded by inviting lawns, colorful flowers, picnic areas, an imposing coal miner statue and a whimsical 20 ft. “Peace Totem”.
At the Exhibition Coal Mine, one can ride through the dark passages of a vintage coal mine. The guides are veteran miners and provide firsthand accounts of the daily responsibilities and travail of past and present day miners.
Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers excursions that transport you back in time to relive an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. Trips to Cass are filled with rich histories of the past, unparalleled views of a vast wilderness area, and close-up encounters with the sights and sounds of original steam-driven locomotives.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park – Summersville
An important Civil War battle site. This Civil War battle represented the failure of a Confederate drive to regain control of the Kanawha Valley. As a result, the movement for West Virginia statehood proceeded without serious threat from the Confederates.
Babcock State Park/Glade Creek Grist Mill – Clifftop
The Glade Creek Grist Mill is a new mill that was completed in 1976 at Babcock. Fully operable, this mill was built as a re-creation of one which once ground grain on Glade Creek long before Babcock became a state park. Known as Cooper’s Mill, it stood on the present location of the park’s administration building parking lot.
Famous People from West Virginia
Roger Price (co-creator of Mad Libs)
Stonewall Jackson (Best-known Confederate general during the American Civil War)
Don Knotts (actor best known as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show)
Mary Lou Retton (olympic medalist)
John Henry (american folk hero, greatest “steel-driver”)
Chuck Yeager (aviator)
Interesting Facts about West Virginia
A variety of the yellow apple, the Golden Delicious, originated in Clay County. The original Grimes Golden Apple Tree was discovered in 1775 near Wellsburg.
West Virginia is the only state join the union by proclamation of the President of the United States. During the Civil War, President Lincoln made a proclamation separating West Virginia from Virginia thus making it a state.
West Virginia is considered the southernmost northern state and the northern most southern state.
The first major Civil War land battle fought between Union and Confederate soldiers was the Battle of Philippi on June 3, 1861.
Marble King. in Paden City, WV, makes over 1,000,000 marbles a day.
The Coal House, built completely out of coal, is located in White Sulphur Springs. It is the only residence of its kind in the world.
West Virginia claims to be first in:
Celebrating Mother’s Day – Grafton, WV on May 10, 1908
Having a rural free mail delivery – Charles Town, WV, 1896
Launching the first steamboat – New Mecklensburg (Shepherdstown), 1787
Outdoor advertising – Wheeling, WV
The first electric railroad as a commercial enterprise was built between Huntington and Guyandotte, West Virginia
Summers Street in Charleston, West Virginia was the first brick-paved street in the United States.
Jackson’s Mill is the site of the first 4-H Camp in the United States.
The world’s largest sycamore tree is located on the Back Fork of the Elk River in Webster Springs.
On January 26, 1960 Danny Heater, a student from Burnsville, scored 135 points in a high school basketball game earning him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
One of the nation’s oldest and largest Indian burial grounds is located in Moundsville. Its 69 feet high, 900 feet in circumference, and 50 feet high. An inscribed stone was removed from the vault and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Minnie Buckingham Harper, a member of the House of Delegates by appointment in 1928, was the first African American woman to become a member of a legislative body in the United States
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Make an apple craft in honor of the first Golden Delicious Apple Tree in Clay County, West Virginia.
Play games or make art using marbles. Here’s a video with three ideas.
Make a skillet apple pie with Golden Delicious apples.
Have a West Virginia style hot dog.
Have a Pepperoni Roll, like many West Virginia coal miner’s have done for years.
Watch this documentary on coal mining: Coal Mining: The Dangerous Job on EARTH
Get a FREE Coal Sample Kit – For the growing number of classroom teachers in grades 3-5 that are seeking high-interest, hands-on science activities, the American Coal Foundation offers Coal Sample Kits.
Enjoy creating Mad Libs!
Watch Mary Lou Retton’s Gold Medal performance in the 1984 Olympics!
West Virginia Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys by S. D. Nelson
M is for Mountain State: A West Virginia Alphabet (Discover America State by State) by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle
Boy of the Deeps by Ian Wallace
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Pickman
When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
Book Basket (Non-Fiction)
West Virginia: The Mountain State (Our Amazing States) by Robin Michal Koontz
Breaker Boys: How a Photograph Helped End Child Labor by Michael Burgan
Collecting Marbles: A Beginner’s Guide by Richard Maxwell
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
John Henry (On My Own Folklore) By Dr Stephen Krensky
The Hatfields and the McCoys (JR. Graphic American Legends) by Kirra Fedyszyn
Theodore Roosevelt: Letters from a Young Coal Miner (Dear Mr. President) by Jennifer Armstrong
New River Gorge (Images of America) by J. Scott Legg
Shiloh (The Shiloh Quartet) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The Breaker Boys by Pat Hughes
Mountain Girl by Rose Creasy Mills
Stonewall by Jean Fritz
Stonewall Jackson: Loved in the South, Admired in the North by Charles Ludwig
Mary Lou Retton: America’s Sweetheart by Christine Dzidrums
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 The Right Stuff (rated PG) with your older kids (suggest previewing to make sure it is appropriate for your family)
Computer games to learn more about West Virginia
West Virginia Legislature’s Kids Page
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!