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.
Nebraska Unit Study
Nebraska was the 37th state to join the union on March 1, 1867. Located in both the Great Plains and Midwestern part of the United States, it is made up of two major land regions: the Dissected Till Plains and the Great Plains. Nebraska is the 16th largest state in the U.S. covering 77,358 square miles. It is bordered by South Dakota to the north, Colorado and Kansas to the south, Iowa and Missouri to the east, and to the west is Colorado and Wyoming. The climate in Nebraska is typically continental with varying temperatures from season to season. It is not unusual for Nebraska to experience blizzards, windstorms, or droughts.
Population: 1,909,400 million (37th largest in the U.S.)
Nickname: The Cornhusker State
Nebraska adopted “The Cornhusker State” as its official nickname in 1945. The title is taken from the nickname given for the athletic teams at the University of Nebraska. This replaced the original nickname “Tree Planter’s State.”
Motto: Equality Before the Law
Agriculture: Beef cattle, hogs, eggs, corn, wheat, sugar beets, and potatoes
Industry: Food processing, chemical production, farm equipment, medical instruments and pharmaceuticals
Mining: Limestone, clay, and petroleum
Have your students color and label an outline map of Nebraska. Include the state capital of Lincoln. Also include the largest city of Omaha. Be sure to include the Missouri River that runs along the eastern Nebraska border and Lake McConaughy, Nebraska’s largest reservoir covering 30,500 acres. Don’t forget to note Nebraska’s National Parks: Homestead National Monument of America, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, and the Nebraska National Forest.
Nebraska did not adopt a state flag until 1963. The flag is made of a dark blue field with the state seal in the middle. The seal dates back to 1867. The state motto as well as the date of statehood are noted on the seal along with symbols for mechanics, agriculture, and transportation.
Nebraska’s state seal is used on all official documents issued by the Nebraska state government. The seal consists of a scene showing a tradesman in the foreground with and anvil symbolizing the mechanic arts. A steamboat shown on the river and a train in the background represent transportation, agriculture is represented by wheat and stalks of corn. The words “Great Seal of the State of Nebraska” and “March 1st 1867” surround the scene.
Nebraska State Bird: Western Meadowlark
The Western Meadowlark was adopted as the official state bird in 1929.
Nebraska State Flower: Goldenrod
The Goldenrod flower was adopted as the state flower for Nebraska in 1895.
Nebraska State Tree: Cottonwood
The Cottonwood tree became the official state tree of Nebraska in 1972. It was chosen because of its association to early pioneers using Cottonwood shoots to mark their claim to portions of land that would become their homestead.
“Beautiful Nebraska,” written by Jim Fras and Guy G. Miller was adopted as the official state song in 1967
Learn about Nebraska’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Silver Maple, Ohio Buckeye, Bitternut Hickory, Hackberry, Eastern Redbud, Green Ash, Honeylocust, Kentucky Coffeetree, Black Walnut, Eastern Redcedar, Hophornbeam, Ponderosa Pine, and the Sycamore are common trees in Nebraska that are native to the state.
Mammals native to Nebraska include: Eastern Mole, Eastern Cottontail, Plains Pocket Gopher, Beaver, Deer Mouse, Porcupine, Coyote, Gray Wolf, Raccoon, Long-tailed Weasel, Badger, and the White-tailed Deer
Common birds in Nebraska’s seven distinct habitats include: Scarlet Tanagers and Gray Catbird (Deciduous Forest), Long-billed Curlew and Lark Bunting (Shrubland), Prairie Falcon and Rock Wren (Prairies), Great Blue Heron and Wilson’s Phalarope (Wetlands), Piping Plover and Whooping Crane (Rivers/Lakes), Horned Lark and Peregrine Falcon (Urban/Farmland), and Lewis’s Woodpecker and Bell’s Vireo (Coniferous Forests)
Like many other states west of the Mississippi, the area that is present-day Nebraska was part of the Louisiana Territory. Prior to that Nebraska had been the possession of France and New Spain. In 1803, it was part of the land purchased from France and became under the umbrella of the United States. In 1812, the land became part of the Missouri Territory.
Fur trading was an important part of the Nebraska Territory economy. As the state grew farming and tourism became equally important. The tourism industry catered to travelers coming through Nebraska, on their way to Wyoming, in search of gold. Around the same time, freight ships were using the Missouri River to transport foods and ports for the ships were being built in Nebraska. Stagecoaches were traveling through Nebraska and the Pony Express even provided mail service for a limited period of time. It wasn’t long before the railroads came to Nebraska bringing more people and industry.
No battles during the time of the Civil War were actually fought in Nebraska, however, over 3,000 men served the Union army during the war. The constitution for Nebraska was written in 1866 and was voted on in 1867 with a revision stating that suffrage was not denied to non-white voters. President Johnson vetoed the decision to allow Nebraska statehood based on the revision, however, the President’s veto was overridden by major vote in both houses of Congress. This made Nebraska the only state admitted to the union under a veto override. Moving forward, credit it given to the railroad companies in advancing the settlement of Nebraska. The soil was excellent for farming, however, the railroads were needed to transport people and goods to and from Nebraska. For women, teaching became a career choice and helped in pushing the state forward to a modern state.
When the Great Depression hit across the United States in 1929, Nebraska’s economy was hit hard. Grain prices fell considerably and unemployment was high. The effects of the Great Depression were felt across Nebraska until 1932. When World War II began, Nebraska played a very important role. Not only did they send men into battle but they also provided food and there were several manufacturing facilities across the state producing munitions. Nebraska was also home to several prisoner of war camps during World War II. In the 1980s many of the farms in Nebraska suffered when a “farm crisis” occurred across the U.S. This did not hold Nebraska back. The state saw rise to factories and by 1990 the telecommunications industry had a strong presence in Nebraska. Along with industry, Nebraska is a leader in higher education and arts and humanities.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Nebraska
If you have a chance to visit the state of Nebraska, 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.
Omaha Zoo and Aquarium Omaha
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is nationally renowned for its leadership in animal conservation and research. Evolving from the public Riverview Park Zoo established in 1894, today the zoo includes several notable exhibits. It features the largest cat complex in North America; “Kingdoms of the Night” is the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp; the Lied Jungle is one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests, and the “Desert Dome” is one of the world’s largest indoor deserts, as well as the largest glazed geodesic dome in the world. The zoo is Nebraska’s top paid attendance attraction and has welcomed more than 25 million visitors over the past 40 years.
Feel the awe and curiosity the pioneers experienced when they saw the most famous landmark on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. The Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center houses museum exhibits, a hands-on opportunity to “pack your wagon,” and a video presentation that tells the story of the great migration West. A large inventory of books on western and trail history is available for purchase at the Chimney Rock Visitor Center.
Located near Elyria, Fort Hartsuff is typical of Plains infantry outposts. It stood as a buffer between settlers and Native Americans, and to protect the Pawnee from the war-like Sioux, in the North Loup River Valley from 1874 to 1881. Because the main fort buildings were constructed of a lime/concrete mixture, many have survived. Acquired as a historical park in 1961, it has been restored as it was when soldiers patrolled the North Loup and Cedar river valleys and pioneered a new trail to the Black Hills gold fields in the 1870s.
This historic outpost served from the days of the Indian Wars until after World War II. This was the site of the 1879 Cheyenne Outbreak and the death of famed Sioux Chief Crazy Horse. Over the years, the fort served the Red Cloud Indian Agency, as a cavalry remount station, K-9 dog training center, POW camp and beef research station.
The first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River. The fort was important to the early fur trade, river traffic and Indian relations. Much of the historic outpost has been reconstructed, and interpretive work continues. Living history demonstrations are scheduled periodically during the summer.
This museum houses world-class collections, first-class exhibitions, a virtual gallery, and experiences for all ages. Offering the largest publically held quilt collection in the world dating back to the early 1700s to the present and representing more than 25 countries. the educator link leads to lesson plans and an online quilt explorer.
70,000 Mormons, led by Brigham Young, traveled from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah between 1846 to 1869 in order to escape religious persecution.
A Great American Riverway – The Missouri has a history like no other river. Explore the great waterway of American Indians, fur trappers, Lewis and Clark, and many others. Experience the dynamic character of the river’s ever-changing nature. View the natural beauty of the “rec river” along 100 miles of the Nebraska-South Dakota border. Listen for the eerie screech of the majestic bald eagle or the splash of a trophy fish.
Famous People from Nebraska
Gerald R. Ford (38th President of the U.S.)
Interesting Facts about Nebraska
Nebraska was once called “The Great American Desert.”
In 1927, Edwin E. Perkins of Hastings invented Kool-Aid.
The Naval Ammunition Depot located in Hastings was the largest U.S. ammunition plant providing 40% of WWII’s ammunition.
The Lied Jungle, an exhibit of the Omaha Zoo, is the nation’s largest indoor rainforest.
Nebraska is the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich.
Spam (canned meat) is produced in Fremont.
Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state.
Nebraska is the only state in the union with a unicameral (one house) legislature.
Nebraska’s Chimney rock was the most often mentioned landmark in journal entries by travelers on the Oregon Trail.
The 911 system of emergency communications, now used nationwide, was developed and first used in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Lincoln County is the origin of the world’s largest “Wolly Mammoth” elephant fossil.
The largest porch swing in the world is located in Hebron, Nebraska and it can sit 25 adults.
The world’s largest hand-planted forest is Halsey National Forrest near Thedford, Nebraska.
The world’s only museum dedicated to Fur Trading is located at Fort Atkinson near Blair.
Chevyland USA near Elm Creek, Nebraska is the only museum dedicated to a single line of cars.
Buffalo Bill Cody held his first rodeo in North Platte, Nebraska July 4, 1882.
There are five army forts open to the public in Nebraska: Atkinson, Kearny, Hartsuff, Sidney, and Robinson
Father Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska in 1917.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Make Cheese Frenchies (also spelled Frenchee or Frenchy) for lunch
Enjoy these 30 Ways to Play with Kool-Aid
Get in the kitchen and make these easy popcorn balls.
Teach your kids how to make traditional quilt blocks using paper
Enjoy this short video introduction to Nebraska
Have fun with this cornstarch science experiment
Watch this short video to learn about agriculture in Nebraska
Nebraska Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
C is for Cornhusker, A Nebraska Alphabet by Rajean Luebs Shepard
North American Indians by Douglas Gorsline
Nebraska: The Cornhusker State by Patrick Perish (out of print but may be available at your library)
Nebraska Facts and Symbols by Emily McAuliffe
Gerald Ford: 38th President of the United States by Megan Gunderson
Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson
Book Basket (Non-Fiction)
Nebraska: The Cornhusker State by Patrick Perish
Corn by Gail Gibbons
The Life and Times of Corn by Charles Micucci
Projects about Westward Expansion by Marian Broida
Light on the Prairie by Nancy Plain
Rodeo Coloring Book by Steven James Petruccio
Gerald R. Ford: Thirty-Eighth President 1974-1977 by Mike Venezia (out of print but may be available at your library)
Nebraska History Projects by Carole Marsh
Standing Bear of the Ponca by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne
Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman
In Care of Cassie Tucker by Ivy Ruckman (out of print but may be available at your library)
The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez
Prairie Girl: Growing Up on the Prairie by Andrea Warren (out of print but may be available from your library)
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.
Teaching Materials from the Nebraska State Historical Society (includes lots of printables)
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!