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.
Idaho Unit Study
Idaho became the 43rd state to join the union on July 3, 1890. Today is it known for being the largest producer of potatoes in the United States. The word “Idaho,” meaning “gem of the mountains,” came from the Native American Shoshone tribe that inhabited the land long before Europeans began to explore it.
Idaho is located in the northwest region of the United States. It’s borders consist of Canada to the north; Nevada and Utah to the south; Montana and Wyoming to the east; and Washington and Oregon to the west. To add to Idaho’s many interesting facts, among the 83,574 square miles that it covers, 21 million miles of that is forest and public land. It is the 14th largest state in the U.S. and has the most whitewater river mile of the lower 48 states.
The climate of Idaho varies depending on the region of the state, although much of the state is greatly influenced by the weather patterns of the Pacific Ocean. The benefit to this is that the weather coming out of the Pacific can help to keep temperatures from becoming extreme. More precipitation tends to fall in northern Idaho than the other regions and the southern portion is generally warmer.
Population: 1,675,054 million (39th largest in the U.S.)
Nickname: The Gem State
It is possible to find over 72 precious stones when mining in Idaho. This is only a portion of why Idaho is nicknamed “The Gem State.” The vast amount of natural resources, along with the mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and canyons also contribute to the name.
Motto: Esto Perpetua – Let it be perpetual
Agriculture: Cattle, Milk, Potatoes, Trout, Austrian Winter Peas, Lentils, and Mint
Fishing Industry: Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Tilapia, and Sturgeon
Industry: Food processing, Electrical Equipment, Wood Products, Metal Products and Printed Materials
Mining: Silver, Gold, Clay, Copper, Phosphate Rock, and Sand
Have your students color and label an outline map of Idaho. Include the state capital, and largest city, of Boise. Also include the Snake River, the largest river in North America that empties into the Pacific Ocean, and Shoshone Falls. Take a look at the portion of Yellowstone National Park that calls home to Idaho, Bear Lake, and Boise National Forest. Be sure to include the famed Oregon Trail, Mt. Borah, the highest point in Idaho, and the City of Rocks National Reserve.
Adopted in 1907, the specifications for the Idaho state flag were specifically set by the state legislature. The flag is made of silk and is dark blue in color. It has a fringe on the border and the Idaho state seal is in the middle of the blue field. Under the seal are the words “State of Idaho.”
The state seal of Idaho is the only U.S. state seal designed by a woman. The image was originally a painting done by Emma Edwards Green. The painting was selected to be the seal in 1891. The symbols on the seal represent the resources of the state of Idaho. Mining was a major resource and is symbolized by a man with a shovel and a pick. Justice and liberty were important in the political realm and are represented by the woman in white. The large tree in the shield hints to the large amounts of forests in Idaho. Also in the field is a farmer with a plow. This, along with the grain and cornucopias, show Idaho’s agricultural strength. The elk head on the top of the shield represents the laws protecting game such as elk and moose. The state flower is also shown on the seal.
Idaho State Bird: Mountain Bluebird
The Mountain Bluebird became the official state bird in 1931.
Idaho State Flower: Syringia (also known as a mock orange)
The state flower was adopted in 1931 but was widely used by Native Americans for soap (the bark and leaves) and pipe stems, snowshoes, bows, and arrows (the wood of the bush).
Idaho State Tree: Western White Pine
The western white pine became the official state tree of Idaho in 1935.
State Song: “Here We Have Idaho” (click here to listen to the state song and to view the lyrics)
Often called “Our Idaho” the official state song was adopted in 1931. The song was a group effort with the verses written by Albert J.Tompkins, the chorus by McKinley Helm, and the music by Sallie Hume-Douglas.
Learn about Idaho’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
The most common tree species in Idaho, many of which are native to the state, are the Lodgepole Pine, Western Larch, Douglas-fir, Western Redcedar, Big-tooth Maple, Water Birch, Netleaf Hackberry, Blue Spruce, Pinyon Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Quaking Aspen, and the Black Cottonwood.
Mammals native to Idaho include Vagrant Shrew, Little Brown Myotis, Deer Mouse, Bushy-tailed Woodrat, Common Porcupine, Coyote, Bobcat, Mule Deer, Big Brown Bat, Yellow-bellied Marmot, and the Northern Pocket Gopher.
Common birds to Idaho include Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Great Horned Owl, Common Nighthawk, Northern Flicker, Violet-green Swallow, Common Raven, and the Red-winged Blackbird.
Lewis and Clark came through what we now know as Idaho on their way to the Pacific Ocean in 1805. There they met the Native American tribes that had inhabited and lived off of the land for many years. Soon after Lewis and Clark came through, settlers began to come to Idaho most of them fur trappers and traders. Although many traveled through Idaho on the Oregon Trail, it was not until 1860 that the first permanent settlement was established in Idaho.
Prior to Idaho joining the Oregon Territory, it was claimed by Britain and the United States. The Oregon Treaty signed with Britain in 1846 gave all rights to the U.S. And then before Idaho became it’s own territory, it was a part of the Washington Territory. Then in 1863, when gold was discovered and the population grew, Idaho became its own territory. This was also the year that the first potatoes were grown in Idaho. Much of the population was immigrants from England who settled in Idaho because they had more property rights and paid less taxes than they had in their home country. Immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Africa, Spain, France, and China also settled in Idaho as the population grew in the 19th century. Many of the people settling in Idaho were coming to be a part of the mining industry. Gold, silver, other metals, and precious stones are all found in Idaho. These finds were part of the early economic success of Idaho.
Idaho has generally been considered forward-thinking in the political realm. They were the first to accept such topics as prohibition and women’s suffrage even before those topics became federal law. As mining has declined, tourism, and agriculture grew. Today Idaho is known for its trout and potato production as well as its vast amount of rivers.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Idaho
If you have a chance to visit the state of Idaho, 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.
Part of the U.S. National Park system, Craters of the Moon is made up of lava flows that resemble the craters of the moon. It is located in central Idaho on the the Snake River Plain. Visitors enjoy hiking through the preserve and exploring the caves in the summer, and fall. In the winter, visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Weather permitting, the spring is a great time to see Craters of the Moon by bike.
A portion of the 2,170 mile Oregon Trail goes right through Idaho. The trail is the path that many pioneers in America took from east to west beginning in the mid-1800s. The settlers were looking for opportunity and Oregon had it with free land, forests, little to no disease and freedom of religion. Take a look at the two stops along the trail in Idaho.
Idaho is home to a portion of the 3,000 mile span of the Rocky Mountains.
A state park that is sometimes referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies”. Bear Lake spans across 20 miles in parts of both Idaho and Utah. It is known for its beautiful turquoise water and the sand on its beaches.
Located near Twin Falls, Idaho, Shoshone Falls is a part of the Snake River. The falls drop 212 feet which makes it 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls. The falls can be viewed from picnic areas in the park. Visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming, playgrounds (for the kids), and boating.
The Warhawk Air Museum, in conjunction with the NASA Space Center, was created to encourage appreciation and reverence for our country, her history, along with space and aviation advancements. It focuses on technology from the 1930s to the 1960s and explores the benefits of that technology to society as a whole. The museum is also a tribute to World War I, World War II, and the Cold War Era.
Located just south of Rexburg, ID, Bear World is a fun drive-thru park filled with wildlife found in America. Rocky Mountain Elk, Bison, Mule Deer, Moose, and the American Black Bear are just a few of the animals that are seen on the tour through the park.
There are only two places in the world you can find Star Garnets – India and right here on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests! The garnets found here are called “star garnets” because of a unique property that causes some of them to display a reflection like a four or six pointed star. India is the only other place in the world where star garnets like these are found in any quantity.
Famous People from Idaho
Gutzon Borglum (Mount Rushmore Sculptor)
Sacagawea (Lewis and Clark’s native guide)
Picabo Street (Olympic Gold Medalist Alpine Ski Racer)
Interesting Facts about Idaho
In July of 1955, Arco, Idaho became the first city lit by atomic energy.
Idaho is famous for potatoes, producing about one-third of the potatoes grown in the United States. The first potato in America was planted in New Hampshire, in 1719. Henry Harmon Spalding brought the potato to Lapwai, Idaho, in 1836, to help the Nez Perce tribe grow their own food.
Idaho has more rivers than any other state in the U.S. totaling 3,100 miles in all.
The first alpine chairlift was used in Sun Valley, Idaho.
At 7,993 feet deep, Hells Canyon in western Idaho is the deepest river gorge in North America. (Grand Canyon of Arizona is only about 6,000 feet deep). Click here for a 360 degree view of the canyon.
Almost every known type of gemstone has, at some time, been found in Idaho. Today over 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones are mined in the state.
Idaho is one of only two places in the world where star garnets can be found in any significant quantities (India is the other)
Idaho’s Capitol Building is heated by geothermal water that is pumped from it’s source that is 3,000 feet below the surface of the ground. It is the only capitol building in the U.S. heated in this manner.
The state seal of Idaho is the only one of the 50 state seals that was designed by a woman.
The only captive geyser in the United States is in Soda Springs, Idaho.
In Idaho law forbids a citizen to give another citizen a box of candy that weighs more than 50 pounds.
The economy of Idaho City originally developed around gold mining in the 1860s.
The Kamiah Valley is rich in the heritage and legends of the Nez Perce. It was here, among the ancestors of the present day Nez Perce, the Appaloosa horse was first bred, primarily for use as a war animal.
Shoshone Falls, The Niagara of the West, spills over a 212-foot drop near Twin Falls.
Birds of Prey Wildlife Area is home to the world’s most dense population of nesting eagles, hawks, and falcons.
Arts, Crafts and Cooking
Create art with these potato stamps
Make a covered wagon like they would have traveled in on the Oregon Trail
Make your own Sacagawea costume
Try making these kid-sized cheesy potato bites
Have fun with this science experiment about the craters of the moon
Learn about Sacagawea with this printable Biography Pack
Build your own ski (or chair) lift
Your older students will enjoy making a potato battery:
Idaho Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
Idaho: The Gem State by Patrick Perish
Sacagawea by Liselotte Erdrich
Potato: A Tale From The Great Depression by Kate Lied
What Carved the Mountain: The Story of Mount Rushmore by Jean L.S. Patrick
Book Basket (Non-Fiction)
The Idaho Fact and Picture Book by Gina McIntyre
What’s Great About Idaho? by Sherra G. Edgar
Nature Guide: Gems by DK Publishing
National Geographic Kids Everything Rocks and Minerals by Steve Tomecek
A Picture Book of Sacagawea by David A. Adler
From Eye to Potato by Ellen Weiss
Nez Perce History and Culture by Helen Dwyer
Birds of Prey of the West Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Who Was Sacagawea? by Judith Bloom Fradin
Sacagawea: Journey into the West by Jessica Gunderson
Picabo Street: Downhill Dynamo by Joel Dippold
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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.
Volcanism at Craters of the Moon Video.
Take a look at this video of Shoshone Falls
Take a look at this video of Idaho’s most beautiful scenery
Here is a Virtual Tour of the Warhawk Air Museum
Ever wondered how potatoes are harvested. Here’s a video from one of Idaho’s largest potato farmers to show you how.
Learn about Appaloosa horses, the state horse of Idaho.
Visit the Idaho State Capitol website
Craters Rocks! – Explore the geology of Craters of the Moon with this guided tour of the main trails along the Loop Road.
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!