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.
Montana Unit Study
Located in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S., Montana became the 41st state to join the union on November 8, 1889. Covering 147,046 square miles, Montana is the 4th largest of the 50 U.S. states. It is bordered by Canada to the north, North and South Dakota to the east, Idaho and Wyoming to the south, and Idaho to the west.
The Continental Divide runs through Montana and causes the eastern and western parts of the state to experience different climates. To the west, the climate is more mild. The winters are often warmer and the summers cooler than to the east. The west also experiences lighter winds and rainfall is year-round. On the eastern side of the Continental Divide, the weather tends to be more harsh than that of the west. The summers are generally hotter and the winters are often colder than what the western part of Montana sees. The plus to being on the eastern side of the Divide is that there is less humidity and they often have more days filled with sunshine that the western side.
Originally the site of a gold mining camp called “Last Chance,” Helena was designated as the capital of Montana in 1864.
Population: 1,042,646 million (44th largest in the U.S.)
Nicknames: “The Treasure State” and “Big Sky Country”
Montana’s official nickname is “The Treasure State” because of the large amounts of gold and silver mined in the 1800s. Sapphires are also found in the state of Montana.
Montana is also often referred to as “Big Sky Country” because the sky seems to go on forever.
Motto: Oro y Plata (Spanish for gold and silver)
Agriculture: Beef cattle, sheep, wheat, beans, sugar beets and black cherries.
Industry: Lumber, wood products, refineries, food processing, mining, and farm machinery.
Mining: Petroleum, coal, gold, silver, copper, and talc.
Have your students color and label an outline map of Montana. Include the state capital of Helena. Also include the largest city of Billings. Be sure to include Triple Divide, the hydrological apex of North America where water flows to three oceans, in Glacier National Park. Also include Granite Peak and the Kootenai River, Montana’s highest and lowest points. Major rivers to note on your map are Clark Fork River, Missouri River, and Yellowstone River. And don’t miss the Continental Divide that runs through the western portion of Montana.
The state flag of Montana has a dark blue background with the state seal in the middle. Above the seal reads “Montana” in gold. The flag was adopted as the official state symbol in 1904. Prior to that the same design was carried by volunteer soldiers from Montana in the Spanish-American war.
The state seal of Montana is circular with the sun rising behind snow capped mountains. Waterfalls to the Missouri River are pictured along with trees and hills. Cliffs at the edge of the river are also shown. In the foreground tools that represent Montana’s farming and mining history are shown. The state motto is on a ribbon at the bottom of the inner circle. In an outer circle are the words “The Great Seal Of The State Of Montana.”
Montana State Bird: Western Meadowlark
The Western Meadowlark was adopted as Montana’s state bird in 1931. The bird was selected by the school children of Montana. The first recorded sighting of the Western Meadowlark in Montana was by Meriwether Lewis in 1805.
Montana State Flower: Bitterroot
Lewis and Clark documented the beauty of the flower that would be adopted in 1895 as the official state flower of Montana.
Montana State Tree: Ponderosa Pine
Children in Montana’s schools selected the Ponderosa Pine as the official state tree in 1908. It became the official state tree in 1949.
State Song: “Montana” (click here to listen to the state song and view the lyrics)
Written by Charles Cohan in 1910, Montana adopted “Montana” as the state song in 1945.
Learn about Montana’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Tree species native to Montana include: Black Hawthorn, Green Ash, Quaking Aspen, Black Cottonwood, Plains Cottonwood, Bur Oak, Douglas Fir, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Limber Pine, and the Lodgepole Pine.
Mammals common to Montana include Big Brown Bat, Silver-haired Bat, Beaver, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Mule Deer, Meadow Vole, Muskrat, Mountain Cottontail, Raccoon, Masked Shrew, Striped Skunk, American Mink, Badger, Long-tailed Weasel, Coyote, and the Red Fox.
Common birds include the Black-capped Chickadee, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, House Finch, Northern Harrier, Black-billed Magpie, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Great Horned Owl, Dark-eyed Junco, Cedar Waxwing, and the Hairy Woodpecker.
Lewis and Clark were the first American explorers to cross into Montana on the expedition from 1804-1806. Not long after Lewis and Clark came through Montana, the fur trading industry also entered the state. The trappers and traders only remained in Montana for approximately 35 years due to the beaver population dwindling. Shortly after that missionaries entered Montana and built the first permanent settlement. As they were settling, they began to farm and built a sawmill. As gold was discovered, many people came into Montana and by 1864, Montana was a territory. When the gold supply began to decline, the population dwindled as fast as it had grown. Along with the miners came cattle ranchers. The large amount of free public land was appealing to the ranchers.
Railroads entered Montana in 1880 and in 1889, Montana became part of the United States. Copper mining began during this time and ranching grew for both the cattle and sheep industry. Farming also grew as wheat crops grew until a major drought hit in 1909 and had a negative effect on the economy until after World War I. The drought lasted through the Great Depression of the 1930s that hit the U.S. When Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was signed, Montana saw a reprieve as the federal government built the Fort Peck Dam and began agencies for agricultural growth. World War II breaking out helped to increase Montana’s economy by bringing federal money into the state and saw many young men going into service for their country. After the war, Montana did not rely as much on their natural resources but instead became a more service based economy. Tourism also began to rise in the 1970s. Relations between Native Americans and the U.S. have always been volatile, however, in the 20th century the relationship between the two has improved. Today there are more residents in the western part of Montana than in the eastern portion, however, as a state Montana believes in a sense of unity and togetherness.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Montana
If you have a chance to visit the state of Montana, 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.
Glacier National Park is a 1,583-sq.-mi. wilderness area in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, with glacier-carved peaks and valleys running to the Canadian border. It’s crossed by the mountainous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Among more than 700 miles of hiking trails, it has a route to photogenic Hidden Lake. Other activities include backpacking, cycling and camping. Diverse wildlife ranges from mountain goats to grizzly bears.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The website offers historical information about the park for those who cannot visit in person.
This area memorializes the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life. Here on June 25 and 26 of 1876, 263 soldiers, including Lt. Col. George A. Custer and attached personnel of the U.S. Army, died fighting several thousand Lakota, and Cheyenne warriors.
Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures offers you the chance to confront the same obstacles, to enjoy the same triumphs, and to walk the same path that Lewis and Clark Traveled.
Four generations ago, each guest arrived here at Covered Wagon Ranch by way of stagecoach, and Model-T. Today, descendants of some of those families still come to our Montana dude ranch to experience the mythic beauty of the Old West, in a region that is very nearly the same as it was in 1925 when the guest ranch first opened.
Ours is one of the oldest continuously operating ranches in this scenic canyon where the Gallatin and Taylors Fork rivers meet. Our guest ranch is just three miles from the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.
The Nez Perce (Nimiipuu or Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail stretches from Wallowa Lake, Oregon, to the Bear Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Montana. It was added to the National Trails System by Congress as a National Historic Trail in 1986. The 1877 flight of the Nez Perce from their homelands while pursued by U.S. Army Generals Howard, Sturgis, and Miles, is one of the most fascinating and sorrowful events in Western U.S. history. Chief Joseph, Chief Looking Glass, Chief White Bird, Chief Ollokot, Chief Lean Elk, and others led nearly 750 Nez Perce men, women, and children and twice that many horses over 1,170 miles through the mountains, on a trip that lasted from June to October of 1877.
Montana’s memory starts here! Established in 1865, the Montana Historical Society is one of the oldest institutions of its kind west of the Mississippi River. Learn more about Montana’s Museum, the Montana Historical Society Press, Montana The Magazine of Western History, the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, and the MHS Research Center.
Virtual field trip onlineCowboys and Cattlemen – Wide open spaces, the hard-working cowboy, his spirited cow pony, and vast herds of cattle are among the strongest symbols of the American West. Once the headquarters of a 10 million acre cattle empire, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site is a working cattle ranch that preserves these symbols and commemorates the role of cattlemen in American history.
Famous People from Montana
Gary Cooper (actor)
Evel Knievel (stunt performer)
Interesting Facts about Montana
Montana has the largest migratory elk herd in the nation.
Montana is the only state with a triple divide allowing water to flow into the Pacific, Atlantic, and Hudson Bay. This phenomenon occurs at Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.
At Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge in Montana it is possible to see up to 1,700 nesting pelicans.
Miles City is known as the Cowboy Capitol.
The town of Ekalaka was named for the daughter of the famous Sioux chief, Sitting Bull.
Yellowstone National Park in southern Montana and northern Wyoming was the first national park in the nation.
Combination, Comet, Keystone, Black Pine, and Pony are names of Montana ghost towns.
The density of the state is six people per square mile.
Virginia City was founded in 1863 and is considered to be the most complete original town of its kind in the United States.
The most visited place in Montana is Glacier National Park, known as the crown jewel of the continent. It lies along Montana’s northern border and adjoins Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, forming the world’s first International Peace Park.
Buffalo in the wild can still be viewed at the National Bison Range in Moiese, south of Flathead Lake and west of the Mission Mountains.
Hill County has the largest county park in the United States. Beaver Creek Park measures 10 miles long and 1 mile wide.
Glacier National Park has 250 lakes within its boundaries.
In Montana the elk, deer and antelope populations outnumber the humans.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Weaving is a fun craft and you can try it with stick loom weaving.
Learn how to draw a grizzly bear.
Enjoy this video introduction to Montana:
Watch Montana loggers at work in this video from Newton Logging
Montana Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
B is for Big Sky Country by Sneed B. Collard III
Montana: The Treasure State by Emily Rose Oachs
Good Night Montana by Mark Jaspers
Montana: Picture Book by Planet Collection
My Pony Bucks…My Dad Says So by Jay Hahnkamp
My Name is Sara: I am a Racehorse by Jay Hahnkamp
Shep Our Most Loyal Dog by Sneed B. Collard III
Hey Mr. Logger by Grace Brannigan
Grandfather Buffalo by Jim Arnoskey
Book Basket (Non-Fiction)
What’s Great about Montana? by Darice Bailer
Moon Glacier National Park: Including Waterton Lakes National Park (Moon Handbooks) by Becky Lomax
Montana Peaks, Streams and Prairie: A Natural History by E. Donnall Thomas Jr.
Bird Feats of Montana: Including Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks (Farcountry Explorer Books) by Deborah Richie Oberbillig
Montana (From Sea to Shining Sea) by Judith Williams
Montana Wildflowers by Beverly Magley
Knuckleboom Loaders Load Logs by Joyce Slayton-Mitchell
If You Lived With The Sioux Indians by Ann Mcgovern
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Shep: Our Most Loyal Dog (True Story) by Sneed B. Collard III
Starfish: A Novel by James Crowley
Charlie Hooper, Detective: Trouble in Montana by Carol A. Lanier
Montana Stu by Time O. Day
The Girl from Montana by Grace Livingston Hill
Sitting Bull: Dakota Boy (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Augusta Stevenson
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.
Enjoy this short video on Montana history.
Watch Gary Cooper in Sargeant York.
Montana’s official state website.
Montana Wildlife Federation, a conservation organization.
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!