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.
South Dakota Unit Study
Located in the Midwestern region of the United States, South Dakota became the 40th state to join the union on November 2, 1889. Geographically, South Dakota has four distinct land regions known as the Black Hills, the Dissected Till Plains, the Drift Prairie, and the Great Plains. The borders of South Dakota are North Dakota to the north, Nebraska to the south, Minnesota and Iowa to the east, and to the west is Montana and Wyoming. South Dakota is the 17th largest state in the United States covering 77,121 square miles.
The climate in South Dakota is continental which gives it four defined seasons. The winters are dry and cold, and the summers are hot and somewhat humid. Extreme weather does occur in South Dakota with heavy thunderstorms containing high winds, thunder and hail in the summer. In the winter they often experience blizzards and ice storms. And because of their location in what is considered “Tornado Alley,” the eastern part of the state can experience up to 30 tornadoes a year.
Population: 863,634 million (46th largest in the U.S.)
Nickname: The Mount Rushmore State
Motto: Under God the People Rule
Agriculture: beef cattle, hogs, lambs, sheep, wool production, chickens, eggs, turkeys, milk, corn, soybeans, wheat, sunflower seeds
Industry: computer and computer components, food processing, agricultural equipment, motor vehicle parts, and metal products
Mining: gypsum, natural gas, limestone, granite and clay
Have your students color and label an outline map of South Dakota. Include the state capital of Pierre. Also include the largest city of Sioux Falls. Be sure to include the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Mount Rushmore, and Badlands National Park. Note the Big Sioux River, Missouri River, and the James River.
South Dakota’s state flag has the official seal of South Dakota in the center of a sky blue background surrounded by a sun. Above the sun are the words”South Dakota” and below are the words “The Mount Rushmore State.” The seal features the emblems of commerce, industry, and natural resources along with the year that South Dakota was admitted to the Union.
Commerce, industry, and natural resources are represented on the official South Dakota state seal. These qualities of the state are shown by a steam boat going down a river with agriculture symbolized on one side and industry shown on the other. A banner at the top of the scene shows the state motto, “Under God the People Rule.” The outside circle reads “State of South Dakota” and Great Seal 1889.”
South Dakota State Bird: Chinese Ring-necked Pheasant
The Chinese Ring-necked Pheasant was adopted as the official state bird in 1943.
South Dakota State Flower: Pasque Flower
The Pasque Flower was named as the official state flower in 1903.
South Dakota State Tree: Black Hills White Spruce
South Dakota adopted the Black Hills White Spruce as the official state tree in 1947.
State Song: Hail, South Dakota (click here to listen to the state song)
Hail, South Dakota was written by Deecourt Hammitt and adopted as the official song in 1943
Learn about South Dakota’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Common birds include: Blackpoll Warbler, Bonaparte’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Goldeneye, Common Loon, Franklin’s Gull, Harris’s Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Long-tailed Duck, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Sandhill Crane, Stilt Sandpiper, White-crowned Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow
South Dakota History
The first explorers that claimed the land that would South Dakota came from France. In 1762, France and Spain signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau which gave Spain all the French held territory west of the Mississippi. When the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803, most of present-day South Dakota became a U.S. territory. Once the U.S. owned the property, they sent Lewis and Clark out to explore the land. A fur trading post was established in 1817 at Fort Pierre becoming the first American settlement in South Dakota. Fur trading become a major source of income and remained so for approximately 23 years.
There was still a portion of South Dakota that did not belong to the U.S. but in 1858, they signed a treaty with the Native Americans and took possession of the whole area. For a number of years, present-day South Dakota was part of the Dakota Territory which also included North Dakota and parts of Montana and Wyoming. Gold was discovered in South Dakota in the mid-1800s and saw an influx of people hoping to strike it rich. Many of the settlers that came looking for gold were from Scandinavia, Germany, Ireland, Russia and from the eastern United States. The Dakota Territory was divided in half in 1889 because of the increase in population.
Like many other western states, the railroad companies purchased land in order to expand across the west and then sold portions of the land for farming. The railroad was used as the major form of transportation until the 1930s when highways began to be built. Small towns were also built with the intent for them to be shipping sites for produce from the farms on the trains.
Economic issues and extreme drought in the 1930s proved to be detrimental for South Dakota. Farms were forced to close because they could not produce. The population of the state declined because of this as well. In 1941, when the U.S. entered World War II, South Dakota rose up and began to once again produce farm and industrial products. More than 68,000 residents of South Dakota also served their country in the war. In the 20th century South Dakota has had a myriad of industries that have helped to boost their economy. Tourism, financial services, and research centers have helped to bring South Dakota back to an economically profitable state.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip South Dakota
If you have a chance to visit the state of South Dakota, 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.
During the Cold War, a vast arsenal of nuclear missiles were placed in the Great Plains. Hidden in plain sight, for thirty years 1,000 missiles were kept on constant alert; hundreds remain today. The Minuteman Missile remains an iconic weapon in the American nuclear arsenal. It holds the power to destroy civilization, but is meant as a nuclear deterrent to maintain peace and prevent war. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site protects two facilities that were once part of a Minuteman Missile field that covered the far western portion of South Dakota from 1963 through the early 1990s. There were 15 Launch Control Facilities that commanded and controlled 150 Launch Facilities (Missile Silos) holding Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The park preserves two of these facilities in their historic state—Launch Control Facility Delta-01 with its corresponding underground Launch Control Center and Launch Facility (Missile Silo) Delta-09. These two sites, along with the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, comprise Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.
Adams features close to 10 miles of trails that wind through prairie, forest and along the riverbank. With over 100 species of birds, a variety of native plants and a number of different animals, visitors are immersed in nature. Restored historical buildings, Interpretive exhibits, Visitor Center. Guided golf cart tours are available by reservation for visitors with physical limitations, contact the park for details. Check out the fun educational programs Adams Homestead host throughout the year.
Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain” is the Lakota name given to this site. To the Cheyenne, it is “Noahvose.” This geological formation is one of several intrusions of igneous rock in the Black Hills that formed millions of years ago. The mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious ceremonies. The Bear Butte Education Center highlights the mountain’s geology, history and the cultural beliefs of the Northern Plains Indians. An on-site interpreter is available during the summer months.
The rugged beauty of the Badlands draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.
Virtual visit – check out the videos, photos, and materials for education- on the website here.
Relive the western frontier! Named after the nearby Sisseton Indian Tribe, this historic fort is now a picturesque state park that unfolds the area’s past. Walk the grounds where the officers’ quarters, stone barracks, powder magazine, guard house, and other buildings that remain from time of the western frontier. This 1864 fort, atop the Coteau des Prairies (or hills of the prairies), was originally a frontier army outpost called Fort Wadsworth.
South Dakota is a land of countless stories – begin your journey of discovery at the Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Meet people living in exciting places during adventurous times: from the horse cultures of the Northern Plains to gutsy homesteaders, including some contemporary leaders and community builders, you will meet the diversity of people that make South Dakota a special place when you plan your visit to the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. Download educational materials with information and activities on South Dakota here.
“Journey into the visual memories of the homestead days.”
The Prairie Homestead, an original sod home of Mr. & Mrs. Ed Brown, was built in 1909. It is typical of the homes and outbuildings that pioneers built. This home is one of the last remaining original sod homes intact today. These pioneers played a very important part in settling the Great Plains. Take a glimpse back in time at how life was for early pioneers by taking the interpretive walking tour. Watch our informative movie and then dress in Early Pioneer attire (if you want), before heading out to explore the old out buildings and sod house. You will feel like you stepped off the pages of “Little House on the Prairie”.
The Black Hills Caverns was discovered in 1882 by gold seekers, however the Lakota Indians had found centuries before. Even now the cave is actively explored revealing new wonders in the beautiful underground landscape. Black Hills Caverns is formed by the “Paha Sapa Limestone.” The Paha Sapa Limestone is a band of limestone that encircles the central granite of the Black Hills.
Each year, more than 15,000 “Little House” fans from all 50 U.S. states and over 20 countries visit the famous Ingalls family homes and museum in DeSmet, South Dakota.
American History, Alive in Stone … Majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota, tell the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country. From the history of the first inhabitants to the diversity of America today, Mount Rushmore brings visitors face to face with the rich heritage we all share. See educational lesson plans and more here.
Imagine a place where as far as the eye can see, miles and miles to the horizon, you can view America as it was 300 years ago. Imagine a place, long revered by the American Indians, where the Cheyenne River flows in all four directions and eagles’ shadows sweep rocky canyon walls, a place where wild horses run free across endless prairies, hooves striking thunder, manes and tails flying in the wind. In 1988, Dayton Hyde raised the money and convinced the Bureau of Land Management to send him its unadoptable wild horses. Today, you can visit the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, visit their grassland home of rocky canyons, wind swept prairies, and dark pine forests, a home they share with coyotes, cougar, white-tail and mule deer, elk wild turkeys, eagles and falcons. A home where hundreds of wild horses not only live but flourish!
John Jacob Astor, head of the American Fur Company, decided to expand trading operations into the Upper Missouri region during the 1820s. Built in 1832, Fort Pierre Chouteau quickly became the most strategic post in the Western Department of the American Fur Company. Located halfway between the headquarters at St. Louis and the northernmost posts in North Dakota and Montana, Fort Pierre Chouteau was the logical place for American Fur Company officials to gather and discuss company business. Fort Pierre Chouteau, a National Historic Landmark, is located about one mile north of Fort Pierre off of SD Hwy 1806 on Fort Chouteau Rd. There is parking on the right side of the road. Follow the gravel path to the monument. See travel itinerary from historic landmarks in Pierre here.
Famous People from South Dakota
Laura Ingalls Wilder (author, best known for Little House on the Prairie)
Crazy Horse (Oglala Lakota war leader)
Maria Pearson (Yankton Sioux activist who helped establish the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act)
Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa Lakota chief)
Ernest O. Lawrence (Nobel Prize-winning physicist)
Wild Bill Hickok (Wild West lawman)
Calamity Jane (Wild West figure)
Interesting Facts about South Dakota
Pierre, South Dakota is the only example of a state and capital in the U.S. that don’t share any letters.
It is illegal to lie down and fall asleep in a cheese factory.
South Dakota is a leader in honey production.
Sage Creek Wilderness is the site of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America.
The Badlands are known as “the playground” of the dinosaur.
South Dakota’s State motto is “Under God the People Rule.”
Some say the tradition of spreading saw dust on the floors of bars and saloons started in Deadwood, South Dakota due to the amount of gold dust that would fall on the floor. The saw dust was used to hide the fallen gold dust and was swept up at the end of the night.
Built in 1832 by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, Fort Pierre Chouteau was the largest and best equipped trading post in the northern Great Plains.
South Dakota has one of the largest Native American populations, with nine official tribes and some 60,000 people.
In 1900, a huge Prairie Dog settlement, 100 miles by 250 miles, was found containing an estimated 400 million Prairie Dogs!
The largest underground gold mine is the Homestake Mine in Lead. Tours are available today telling of the area and the mine’s rich history.
Beaver pelts were much in demand for the manufacturing of top hats. They were considered the most valuable pelts until the 1830’s, when the emphasis switched to buffalo hides.
The Lakota, were the primary Native American trade group in South Dakota during the 1805 – 50 period of fur trading. They were known as an “ecosystem people,” which meant that they were dependent on a single ecosystem for their survival. They moved with the buffalo in a nomadic lifestyle.
The Lakota provided the newcomers with food. In fact, they provided the trading posts/forts with over half of all the food consumed there. They also taught their new neighbors about the plants in the area and which ones were safe to use for food and medicine.
South Dakota is the home of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota tribes, which make up the Sioux Nation.
Transportation played a vital role in South Dakota’s development. Yesterday’s settlers arrived by trail, steamboat, and railroad.
With more than 82 miles of mapped passages, Wind Cave contains the world’s largest display of a rare formation called boxwork.
The Black Hills of South Dakota hold two national caves: Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. Jewel Cave is presently the fourth largest cave in the world, with 57.4 miles of surveyed and mapped passages.
The name “Black Hills” comes from the Lakota words Paha Sapa, which mean “hills that are black.” Seen from a distance, these pine-covered hills, rising several thousand feet above the surrounding prairie, appear black.
Clark is the Potato Capital of South Dakota and is also home to the world famous Mashed Potato Wrestling contest.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Create a fort replica (from the image found here) using cardboard, natural materials, or clay.
Dream Catcher craft (simple paper-plate craft)
Food of South Dakota: CHISLIC – No single dish is more strongly associated with South Dakota than chislic. Those not from the area often mistake this beloved snack for shish kebab. And, although the two are similar, shish kebabs are a grilled assortment of meat and vegetables, the much simpler chislic consists of half-inch cubes of meat – typically lamb, venison or beef – which are deep-fried or grilled and served up in a dish or on skewers. Try your own version with wooden skewers and chunks of beef stew meat or get even more authentic with this recipe.
Set up a Trading Post to show off your crafts, food, and artwork. Take turns trading for items you would need. You can use stuffed animals to substitute for pelts, blankets, sheets or pillow cases as material or scraps of fabric (remember, pioneers had to make most everything themselves) pots and pans, use empty brown lunch sacks labeled as flour/sugar/salt – be creative with what you have on hand!
Try a pioneer craft from the ideas shown here.
Build a Teepee with large sticks, broom handles or poles and a sheet or painters cloth -decorate with paint or markers. Alternatively, you can decorate your cloth and drape it over chair backs with a taller broom post in the middle. Crawl inside for reading time and/or let kids camp out in the family room! Remind them that the South Dakota tribes had to be ready on a moments notice to break camp and follow the herd of buffalo.
South Dakota Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
Gift Horse: A Lakota Story by S. D. Nelson
Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble
Facts About The Black Footed Ferret (A Picture Book For Kids) by Lisa Strattin
The Great Race of the Birds and Animals by Paul Goble
Wise Animal Handbook South Dakota, The (Arcadia Kids) by Kate B. Jerome
The Mystery at Mount Rushmore (Real Kids! Real Places! Book 39) by Carole Marsh
Way Out West Lives a Coyote Named Frank by Jillian Lund
The Beeman by Laurie Krebs
Pispiza Wan Wayawa Iyaye/Prairie Dog Goes to School by Lakota Language Consortium
Thathanka na Wata – The Buffalo and the Boat by Kayo Bad Heart Bull, Lakota Language Consortium
Audio Companion for above two books: LLC Picture Book Companion Audio CD- Vol. 1 Audio CD by Lakota Language Consortium, Marilyn Circle Eagle
Book Basket (Non-Fiction)
Crazy Horse’s Vision by National Geographic Learning
History for Kids: The Illustrated Life of Wild Bill Hickok by Charles River
Black-Footed Ferrets: Back from the Brink (America’s Animal Comebacks) by Miriam Aronin
Where Is Mount Rushmore? (Where Is?) by True Kelley
Mount Rushmore (Wonders of America) by Marion Dane Bauer
Coyotes – Curious Kids Press by Curious Kids Press
Welcome to the World of Coyotes (Welcome to the World Series) by Diane Swanson
The Prairie-Dog Prince (Prairie Tales) by Eva Katharine Gibson
EXPLORE NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURES!: WITH 25 GREAT PROJECTS (Explore Your World) by Anita Yasuda
The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci
What If There Were No Bees?: A Book About the Grassland Ecosystem (Food Chain Reactions) by Suzanne Slade
The Life Cycle of a Beaver by Bobbie Kalman
Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America’s Grasslands by Susan L Roth, Cindy Trumbore
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Crazy Horse: Young War Chief (Childhood of Famous Americans) by George E. Stanley
Sitting Bull: Dakota Boy (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Augusta Stevenson
Laura Ingalls Wilder: Young Pioneer (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Beatrice Gormley
On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Wright on Time, Book 4: South Dakota by Lisa M Cottrell-Bentley (adventures of a homeschool family)
Dream Catcher: Be Strong (Story Keepers Set I) by Dave Sargent, Pat Sargent, Sue Rogers
The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III
The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III
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.
Beaver trade in South Dakota (lesson, activities & more)
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!