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.
Alabama Unit Study
Alabama became the 22nd state join the union on December 14, 1819. Bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia on the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico on the south and Mississippi on the west., Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas as a legal holiday in 1836. Alabama can also claim being the birthplace of the Confederate Constitution and the Saturn rocket that took the first men to the moon in 1969.
Alabama cover 52,423 square miles making it the 30th largest state in the United States. There are three distinctive climate divisions in Alabama. The lower coastal plain is influenced by the Gulf of Mexico and is mostly subtropical. At the top of the state, the northern plateau sees sporadic snowfall in the winter. The upper coastal plain and Black Belt region lies between the lower coastal plain and the northern plateau and sees a variety of weather as a result of the other two.
Population: 4,871,547 million (24th in the US)
Nickname: The Heart of Dixie (though not official, this is the most familiar)
Although there is no formal nickname for the state of Alabama, there are a few that are familiar to residents and visitors including: The Heart of Dixie – this name was given because Montgomery, AL was the first capital of the Confederate States during the Civil War; The Yellowhammer State – this nickname dates back to the civil war. A group of soldiers whose uniforms were trimmed in yellow were known as the “yellowhammers.” The state bird, the northern flicker woodpecker is also called a “yellowhammer;” and The Cotton State – this nickname comes from the great influence that cotton production had on the state in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Alabama also lies in what is known as the cotton belt in the United States.
Motto: Audemus jura nostra defendere, latin for “We Dare Defend our Rights”
The state motto is thought to have come from an employee at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Marie B. Owen. Ms. Owen was looking for a phrase to include in the state’s coat of arms when she found a poem written in the 18th century that said, “What constitutes a state? . . . Men who their duties know, but know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.” It was translated into Latin by Professor W. B. Saffold, of the University of Alabama.
Agriculture: broilers (young chickens), cattle and calves, chicken eggs, greenhouse and nursery products, cotton, hogs, aquaculture (catfish farming), peaches, apples, nectarines, plums, grapes, and watermelons
Fishing Industry: Shrimp blue crabs, oysters, buffalo fish, catfish, and mussels
Industry: industrial chemicals, chemical fibers for textiles, fertilizers, insecticides, paper products
Mining: Coal, natural gas, petroleum (oil), crushed stone and limestone
Have your students color and label an outline map of Alabama. Include the state capital of Montgomery. Also include the largest city of Birmingham. Be sure to include Huntsville, home of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Alabama’s state flag is a simple design that was approved in 1895. The design of a white field with a crimson cross on it was inspired by the Confederate battle flag.
The official seal of Alabama was adopted in 1817. The seal is an outer circle that says, “Alabama Great Seal.” Inside the circle is a map of the state showing the important rivers to the state and the states that border Alabama. A different seal replaced this one in 1868 and was used until 1939 when the original 1817 seal was again adopted as the official state seal.
Alabama State Bird: Northern Flicker
The Northern Flicker became the state bird of Alabama in 1927. The bird is often referred to as the yellowhammer because of the bright yellow that is seen under it’s wings when it is in flight. This woodpecker is unusual because it mostly scours the ground for food and does not have the hammering ability that other woodpeckers do.
Alabama State Flower: Camellia
The Camellia replaced the goldenrod as the official state flower in 1959. The camellia is seen in various colors and forms across Alabama and the southeast.
Alabama State Tree: Southern Longleaf Pine
Although the “southern pine tree” was adopted as the official state tree in 1949, it was not until 1997 that Alabama named the southern longleaf pine as the specific kind of southern pine to be their state tree.
Written by Julia S. Tutwiler & Edna Gockel Gussen, “Alabama” was adopted as the official state song in 1931.
Learn about Alabama’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Red maple, silver maple, red buckeye, river birch, hackberry, eastern redbud, flowering dogwood, american beech, white ash, honeylocust, american holly, black walnut, and eastern redcedar are the most common tree species in Alabama.
Mammals native to Alabama include gray squirrel, southern flying squirrel, eastern chipmunk, seminole bat, bobcat, black bear, coyote, eastern mole, american pygmy shrew, swamp rabbit, and the armadillo.
Common birds to Alabama are Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Mottled Duck, Wild Turkey, Osprey. Eastern Screech-Owl, Black skimmer, Laughing Gull, Sanderling, Hairy Woodpecker, Sedge Wren, American Robin, Seaside Sparrow, and Cerulean Warbler
Alabama was explored in 1540 by Hernando de Soto. At that time, the territory was occupied by Indians. In 1702, the French established the first permanent settlement in what is now modern-day Mobile, Alabama. The area stayed in the hands of the French until the 1763 when the Treaty of Paris gave the rights to the British. The Spanish, allied with the American colonists, overtook the area in 1780 during the American Revolution. Despite the Louisiana Purchase, the Spanish remained in control until 1813 when the city was seized by American troops during the War of 1812.
Beginning in 1814, residents from the other colonies came to Alabama to live in what Andrew Jackson called, “the best unsettled country in America.” These colonists were farmers looking for fertile ground to grow cotton. Alabama became a U.S. territory in 1817 and was granted statehood on December 14, 1819. Cotton was a major source of income for the residents of the state for many years and many of the farmers owned slaves. By the mid-1860’s the number of slaves almost outnumbered the number of white men in the state.
In January of 1861, Alabama seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. Montgomery, AL was the capital of the Confederacy until May of 1861 when it was moved to Virginia. Alabama was not a major site for land battles in the Civil War, however, an important naval battle took place in Mobile Bay in 1864. The battle ended with a Union victory and the southern states surrendering. Alabama was under military rule during the Reconstruction period after the war. It was readmitted to the Union in 1868.
In the late 1800’s, Alabama became a hub for industry in the nation. While cotton farming was still important, steel mills and coal mines became an important asset to the economy of Alabama. Issues in government in the early 1900’s caused problems for the free blacks and poor whites in the state. Segregation was strongly practiced in Alabama and demonstrations as part of the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s brought national attention to Alabama. This has been overturned and Alabama is now a well integrated state. Today Alabama plays a major role in the aerospace and auto industry.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Alabama
If you have a chance to visit the state of Alabama, 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.
Home to Space Camp®, Aviation Challenge® Camp, and Robotics Camp the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) is the largest spaceflight museum in the world. Its large rocket and space hardware collection is valued in the tens of millions of dollars.
Visitors to Battleship Memorial Park will be able to board the Battleship USS ALABAMA and explore 12 decks. Go aboard and down inside the oldest Submarine on public display, USS DRUM. View over 25 rare and historic aircraft. Plus much more!!
The first feature most people notice about Cathedral Caverns is its massive entrance. The huge opening measures 126 feet wide and 25 feet high, a possible world record for commercial caves. The grand entrance is only the beginning. Inside the cavern are some of the most beautiful formations Mother Nature has ever created including “Goliath”- one of the largest stalagmites in the world measuring 45 feet tall and 243 feet in circumference. Cathedral Caverns features many amazing sites: a “caveman” perched atop a flowstone wall, a “frozen” waterfall, a large stalagmite forest and a most improbable stone formation – a stalagmite that is 27 feet tall and 3 inches wide!
Historic Fort Gaines is located on Dauphin Island. The property boasts a wildlife sanctuary and campgrounds created from sand dunes excavated out of the walls of the fort. Families can experience three centuries of history while enjoying nature walks, a scenic lake, beaches and fishing piers.
The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is a voluntary, non-regulatory program bringing together citizens, government agencies, business/industry, conservation and environmental organizations, and academic institutions to promote a community and culturally-based approach to watershed management: working together to address the environmental issues outlined in the CCMP.
The Program works with scientists, public agencies, and experts to assess water quality, living resource abundance, the rate of habitat loss and conservation, and the ability of communities to grow while maintaining environmental health.
Fort Payne Depot Museum serves 2500-3500 visitors annually, and houses several permanent and rotating exhibits in two separate buildings. Both properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can view collections of local DeKalb County and Fort Payne history in the Local History room. The Gussie Killian Collection contains extensive examples of Native American basketry, pottery, and artifacts housed in the north room. The south room displays the L.A. Dobbs exhibit along with memorabilia from the Civil War, World War I and II, as well as the Vietnam War. The Depot Annex located in the Fort Payne Coal & Iron Building houses rotating exhibits along with a substantial collection of dioramas by Steve Fiora.
Visit the newly redesigned Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center in Vance, Alabama to experience firsthand the rich history – and the exciting future – of the world’s most renowned automaker.
For more than 20 years, Mercedes-Benz has been manufacturing some of their popular automobiles in Alabama, and the Visitor Center is an evolving, interactive tour through some of the legendary manufacturer’s greatest innovations and most promising future concepts.
The American Village is a nationally-pioneering classroom and American history and civics education center that has engaged and inspired over a half million students from Alabama and Southeastern states since opening its campus in 1999.
Young people “step into history” and discover the power and drama of America’s journey for independence, liberty, and self-government through experience-based academic programs related to American history, civics, and government.
The Mission of the Alabama State University Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture is two-fold: to serve as a clearinghouse for information concerning Montgomery, Alabama’s pivotal role in the shaping and development of the modern civil rights movement, and to preserve and disseminate information reflective of socioeconomic conditions, political culture, and history of African-Americans in Montgomery.
Famous People from Alabama
Rosa Parks (civil rights activist)
Helen Keller (the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree)
Willie Mays (baseball player)
Hank Aaron (baseball player)
Jesse Owens (Olympic gold medalist)
Interesting Facts about Alabama
Alabama workers built the first rocket to put humans on the moon. Huntsville is known as the rocket capital of the World.
The world’s first Electric Trolley System was introduced in Montgomery in 1886.
Montgomery is the birthplace of the Confederate States of America. The Confederate flag was designed and first flown in Alabama in 1861.
The town of Enterprise houses the Boll Weevil Monument to acknowledge the role this destructive insect played in encouraging farmers to grow crops other than cotton.
In 1902 Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill performed the first open heart surgery in the Western Hemisphere by suturing a stab wound in a young boy’s heart. The surgery occurred in Montgomery.
Hitler’s typewriter survived from his mountain retreat and is exhibited at the Hall of History in Bessemer.
Alabama resident Sequoyah devised the phonetic, written alphabet of the Cherokee language.
General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians in 1814. Following the event the Native Americans ceded nearly half the present state land to the United States.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Have fun with some of these cotton ball crafts!
Print and solve this Cherokee Word Code Puzzle, then add it to your notebook.
Make a rocket ship out of a plastic bottle.
Learn about how peanuts are grown and harvested.
Play a game of Battleship. Don’t have the game? Create your own!
Sing the Boll Weevil song!
Attend a baseball game (or watch one on TV)
Alabama Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
Y is for Yellowhammer by Carol Crane
Alabama: The Heart of Dixie by Lisa Owings
A Picture Book of Rosa Parks by David A. Adler
If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold
A Picture Book of Helen Keller by David A. Adler
You Never Heard of Willie Mays? by Jonah Winter
Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way by Peter Golenbock
The Life and Times of the Peanut by Charles Micucci
Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton
Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive by Carole Boston Weatherford
Working Cotton by Sherley Ann Williams
Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell
Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
Book Basket (NonFiction)
What’s Great About Alabama by Jamie Kallio
Birds of Alabama Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
Alabama Native Americans by Carole Marsh
Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing by James Rumford
The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Janie Herbert
Boll Weevils by Jonathan Kravetz
Everything Kids’ Baseball Book by Greg Jacobs
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Who Was Rose Parks? by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Who Was Helen Keller? by Gare Thompson
Helen Keller: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Helen Keller: From Tragedy to Triumph by Katharine Wilkie
Who Was Jesse Owens by James Buckley
Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bonnie Bader
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
If learning about Willie Mays and Aaron has sparked an interest in baseball, Amanda Bennett has a nice unit study on this sport. Take a little rabbit trail to learn more.
Take this video tour of Alabama:
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!