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.
Minnesota Unit Study
Minnesota, home to the source of the Mississippi River, became the 32nd state to join the union on May 11, 1858. It is the 12th largest state in the United States covering 86,943 square miles and ranks 22nd in population of the United States.
The word “Minnesota” is taken from the Sioux Indian tribe. They described the Minnesota River as “sky-tinted water.” The land where the river flows was named after the river.
The borders of Minnesota are Lake Superior and Wisconsin to the east, Iowa to the south, North and South Dakota in the west, and Canada to the north.
Located in the far north of the U.S., Minnesota typically has cold, icy weather in the winter; however, its summers do tend to be warm, especially in southern Minnesota.
Capital: St. Paul
Population: 5,522,063 Million
Nickname: The North Star State
The official nickname was taken from the French term “L’Etoile du Nord,” which means “the star of the north.” This motto appears on the state flag and state seal.
Motto: “L’Etoile du Nord” (“The Star of the North”)
The French phrase, “L’Etoile du Nord” – meaning “The Star of the North.” was adopted in 1861 as the official state motto of Minnesota.
Agriculture: corn for grain, hogs, soybeans, dairy products, cattle and calves, turkeys and chicken eggs.
Fishing Industry: yellow pike, buffalo fish, carp, catfish, whitefish, yellow perch, lake herring, smelt, and walleye.
Industry: computer and electronic products, food products, machinery manufacturing, and paper products.
Mining: iron ore, granite, and limestone.
Have your students color and label an outline map of Minnesota. Include the state capital of St. Paul. Also include the largest city of Minneapolis. Be sure to include the three great rivers: the Mississippi, the Red River, and the St. Lawrence River. And don’t miss the source of the Mississippi in South Clearwater. The largest shopping mall in America, complete with a theme park and an aquarium inside, is located in Bloomington. Don’t forget to map Angle Inlet, a part of the Northwest Angle, the northernmost town in the lower 48 states.
Several attempts have been made to redesign the Minnesota state flag, however, the only change from the 1893 original that was approved was in 1957. The flag is a simple design with the original state seal centered on a royal blue background. The seal is round with an inner circle depicting the scene of a native American on horseback and a farmer working the land. The outer circle has 19 stars symbolizing that Minnesota was the 19th state, after the original 13, to join the union. The word “Minnesota” is also in the outer circle. There are three dates incorporated into the design of the seal: 1858 – the year that Minnesota became a state, 1819 – the year that Fort Snelling was settled, and 1893 – the year of the adoption of the original state flag. The state motto “The North Star State” is in a red banner but written in French. The flat plains of Minnesota, the native American heritage, the history of hunting and labor, the lumber industry, the rivers that were a great source of transportation and industry, and agriculture are all depicted in the scene.
The original state seal used for Minnesota was an altered version of the seal used for the Northwest Territories. This remained the seal until 1861 when the design was revised. In 1983, the design was revised again. The seal is rich in the history of Minnesota symbolizing the people and industry that have made Minnesota into a great state. (see the description in the state flag section)
Minnesota State Bird: Common Loon
The Loon was adopted as the official state bird in 1961. Loons have a call that echoes across the northern lakes of Minnesota. They tend to be summer residents of Minnesota and are known for flying at high speeds and being excellent swimmers.
Minnesota State Flower: Pink and White Lady Slipper
Also known as moccasin flowers, the pink and white lady slipper, is protected by Minnesota state law making it illegal to pick or uproot the plants. The Women’s Auxiliary to the State Fair petitioned in 1893 for the pink and white lady slipper to become the state flower. Through much red tape it was finally officially adopted in 1967.
Minnesota State Tree: Red Pine (also known as the Norway Pine)
“The sturdiness and majesty of the tree…helped lay the foundation for the wealth of Minnesota” is the description given to the red pine by the Minnesota legislature. It became the official state tree in 1953.
Two University of Minnesota Students, Truman E. Rickard and Arthur E. Upson, wrote the Minnesota state song in 1904 (first verse) and 1905 (second verse). The song was written to be used in a play on the University campus and was used as the school’s alma mater. In 1945, after changing the second line to apply to the state, “Hail Minnesota” became the official state song.
Learn about Minnesota’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
It is believed the Minnesota was first explored by Europeans during the end of the 1650s. There were Native Americans in the area at the same time who were dealing in fur trade. In 1671, France arrived to trade furs and signed a treaty with several of the Native American tribes. As time progressed other explorers came from Europe. Upon their return home, they told tales of massive waterfalls and Minnesota being a great source of copper and other minerals. In 1832, the source of the Mississippi River was found by Henry Schoolcraft. He named the source Lake Itasca. At the end of the American Revolution, the land east of the Mississippi was granted to the United States with the signing of the Second Treaty of Paris. This included the a portion of the land that is now Minnesota.
In 1803, the majority of the state was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The northeastern portion of the state was a part of several territories such as the Northwest Territory, the Illinois Territory, the Michigan Territory, and the Wisconsin Territory. The rest of the state was part of the Wisconsin Territory until 1838 when that portion of the state became part of the Iowa Territory.
In 1819, the United States military began construction on Fort Snelling. It was completed in 1825. Settlement in Minnesota was picking up by 1851. Fort Snelling was used as a place for training troops during the Civil War and also during World War II. Fort Snelling was also key in the founding of the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Today, Minneapolis and St. Paul are known as the “Twin Cities.”
Fur trading and logging became an important source for the economy in the early and mid 1800s. After much controversy, Minnesota became the 32nd state to join the union on May 11, 1858.
Minnesota had approximately 22,000 soldiers to serve in the Civil War in favor of the Union. Around the same time the Dakota tribe, who inhabited a small portion of land in Minnesota were suffering from food shortages and delay in the funding that they received from the U.S. government. Because of this, they began to attack white settlers and the Dakota War of 1862 broke out. After the Civil War, colonists from Europe became interested in Minnesota for farmland.
The railroad was extended into Minnesota, which also helped the economy of the state. Sawmills and flour mills were built, powered by the waterfalls of Saint Anthony. This was key in Minnesota becoming a major source of flour in the U.S. by 1900. The milling industry grew in technology and eventually, major companies like Pillsbury and General Mills became major leaders in the food product industry.
In 1882, the first development of hydroelectric power in the United States was done by Minnesota. Several years later, iron was discovered in Minnesota. Today, the state remains a major source of iron in the United States.
Minnesota can also lay claim to medical advancement. In 1889, Dr. William W. Mayo opened a 27-bed hospital with help of nuns from the Sisters of St. Francis. The hospital is now part of the famed Mayo Clinic.
The Great Depression greatly affected Minnesota causing layoffs in the iron mines and also in the industries in the state. Once the state began to recover from the Great Depression, Minnesota began to form venues for their residents to enjoy the arts and theater. During World War II, industries in Minnesota were called on to build ships, airplane control systems, periscopes for submarines, and munitions. Many of the workers in these plants, especially the munition plant, were women as the male workers had been enlisted to fight in the war. African Americans and Native Americans also found work in the plants during this time. Fort Snelling was used as a school to assist the soldiers.
By the end of the war, approximately 300,000 soldier recruits went through Fort Snelling for processing and training. After the War, agriculture and technology grew. By the early 1960s, Minnesota had become an epicenter for technology and remains a major contributor to the technology industry today. Minnesota has also played a part in contributing to the political realm of the U.S. in more recent years.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Minnesota
If you have a chance to visit the state of Michigan, 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.
Big as a mountain and strong as a grizzly bear… that’s how the folks here describe the local folk hero Paul Bunyan. As legend goes, the birthplace of the greatest lumberjack to swagger through the North American forests is claimed by Bemidji, Minnesota, a distinction fondly marked with a statue built along the shore of Lake Bemidji in honor of the town’s most famous son. Today the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are historically recognized as Minnesota’s first and best-known example of “roadside colossus,” with Bemidji honored as “pioneers” in promoting tourism in northern Minnesota.
Mall of America® is located in Bloomington, Minnesota—only 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. As one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, Mall of America features—520 stores, 50 restaurants and attractions galore, including Nickelodeon Universe®, the nation’s largest indoor theme park, and the American Girl store. Plus, there’s no sales tax on clothing or shoes!
Spirit Mountain is your ideal location for 4-seasons of FUN! During winter months they feature skiing, snowboarding, fat biking, alpine coaster, snow tubing and Nordic trails. Summer months bring about Gravity, Downhill Mountain Biking, Adventure Park & Camping.
Minnehaha Park is a city park and home to Minnehaha Falls and the lower reaches of Minnehaha Creek. Minnehaha Park lies within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service. The park was designed by landscape architect Horace W.S. Cleveland in 1883 as part of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway system, and was part of the popular steamboat Upper Mississippi River “Fashionable Tour” in the 1800s.
The park preserves historic sites that illustrate transportation, pioneering, and architectural themes. Preserved structures include the Minnehaha Princess Station, a Victorian train depot built in the 1870s; the John H. Stevens House, built in 1849 and moved to the park from its original location in 1896, utilizing horses and 10,000 school children; and the Longfellow House, a house built to resemble the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, Mill City Museum is located on the historic Mississippi Riverfront. Here, visitors of all ages learn about the intertwined histories of the flour industry, the river, and the city of Minneapolis.
Perhaps best known for its historic lighthouse, this park offers numerous recreational opportunities. Visitors can cart-in their supplies to pristine campsites along Lake Superior. Scenic trails along the lake link up to the spectacular Superior Hiking Trail. Anglers cast their lines for lake trout, salmon, and brown trout. The rocky beach is perfect for skipping stones into Lake Superior.
Voyageurs National Park lies within the heart of the North American Continent. Here you can see and touch rocks half as old as the world, experience the life of a voyageur, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of a boreal forest, view the dark skies, or ply the interconnected water routes. Leave your car behind and set out on the water highways of the North Woods.
For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site. These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe’s smoke carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today.
Enjoy learning the history of the Ingalls Family in Walnut Grove at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Gift Store. The museum’s collections are housed in a series of interesting buildings, including an 1898 depot, a chapel, an onion-domed house, dugout display, little red schoolhouse, early settler home, and covered wagon display.
Hibbing is recognized as the birthplace of the bus industry in the United States. Visitors can now see and hear the story at Hibbing’s newest attraction which includes thirteen historical buses.
Famous People from Minnesota
Charles Schulz (creator of the Peanuts cartoon)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (pioneer)
Interesting Facts about Minnesota
The Mall of America in Bloomington is the size of 78 football fields — 9.5 million square feet.
The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 allowing oceangoing ships to reach Duluth.
Both masking and Scotch tape were invented in Minnesota. The stapler was invented in Spring Valley.
The first practical water skis were invented in 1922 by Ralph W. Samuelson, who steam-bent 2 eight-foot-long pine boards into skies. He took his first ride behind a motorboat on a lake in Lake City.
The first Automatic Pop-up toaster was marketed in June 1926 by McGraw Electric Co. in Minneapolis under the name Toastmaster. The retail price was $13.50.
Rollerblades were the first commercially successful in-line Roller Skates. Minnesota students Scott and Brennan Olson invented them in 1980, when they were looking for a way to practice Hockey during the off-season. Their design was an ice hockey boot with 3 inline wheels instead of a blade.
In 1919 a Minneapolis factory turned out the nation’s first armored cars.
Tonka Trucks were developed and are continued to be manufactured in Minnetonka.
The first Children’s department in a Library is said to be that of the Minneapolis Public Library, which separated children’s books from the rest of the collection in Dec. 1889.
Hormel Company of Austin marketed the first canned ham in 1926. Hormel introduced Spam in 1937.
Introduced in August 1963, The Control Data 6600, designed by Control Data Corp. of Chippewa Falls, was the first Super Computer. It was used by the military to simulate nuclear explosions and break Soviet codes. These computers also were used to model complex phenomena such as hurricanes and galaxies.
Candy maker Frank C. Mars of Minnesota introduced the Milky Way candy bar in 1923. Mars marketed the Snickers bar in 1930 and introduced the 5 cent Three Musketeers bar in 1937. The original 3 Musketeers bar contained 3 bars in one wrapper. Each with different flavor nougat.
Minneapolis is home to the oldest continuously running theater (Old Log Theater) and the largest dinner theater (Chanhassan Dinner Theater) in the country.
The world’s largest pelican stands at the base of the Mill Pond dam on the Pelican River, right in downtown Pelican Rapids. The 15 1/2 feet tall concrete statue was built in 1957.
Minneapolis’ famed skyway system connecting 52 blocks (nearly five miles) of downtown makes it possible to live, eat, work and shop without going outside.
Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline, more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined.
Rochester is home of the world famous Mayo Clinic. The clinic is a major teaching and working facility. It is known world wide for its doctor’s expertise and the newest methods of treatments.
For many years, the world’s largest twine ball has sat in Darwin. It weighs 17,400 pounds, is twelve feet in diameter, and was the creation of Francis A. Johnson.
Minnesota has one recreational boat per every six people, more than any other state.
Minnesota’s waters flow outward in three directions: north to Hudson Bay in Canada, east to the Atlantic Ocean, and south to the Gulf of Mexico.
At the confluence of the Big Fork and Rainy Rivers on the Canadian border near International Falls stands the largest Indian burial mound in the upper midwest. It is known as the Grand Mound historic site.
Laura Ingalls Wilder lived on Plum Creek near Walnut Grove.
Akeley is birthplace and home of world’s largest Paul Bunyan Statue. The kneeling Paul Bunyan is 20 feet tall.
Hibbing is the birthplace of the American bus industry. It sprang from the business acumen of Carl Wickman and Andrew “Bus Andy” Anderson – who opened the first bus line (with one bus) between the towns of Hibbing and Alice in 1914. The bus line grew to become Greyhound Lines.
The Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis offers a panoramic view of St Anthony Falls and is recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Create art with masking tape.
Build an arch bridge.
Minnesota is the only state to have a photograph as a state symbol. “Grace” by Eric Enstrom depicts an elderly man bowed in prayer over a loaf of bread. You can see the picture here and read the timeline of how it became Minnesota’s state photograph here. Use the image for a picture study, using the instructions at Simply Charlotte Mason (scroll down about halfway to find them).
Have you ever eaten Spam? Try one of these recipes.
If your kids are interested in learning more about ice fishing, this YouTube channel has many episodes to watch.
Have a contest to see who can make the biggest twine ball.
Minnesota Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
V is for Viking: A Minnesota Alphabet by Kathy-jo Wargin
Paul Bunyan by Stephen Kellogg
Apples by Gail Gibbons
One Frozen Lake by Deborah Jo Larson
North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette
Powwow Summer by Marcie Rendon
Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin
Storm’s Coming by Margi Preus
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Minnesota: The North Star State by Amy Rechner
Grand Mound by Michael K. Budak
Minnesota Native Americans by Carole Marsh
African Americans in Minnesota by Nora Murphy
Born to Pull: The Glory of Sled Dogs by Bob Cary
Wolves by Seymour Simon
Ice Fishing for Kids by Tyler Omoth
Birds in Our Backyard by Adele Porter
Minnesota Bug Hunt by Bruce Giebink
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge by Carolyn Ruff
Little Crow: Leader of the Dakota by Gwenyth Swain
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Charlie Brown and Friends: A Peanuts Collection by Charles Schultz
Enjoy this short video introduction to Minnesota:
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!