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.
Florida Unit Study
Florida, sometimes called the “Gateway to Discovery” due to the numerous space expeditions launched from Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida, became the 27th state to join the union on March 3, 1845.
Bordered to the north by Alabama and Georgia, to the west by Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico, and to the south and the east surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Florida’s land area is 65,758 square miles. This ranks is the 22nd largest state in the United States. In terms of population, Florida has the 3rd largest number of residents in America. Florida is also a popular destination for citizens from the colder northern U.S. states in the winter months. These temporary residents are known as “snowbirds.”
Florida’s landscape is divided into three geographic areas. The Atlantic Coastal Plain, part of our nation’s Atlantic Plain, stretches across the eastern part of the state. The Plain is characterized by watery, low, level land that is home to the Big Cypress Swamp and the Florida Everglades.
The East Gulf Coastal Plain is a part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. It shares claim to a portion of the Big Cypress Swamp and also the Everglades, however, the area known as the Florida Upland divides the two areas in the Coastal Plain. The Coastal Plain is on the opposite side of Florida from the Atlantic Coastal Plain and stretches into the the panhandle of Florida.
The third area is known at the Florida Uplands. This area reaches from the northwest part of the state covering approximately 275 miles of the panhandle and then south into the central part of the state, dipping into the middle of the Atlantic Coastal and the Coastal Plains. It’s in the Uplands that you will see low hills and the soil is red clay instead of sandy.
The climate of Florida ranges from humid subtropical in the northern and central parts of the state to a truly tropical climate in the south. Florida does have a rainy season beginning in late Spring and lasting through the early fall. Only in northern Florida is light snowfall seen and that only happens a few times across a span of years. The tropical climate in the south attributes to Florida being known for being home to some of the warmest ocean waters on the mainland of the United States.
Population: 20,636,975 million
Nickname: The Sunshine State
In 1970, Florida officially claimed the nickname “The Sunshine State” due in part to the fact that it sees an average of 230 days of sunshine each year. It’s tropical to subtropical climate also gives credit to being called “The Sunshine State.”
Motto: “In God We Trust”
In 1868, when the first state seal was adopted, “In God We Trust” was adopted by the legislature of Florida to be a part of the seal. This is also the motto of the United States. The original state motto was “In God is our Trust.” In 2006, the motto was changed to match the state seal and “In God We Trust” was designated as the official state motto.
Agriculture: greenhouse and nursery products, oranges, cane for sugar, tomatoes, cattle, poultry and egg production, thoroughbred horses, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, and sweet corn.
Fishing Industry: shrimp, lobster, grouper, clams, mackerel, mullet, swordfish and tuna in the ocean and catfish in Florida’s freshwater.
Industry: tourism, citrus fruit processing, coffee, dairy seafood, electrical equipment, chemicals, printed materials and scientific instruments.
Mining: phosphate rock, oil, limestone, thorium and zircon.
Have your students color and label an outline map of Florida. Include the state capital of Tallahassee. Also include the largest city of Jacksonville. Be sure to include Orlando – home to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and other Disney attractions, Titusville – home to the Kennedy Space Center, Dry Tortugas National Park – located in the Gulf of Mexico, and Key West – the city that marks the southernmost point in the United States with a large buoy.
The state flag of Florida, adopted in 1900, has a white field with a red cross from corner to corner. The state seal is in the middle of the flag over the cross. The original flag of Florida only featured the state seal on a white background. It was feared that it would look like a flag of surrender in the 1890’s and the red cross was added.
The state seal of Florida was originally adopted in 1865. At that time it was instructed that the seal would be the size of the American silver dollar. The current seal is an update of the original and was officially designated in 1970. The original seal showed a scene of an Indian woman spreading flowers with the background consisting of the sun’s rays over a steam boat on the water and a cocoa tree on the shore. The scene was, and still is, surrounded by the words “Great Seal of the State of Florida: In God We Trust.” The modifications to the seal in 1970 replaced the cocoa tree with the Sabal Palmetto – the state tree, the dress of the Indian woman was changed to a Florida Seminole Indian instead of the original Western Plains Indian woman.
Florida State Bird: Northern Mockingbird
The Northern Mockingbird became the official state bird of Florida in 1927. The Mockingbird is known for it capability to sing approximately 200 songs, many of which are the sounds of other birds, insects and sometimes machine-like sounds.
Florida State Flower: Orange Blossom
Adopted as the official state flower in 1909, the Orange Blossom seems an obvious choice. Oranges and the citrus product industry have been a major contributor to Florida’s economy for many years. The small white flowers of the orange tree is very fragrant and fills the orange grove with a sweet perfume each year.
Florida State Tree: Sabal Palm
The Sabal Palmetto Palm was designated as Florida’s official state tree in 1953. The tree has fan-palm branches and can grow to be in excess of 50 feet in height. The tree is tolerant of the salt and wind that is typical of Florida’s subtropical and tropical climate.
State Songs: “The Swanee River” (Old Folks at Home) by Stephen C. Foster – adopted in 1935 (click here to listen to the state song and here for the lyrics) and “I Am Florida” by Clyde Orange, Adrian Rezza, and Lucas Rezza – adopted in 2013. (click here to listen to the state song and here for the lyrics). The songs are intended to accompany each other in sharing the rich history of Florida.
Learn about Florida’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
In the spring of 1513, Ponce de Leon landed on the coast of Florida. He came looking for the “Fountain of Youth,” It is said that he named the land “la Florida” to honor Pascua Florida, (meaning “feast of the flowers”), an Easter celebration in his home country of Spain. It is not known much time he spent exploring, however, we do know that he did not settle there at the time.
He returned to Florida in 1521 with the goal of forming a Spanish colony. Ponce De Leon and those with him were attacked soon after their arrival causing them to retreat to Cuba. Ponce de Leon was injured in the attack and died months later while still in Cuba. Forty-four years later, the Spanish were successful in establishing a colony in Florida. In 1819, the United States entered into the Florida Purchase Treaty with Spain and Florida became a U.S. territory.
In the 44 years between Ponce De Leon’s second venture to Florida and the United States claiming the territory, the French and the British made efforts to capture and control Florida. The British succeeded in 1763, exchanging Florida for Spain to regain the the rights to Havana, Cuba. As the British began to establish Florida as their own, they met and attempted to befriend the Seminole Indians. The British were unsuccessful in keeping their hold on Florida, despite Florida’s loyalty to them during the American Revolutionary War. Spain did not directly participate in the war but did take Florida back as their own during the War. This brought another influx of Spanish and American settlers into the territory.
As the United States took control of Florida, Tallahassee was established as the capital city. Unfortunately, as American colonists moved into Florida, they asked for the removal of the Indians that had called Florida home for many, many years. The conflict resulted in three battles between the Indians and the United States, particularly troops from Florida. Ultimately, the Seminole Indians won the respect of the American soldiers, however, a forced removal of the Seminoles. The end result was that some Indians left on their own, some were forcibly removed, and some retreated into the Florida Everglades to live away from the American people. Indian tribes still occupy a portion of Florida today on reservations established for them to live.
In 1845, Florida gained the status of the 27th state admitted to the union. Florida was a pro-slavery state and in 1861, they seceded from the union. Shortly after their secession, they joined in with other states in the south to form the Confederate States of America. There were no major Civil War battles fought in Florida. There were citizens of Florida that joined the Union army and Union forces did occupy forts and towns along the coast, however, the Confederates never lost control of the interior of the state. After the war ended, port cities like Jacksonville and Pensacola began to prosper as demands for lumber increased so that American cities destroyed by the war could be rebuilt.
As time passed, agriculture became an important industry in Florida as cattle farming and the citrus industry grew. As the economy grew, so did the construction of roads and railways across the state. By the time that World War I ended, Florida had become a popular vacation spot for people from all across America. In the mid-1900’s, the people of Florida began to see a decrease in income and more than one hurricane crashing through Florida severely damaged the economy. The sad economic state remained for many years, however when World War II began, Florida benefited economically because of the climate being conducive for the soldiers to train year-round. With the U.S. military using the state for training, the highways and railroads were kept up to date. This was a major benefit for the tourism industry once the war was over. The ease of transportation across the state and the port cities have drawn major corporations and industry to Florida over the years. Some of these include Walt Disney World and other theme parks, the U.S. Space Program, citrus production, and tourism remains an important revenue for the economy.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Florida
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.
The Everglades is an expansive area of land in south Florida, which consists of 1.5 million acres of wetland. Since the park covers such a large area of south Florida, planning is a must. There are three entrances to Everglades National Park and they are not connected, they are accessed through different areas of south Florida.
All these areas offer a wide range of activities. You can take a short walk on the Anhinga Trail to spot abundant wildlife–turtles, herons and alligators! Climb atop Shark Valley’s 65-foot observation tower for a bird’s eye view of the glades. Glide over Florida Bayby tour boat or kayak for a chance to glimpse a crocodile, manatee, or dolphin. Watch as the sun sets over Flamingo, the southernmost point in mainland Florida. Explore the pinelands by bike, paddle amongst the mangroves on Nine-Mile Pond, or tour the historic Nike Hercules missile base. Join a ranger on a slough slog deep into the heart of a cypress dome. Find solitude on your own on a week-long canoe trip, camping along the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway. With countless opportunities for discovery the following quick links will help you plan an adventure that’s right for you! Read about our visit to the Everglades here and here.
The Turtle Hospital opened its doors 1986 with four main goals: 1) rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, 2) educate the public through outreach programs and visit local schools, 3) conduct and assist with research aiding to sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and 4) work toward environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles. Read about our visit to the Turtle Hospital
Now in its 21st year, The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island is the only museum in the United States that is solely devoted to shells and the mollusks that make them.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, Florida’s southernmost state park is popular for recreation, as well as U.S. military history. The fort was one of a series built in the mid-1800s to defend the nation’s southeastern coastline.
Within sight of downtown Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Here too is evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. Outdoors enthusiasts can boat, snorkel, camp, watch wildlife…or simply relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay.
This park commemorates the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle, which took place February 20, 1864. More than 10,000 cavalry, infantry and artillery troops fought a five-hour battle in a pine forest near Olustee. Olustee Battlefield has a visitor center with historical information and artifacts. A reenactment is held every February. Scenes for Civil War movies, including the 1989 movie Glory, have been filmed during the reenactments. Visitors can enjoy a meal at the picnic area or take a walk along a mile-long trail that has interpretive signs describing the events of the battle.
Walk the wire. Squeeze into a clown car. Snap photos with a ferocious (faux) tiger. Thrill to it all: the parade wagons, the posters, the glittering costumes, and the cannon that shot daring performers through the air. Wonder at the must-be-seen-to-be-believed 44,000-piece Howard Bros. Circus Model and the Greatest Show on Earth Mural celebrating the entertainment that has delighted packed houses in great cities and small towns across America for generations. Step right this way . . .
A visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must-do for the whole family. This is not your typical aquarium! Our marine life rescue center is home to Winter the dolphin, star and inspiration of the popular Dolphin Tale movies, filmed on location. We’re located near Clearwater Beach, Florida – voted TripAdvisor’s 2016 “#1 Beach in the U.S.” Come be inspired and educated by our ongoing work of rescue, rehabilitation and release. Read about our visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Enjoy hundreds of exotic butterflies in a rain forest setting, witness a South Florida Calusa Indian welcoming ceremony, experience a life-size limestone cave and see a mammoth and mastodon from the last ice age.
Located on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville and open year-round, the Florida Museum is one of the nation’s top five museums.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is where rockets launch and inspiration begins at Florida’s gateway to space. Located one small step from Orlando, arrive early for a full-day experience at the greatest space adventure on Earth!
When it was completed in 1902, the New York Herald proclaimed that Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age estate in Palm Beach, was “more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world.” Today, Whitehall is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as the Flagler Museum, featuring guided tours, changing exhibits, and special programs.
The National Naval Aviation Museum is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. Share the excitement of Naval Aviation’s rich history and see more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation. These historic and one-of-a-kind aircraft are displayed both inside the Museum’s nearly 350,000 square feet of exhibit space and outside on its 37-acre grounds.
Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area.
Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote here for more than ten years. Calling Key West home, he found solace and great physical challenge in the turquoise waters that surround this tiny island.
Step back in time and visit the rooms and gardens that witnessed the most prolific period of this Nobel Prize winner’s writing career. Educated tour guides give insightful narratives and are eager to answer questions. Wander through the lush grounds and enjoy the whimsy of the more than forty cats that live here.
Famous People from Florida
Henry Morrison Flagler (industrialist)
Tim Tebow (Heisman Trophy winning football player)
John Ringling (circus owner)
Harriet Beecher Stowe (writer)
Interesting Facts about Florida
Saint Augustine is the oldest European settlement in North America.
Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States (1,350 miles or 2,170 km), and is the only state in the United States that borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Florida is the flattest state in the USA. Florida’s mean elevation is just 100 ft.
Florida is the only state to have an “Embassy” in Washington and its called ‘Florida House.’
Florida is the only state in the continental United States to have extensive shallow coral reef formations near its coasts.
Florida is the largest producer of citrus fruits in the United States and second in the world. Florida produces more than 60% of oranges in the USA.
In 1987 the Florida legislature designated the American alligator the official state reptile. Long an unofficial symbol of the state, the alligator originally symbolized Florida’s extensive untamed wilderness and swamps.
Orlando attracts more visitors than any other amusement park destination in the United States.
Cape Canaveral is America’s launch pad for space flights.
Safety Harbor is the home of the historic Espiritu Santo Springs. Given this name in 1539 by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. He was searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. The natural springs have attracted attention worldwide for their curative powers.
Gatorade was named for the University of Florida Gators where the drink was first developed.
Key West has the highest average temperature of any city in the United States.
The Saint John’s River is one of the few rivers that flows north instead of south.
Greater Miami is the only metropolitan area in the United States whose borders encompass two national parks. You can hike through pristine Everglades National Park or ride on glass-bottom boats across Biscayne National Park.
With over 1,300 courses, Florida has more golf courses than any other State in USA.
Everglades National Park in Florida is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist.
Established by the French Huguenots in 1564, Fort Caroline (present-day Jacksonville) was the first Protestant colony in North America.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida is known as the Venice of America as it contains over 300 miles of navigable inland waterways.
The Benwood, on French Reef in the Florida Keys, is known as one of the most dived shipwrecks in the world.
The United States city with the highest rate of lightning strikes per capita is Clearwater.
Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola invented mechanical refrigeration in 1851.
Miami Beach pharmacist Benjamin Green invented the first suntan cream in 1944. He accomplished this development by cooking cocoa butter in a granite coffee pot on his wife’s stove.
Plant City, the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World, holds the Guinness record for the world’s largest strawberry shortcake. The 827 square-foot, 6,000 pound cake was made on Feb. 19, 1999 in McCall Park.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a cable-stayed concrete bridge. Opened in 1987 the bridge coasts through the clouds at 190 feet above water. Its bright yellow support cables spread from the two center pillars. The structure gives drivers an unobstructed view of the water during the 4.1 mile trip over Tampa Bay.
The Olustee Battlefield State Historic Site commemorates the largest battle fought in Florida during the American Civil War.
Venice is known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. Collecting prehistoric sharks teeth has been a favorite pastime of visitors and residents of the Venice area for years
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Make a stained glass dolphin
Learn about Everglades National Park history and science, become a junior ranger, and more!
Florida Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet by Carol Crane
Everglades by Jean Craighead George
Juan Ponce De Leon by Andrea Pelleschi
Sam the Sea Cow by Francine Jacobs
Dolphin Talk by Wendy Pfeffer
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Florida: What’s So Great About This State by Kate Boehm
Florida by Jason Kirchner
Florida’s American Indians Through History by Jennifer Prior
Florida (Seeds of a Nation) by Elizabeth Weiss Vollstadt (out of print but may be available at your library)
Seashells, Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christianne Kump Tibbets
Florida’s Seashells: A Beachcomber’s Guide by Blair Witherington
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Ponce De Leon: Exploring Florida And Puerto Rico by Rachel Eagen
Tents, Tigers, and the Ringling Brothers by Jerry Apps
Henry Flagler, Builder of Florida by Sandra Sammons
Hunted Like a Wolf: The Story of the Seminole War by Milton Meltzer
The Timucua Indians by Kelley G. Weitzel
The Yearling by Patricia Reilly Giff
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm\
Watch this brief introduction to Florida:
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!