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.
Illinois Unit Study
Prior to Illinois becoming the 21st state to join the union on December 3, 1818, the state had been under French and British rule. The 25th largest state in the nation, Illinois covers 57,918 square miles. Wisconsin borders Illinois to the north and Kentucky is it’s southern border. Indiana and Lake Michigan make up the eastern border of Illinois. The Mississippi runs the length of Illinois’ western border with Iowa and Missouri just over the river.
The climate in Illinois is considered temperate. The temperature varies across the state in both the summer and the winter. The winters in the north could see temperatures as low as 22°F, while in southern Illinois, the temperature is typically around 37°F. Varying temperatures are typical in the summer months too. Northern Illinois will see typical typical temperatures around 70°F and 77°F in southern Illinois.
Population: 12,837,801 million (ranks 5th)
Nickname: The Prairie State
Illinois was once covered with prairie grass. Because of this, it became known as “The Prairie State”. It is also known as the “The Land of Lincoln” in remembrance of Abraham Lincoln’s political career began and where he was living when he was elected as the 16th President of the United States.
Motto: State Sovereignty, National Union
The motto was adopted in 1819 and was symbolic for both Illinois and the nation. The words were a matter of debate following the Civil War due to the states being divided over issues like slavery.
Agriculture: corn (for grain, corn syrup, starch and fuel alcohol), soybeans, hogs, cattle, dairy products, apples, asparagus, cabbage, and lima beans
Fishing Industry: carp
Industry: machinery (construction equipment, farm machinery, and machine tools), processed food (being baked goods, breakfast cereals, candy, sausage, and spices), chemical manufacturing (cleaning solutions, pharmaceuticals, and paint).
Mining: coal, petroleum, crushed stone, and clay
Have your students color and label an outline map of Illinois. Include the state capital of Springfield. Also include the largest city of Chicago. Be sure to include Peoria, the oldest community in Illinois, and Des Plaines, home to the first McDonald’s restaurant. Don’t forget Lake Michigan, one of the five great lakes, in the northern tip of the state.
The Daughters of the American Revolution are credited for the first official flag of Illinois. It was adopted in 1915 after being chosen in a contest held by the group. The flag has a white background and features the state seal. The seal is a bald eagle holding a banner in it’s beak that proclaims the state motto. In the eagle’s talons is a shield of red and white stripes below an area of blue that houses 13 stars. The dates 1818 and 1868 are engraved on the rock the eagle is resting on. 1818 is the year that Illinois became a state and 1868 is the year that the state seal was redesigned. In 1969, the word “ILLINOIS” was added to the flag. That design remains today as the official flag.
The Illinois state seal can be seal on the state flag. Along with the eagle on the seal, there is also a sun rising over a body of water. When the seal is used, separate from the flag, it has a circle of blue around the eagle scene that reads, “Seal of the State of Illinois” and “Aug. 26th, 1818”
Illinois State Bird: Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal was chosen by school aged children to be the official state bird. Their choice was made an official designation in 1929. The cardinal is a favorite backyard bird throughout America.
llinois State Flower: Violet
The school children of Illinois also selected the state flower. In 1908, their number one choice, became the official state flower. The violet won the contest over the wild rose and goldenrod. The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was the catalyst for states to adopt a state flower.
Illinois State Tree: White Oak
The choice of the White Oak as the official state tree was the result of a poll of 900,000 school children. In 1973, the white oak replaced the native oak as the state tree.
Written by C.H. Chamberlain and Archibald Johnston, Illinois was adopted as the official state song in 1955.
Learn about Illinois’ state government here: Government
Learn about Illinois’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Mammals common to Illinois include the virginia opossum, eastern cottontail, american beaver, eastern chipmunk, fox squirrel, muskrat, coyote, gray fox, raccoon, long-tailed weasel, american mink, north american river otter, striped skunk, and the white-tailed deer
Common birds to Illinois include: Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Towhee, American Redstart, Eastern Kingbird, Turkey Vulture, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Green Heron, White-throated Sparrow, and the Common Loon
Discovered by Louis Joliet, a French explorer, Illinois became part of the French Empire. It remained under French control until 1763. At that time, when the French and Indian War ended, the British gained control of the land that is now known as Illinois. British control lasted until 1778 when George R. Clark captured Fort Kaskaskia for Virginia.
Nine years later, Illinois joined the Northwest Territory. This territory was under the control of the United States government. Kaskaskia, the fort captured by Clark, became the first capitol of Illinois in 1818. In 1839, Abraham Lincoln recommended moving the capitol to Springfield.
Although no battles were fought on Illinois soil, the state sent more than 130,000 men to fight in the Civil War. After the war, canals and railroads expanded across the state bringing in industry like they had not seen before. By the late 1800’s, Illinois was a leader in grain production and manufacturing. Today, revenue from the service industry are a major source of income for the state. This includes private health care, accounting and engineering firms, financial advisement and management, and wholesale and retail markets.
Famous People from Illinois
Frank Lloyd Wright (architect)
Ronald Reagan (40th President of the U.S.)
Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the U.S.)
Walt Disney (founder of Disney World and Disneyland)
Carl Sandburg (poet)
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Illinois
If you have a chance to visit the state of Illinois, 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.
Navy Pier is a not-for-profit originally opened as a shipping and recreational facility in 1916. Located on Lake Michigan, it has served many purposes throughout its rich history and currently encompasses more than fifty acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions and exhibition facilities and is the top leisure destination in the Midwest, drawing nearly nine million visitors annually.
From field trips to teacher development, MSI provides engaging science experiences for students and educators—because they both will decide the future of science.
The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site was authorized by President Richard Nixon on August 18, 1971 and formally established on October 9, 1972, to preserve and protect the only home ever owned by President Abraham Lincoln. In total, the buildings included in the park make up four-and-a-half square blocks on 12 acres.
While in Dixon, Ron and his brother Neil checked out hundreds of books from the public library, attended South Central School and worked as caddies at the country club. Ron was a drum major for the Dixon YMCA Band, and a life guard out at Lowell Park where he saved 77 lives from the Rock River. He was a member of the First Christian Church in Dixon and taught Sunday School with his mother Nelle.
Starved Rock Park is a world apart from anything else in Illinois! You will know it the minute you enter the park, as you wind your car through the towering trees. Amazing waterfalls are active in the spring and after heavy rains. We have 13 miles of trails to explore and the Illinois River offers fishing (ice fishing, too), boating, extraordinary views and great places to relax.
The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 and located in Chicago’s Grant Park, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States.
The world famous Superman Museum officially opened in 1993 in the Man of Steel’s official hometown of Metropolis, Illinois on Superman Square.
The museum features 20,000+ items from the life’s work of longtime Superman enthusiast and collector, Jim Hambrick who has amassed one of the greatest collections of Superman memorabilia in the world.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio served as Wright’s private residence and workplace from 1889 to 1909—the first 20 years of his career. Wright used his home as an architectural laboratory, experimenting with design concepts that contain the seeds of his architectural philosophy.
At Shedd Aquarium, animals connect you to the living world, inspiring you to make a difference. Shedd combines the best of early 20th-century “age of aquariums” characteristics—a diverse, global animal collection surrounded by eye-popping architecture—with 21st-century advances in animal care, environments and interpretation. Excellence and innovation are Shedd traditions, and they began with the founder.
Interesting Facts about Illinois
The Great Fire of 1871 was one of most colossal disasters in American history. Overnight, the flourshing city of Chicago was transformed into a smoldering wasteland. The damage was so profound that few people believed the city could ever rise again
The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station were the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire.
Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy and Alton hosted the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates that stirred interest all over the country in the slavery issue.
The world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago, 1885.
The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago is the tallest building in North America.
Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery, in 1865.
Des Plaines is home to the first McDonald’s.
The ice cream sundae was born in Evanston around 1890.
The Illinois state dance is square dancing.
The Chicago Public Library is the world’s largest public library with a collection of more than 2 million books.
The Chicago Post Office at 433 West Van Buren is the only postal facility in the world you can drive a car through.
The Chicago River is dyed green on Saint Patrick’s Day.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Enjoy this beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright Bubble Window project.
Choose one or more of these Presidents Day crafts to do with your children.
Watch this Disney video about Abraham Lincoln.
Watch a video documentary of the Great Chicago Fire.
Watch a video to learn how to square dance as a family!
Enjoy this clip of the first Mickey Mouse cartoon — Steamboat Willie.
Illinois Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
L is for Lincoln: An Illinois Alphabet by Kathy-jo Wargin
If You’re Not From the Prairie by David Bouchard
A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln by David A. Adler
The Remarkable Ronald Reagan: Cowboy and Commander in Chief by Susan Allen
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Illinois (It’s My State) by Elizabeth Kaplan
Illinois (From Sea to Shining Sea) by Barbara Somervill (out of print but may be available at your library)
A Kid’s Guide to Chicago by Karen T. Bartlett
We Are Mesquakie, We Are One by Hadley Irwin
A Walk in the Prairie by Rebecca L. Johnson
Abraham Lincoln for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert
The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Janis Hebert
Frank Lloyd Wright for Kids: His Life and Ideas by Kathleen Thorne Thomsen
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
AbrahamLincoln: A New Birth of Freedom by Janet Benge
Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells
Who Was Abraham Lincoln by Janet Pascal
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 by Kay Melchisedech Olson
Journey to Cahokia: A Boy’s Visit to the Great Mound City by Albert Lorenz (out of print but may be available at your library)
Poetry for Kids: Carl Sandburg by Kathryn Benzel
Ronald Reagan: Destiny at His Side by Janet Benge
Ronald Reagan: Young Leader by Montrew Dunham
Who Was Ronald Reagan by Joyce Milton
Take a video tour of Illinois
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!