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 State Study Notebooking Bundle, 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 this link and the code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount.
Kentucky Unit Study
Kentucky became the 15th state to join the union on June 1, 1792. A border state between the north and the south, A mostly rural state, it’s name comes from the Wyandot word, “Kentake,” which means “meadowland. Kentucky is officially named the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth (the other three are Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts).
Kentucky is a southeastern state bounded by the Ohio River in the north, the Mississippi river in the west, and the Appalachian Mountains in the east. Kentucky borders seven states. West Virginia lies to the east, Virginia to the southeast, Tennessee to the south, Missouri to the west, Illinois and Indiana to the northwest, and Ohio to the north and northeast.
Located within the southeastern interior portion of North America, Kentucky has a climate that can best be described as a humid subtropical climate. Temperatures in Kentucky usually range from daytime summer highs of 87 °F to the winter low of 23 °F. The average precipitation is 46 inches a year. Kentucky experiences four distinct seasons, with substantial variations in the severity of summer and winter.
Population: 4.5 million
Nickname: The Bluegrass State
This common nickname for Kentucky is given because of the vast expanses of Bluegrass across parts of the Commonwealth. Bluegrass is not really blue. It’s green. In the spring, however, when seen from a distance, the blue-purple buds of Bluegrass lend a bluish tint to the landscape.
Motto: “United We Stand; Divided We Fall”
Agriculture: tobacco, corn, soybeans, hay, cattle, and horses
Industry: car manufacturing, government, finance, health care, tourism
Have your students color and label an outline map of Kentucky. Include the state capital of Frankfort and the largest ciies of Louisville and Lexington. Be sure to include the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Ohio Rivers, as well as Kentucky Lake.
Placed on a navy blue field is the seal and words “Commonwealth of Kentucky”. The two friends shaking hands, a pioneer and a statesman, represent all the people. They are acting out the meaning of Kentucky’s motto: “United We Stand; Divided We Fall”. Sprays of goldenrod (the state flower) extend in a half circle around the picture. The flag was adopted 1918 and amended in 1928 & 1962.
The Seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky was adopted in December 1792. Since that time, it has undergone several revisions. The current seal depicts two men, one in buckskin, and the other in more formal dress. The men are facing each other and clasping hands. The outer ring of the seal is adorned with the words “Commonwealth of Kentucky”, and within the inner circle is the state motto “United we stand, divided we fall.” The official colors of the seal are blue and gold. A version of the seal appears on the flag of Kentucky.
State Bird: Northern Cardinal
State Flower: Goldenrod
State Tree: Tuliptree
My Old Kentucky Home (words and music by Stephen Foster) was adopted by the Kentucky Legislature as the Kentucky state song on March 19, 1928..
Learn about Kentucky’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Pin oak, sweet gum, red maple, river birch, tuliptree, Kentucky coffeetree, black walnut, flowering dogwood, Eastern pine, and Northern red oak are the some of the most common tree species in Kentucky.
Mammals native to Kentucky include white-tailed deer, red wolf, red and gray fox, beaver, opossum, red and gray squirrel, cottontail, skunk, and raccoon. Common birds include Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Tree Swallow, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Blue Grosbeak, Belted Kingfisher, Carolina Wren, Purple Finch, Mallard, Carolina Chickadee, and Purple Martin.
Before 1750, Kentucky was populated nearly exclusively by Cherokee, Chickasaw, Shawnee, Yuchi, Mosopelea, and several other tribes of Native Americans. Although British settlers were looking for new land to the west, Kentucky remained unexplored because it was so difficult to cross the Appalachian Mountains. Early British exploration of the area that would become Kentucky was made in 1750 by a scouting party led by Dr. Thomas Walker through a mountain pass he called the Cumberland Gap.
In 1774 Harrodstown (now Harrodsburg) was established as the first permanent settlement in the Kentucky region. It was named after James Harrod who led a team of area surveyors.
In 1775, Daniel Boone led a number of settlers into Kentucky and established the town of Boonesborough. He also widened and improved the trail across the Cumberland Gap so that wagons could travel through. This trail became known as the Wilderness Road.
In January 1781, Governor Thomas Jefferson appointed George Rogers Clark as brigadier general, a special position created for an expedition against British and Native Americans at Detroit, but this never materialized, because of lack of money and soldiers. As a general, Clark was the highest-ranking militia officer in Kentucky.
After the Revolutionary War, Kentucky became a part of the state of Virginia, however, the people of Kentucky desired their own government. Kentucky was granted statehood in 1792, becoming the 15th state of the Union and the first U.S. state west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Although it sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, the population was deeply divided, and many Kentucky residents fought for the North.
The Kentucky Derby is a horse race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses, which takes place in at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY every first Saturday in May. It is the oldest continuous sporting event in the U.S and was first held on May 17, 1875.
In January 1937 one of the largest floods in American history inundated the Ohio River Valley. Many cities and towns on the Ohio were affected. Louisville and Southern Indiana were among those most devastated. Torrential rain together with some sleet and freezing rain fell from January 9 to January 23, raising the Ohio River to its highest recorded level. On January 23 the river at Louisville crested at 51.1 feet, and eventually reached 57.15 feet above flood stage on the upper gauge.
Famous People from Kentucky
Daniel Boone (pioneer)
Henry Clay (statesman)
Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the U.S.)
Zachary Taylor (12th President of the U.S.)
Jefferson Davis (President of the Conferderate States of America)
Muhammad Ali (boxer)
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Kentucky
If you have a chance to visit the state of Kentucky, 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.
Cumberland Gap, thought of as the “gateway to the west”, opened Kentucy, Tennessee, and Virginia to the West. The trail through the Gap was traveled by Native Americans and pioneers alike. Today visitors can tour the Gap to learn its history and enjoy its natural beauty. Camping, hiking, guided historical tours, and watching the wildlife are activities offered when visiting Cumberland Gap.
Guided factory tours are held every 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the season. The last factory tour of the day departs a half hour before closing. Factory tours last approximately 30 minutes. Guests now have the opportunity to see bats being made seven days a week. Bat making demonstrations will take place in the factory when full production is not scheduled. Visitors normally allow 2 hours for the entire museum and factory experience.Everyone who takes a tour also receives a mini Louisville Slugger bat!
The AVIATION MUSEUM of KENTUCKY is located at Blue Grass Airport, Lexington. The facility has 20,000 square feet of display area, a fully equipped shop for aviation restoration projects, an office, a library/archive and a gift shop. The Museum is a dynamic entity which includes not only older restored aircraft and memorabilia, but also air-worthy, flyable aircraft for the public to enjoy.
All visits are FREE and can include tours of the factory floor and recording studio, as well as entry to the Museum galleries and participation in Museum workshops, programs, and events.
The Creation Museum presents a “walk through history”. Designed by a former Universal Studios exhibit director, this state-of-the-art 60,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life.
A fully engaging, sensory experience for guests. Murals and realistic scenery, computer-generated visual effects, over fifty exotic animals, life-sized people and dinosaur animatronics, Planetarium explaining the Creation of the Cosmos, and a special-effects theater complete with misty sea breezes and rumbling seats. These are just some of the impressive exhibits that everyone in your family will enjoy.
Located at Gate 1 of Churchill Downs, the Museum offers two floors of exciting exhibits giving visitors an in-depth look into Thoroughbred racing and the Kentucky Derby – the first jewel in racing’s Triple Crown. Admission to the Kentucky Derby Museum includes an Historic Walking Tour of Churchill Downs, “The Greatest Race” 360-degree high-definition film, two levels of permanent exhibits as well as special exhibits.
The Kentucky State Capitol is an exciting and beautiful place to learn civics and history.
Guided tours will be given on the hour and half hour on weekdays . Only self-guided tours on weekends. One of the most beautiful capitols in the country. Completed in 1910 in the Beaux Arts design. Also contains the First Lady Doll Collection.
Mammoth Cave National Park preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley and hilly country of south central Kentucky. This is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 390 miles explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a “grand, gloomy and peculiar place,” but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name – Mammoth.
Featuring dozens of different breeds of horse at work and at play, the park showcases the horse in daily equine presentations, horse drawn tours and carriage rides, horseback riding and pony rides, a movie presentation and an exciting array of horse shows and special events.
Interesting Facts about Kentucky
Lexington, KY is the horse capital of the world. It is home to vast numbers of horse farms, and the world-renowned Kentucky Horse Park.
Kentucky’s first statehouse was built by 1794, but it burned in 1813. The next capitol building was completed in 1816 and burned in 1824. Finally, what is now known as the “Old Capitol” was finished in 1830 and would remain the state’s capitol building for the next 80 years.
Despite the fact that there were no battles fought within Kentucky, more than half of all Americans killed in action during the War of 1812 were from Kentucky.
Ale-8-One soft drink has been bottled in Winchester since 1926 and is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence.
Cheeseburgers were first served in 1934 at Kaelin’s restaurant in Louisville.
The Chevrolet Corvette is manufactured in Bowling Green. You can take a tour of the plant and museum.
Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest cave and was first promoted in 1816, making it the second oldest tourist attraction in the United States, right behind Niagara Falls, New York.
The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant owned and operated by Colonel Sanders is located in Corbin.
Cumberland is the only waterfall in the world to regularly display a Moonbow.
Thunder Over Louisville is the opening ceremony for the Kentucky Derby Festival and is the world’s largest fireworks display.
World’s most popular song, “Happy Birthday to You”, was originally written in 1893 by Mildred and Patty Hill, two sisters who taught Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School in Louisville, Kentucky. Their original song was called “Good Morning to All” and used by teachers to sing to students.
Teacher Mary S. Wilson held the first observance of Mother’s Day in Henderson in 1887. It was made a national holiday in 1916.
Post-It Notes are manufactured exclusively in Cynthiana. The exact number made annually of these popular notes is a trade secret.
Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca are buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.
During the Civil War, Frankfort was the only Union state capital occupied by Confederate troops.
The public saw an electric light for the first time in Louisville. Thomas Edison introduced his incandescent light bulb to crowds at the Southern Exposition in 1883.
More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox. This is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world.
Pike County the world’s largest producer of coal is famous for the Hatfield-McCoy feud, an Appalachian vendetta that lasted from the Civil War to the 1890s.
Known primarily as an agricultural area, Kentucky is also a major U.S. coal producer.
Kentucky is known as the home of bluegrass music, pioneered by Kentucky native Bill Monroe.
Kentucky is the only U.S. state to have a continuous border of rivers running along three of its sides—the Mississippi River to the west, the Ohio River to the north, and the Big Sandy River and Tug Fork to the east.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Have fun with this free Kentucky Derby lapbook based on the book, Derby Day: A Pop-Up Celebration of the Kentucky Derby by Pamela Pease.
Make your own Kentucky Derby hat.
Make a simple log cabin out of popsicle sticks and construction paper.
Order a free coal sample kit for some hands-on learning.
Take a short video tour of Kentucky.
Watch this video to learn about how the Louisville Slugger baseball bat is made.
Enjoy watching the moonbow at Cumberland Falls, the Niagara Falls of the south.
Learn all about the gold fortress at Fort Knox.
Listen to Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys sing Blue Moon of Kentucky.
Kentucky Resource List
USA States Pack (use code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount)
Book Basket (Picture Books)
B is for Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle
A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln by David A. Adler
Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House by Rickey Pittman
A Picture Book of Daniel Boone by David A. Adler
If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War by Kay Moore
If You Lived with the Cherokees by Peter Roop
If You Lived with the Iroquois by Ellen Levine
Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard
D is for Derby: A Kentucky Derby Alphabet by Helen L. Wilbur
That Book Woman by Heather Henson
The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills
My Mountain Song by Shutta Crum
Appalachia: The Voices of Singing Birds by Cynthia Rylant
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Kentucky by Suzanne M. Williams
Kentucky Puzzles:: Bluegrass Brainteasers for Ages 6 to 106 by Evelyn B. Christensen
The Big Kentucky Activity Book by Carole Marsh
Kentucky Native Americans by Carole Marsh
Horses by Elwyn Hartley Edwards
Abraham Lincoln for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities by Janice Herbert
Abe vs. Jeff: The Civil War as Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer (coming in April, 2017)
Birds of Kentucky Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park by Johnny Molloy
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Who Was Daniel Boone? by Sydelle Kramer
Daniel Boone: Young Hunter and Tracker by Augusta Stevenson
Little Freddie at the Kentucky Derby by Kathryn Cocquyt
Who Was Abraham Lincoln by Janet Pascal
Journey to the Bottomless Pit: The Story of Stephen Bishop and Mammoth Cave by Betsy Mitchell (out of print but may be available at your library)
Sorry You Missed It: Memoirs of Growing Up in an Eastern Kentucky Coal Camp by David Foster Fraley
Who Was Muhammad Ali? by James Buckley, Jr.
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.