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.
Colorado Unit Study
Once called by President Theodore Roosevelt the “Switzerland of America” Colorado became the 38th state in the union on August 1, 1876.
Colorado is located in the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. The southwest corner of the state is known as “Four Corners” where it meets Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Wyoming and Nebraska border Colorado to the north, New Mexico and Oklahoma are to the south, Nebraska and Kansas are Colorado’s neighbor to the east, and Utah is on the western border.
Colorado is the 8th largest of the fifty United States covering 104,100 square miles, and is the 21st largest in population in the nation. Colorado is unique in that it has mountains, plains, desert, and foothills. This contributes to a varied climate across the state. As the elevation rises into the mountains, the temperatures tend to be cooler and precipitation increases. The plains can be very hot and in the same day, have thunderstorms. Across the state, temperatures can quickly drop in the evenings.
Population: 5,557,560 million
Nickname: The Centennial State
Becoming a state in 1876, the 100 year anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, gained Colorado the nickname “The Centennial State.”
Motto: Nil sine Numine (latin for Nothing without the Deity)
Agriculture: Cattle, calves milk, sheep, corn, potatoes, apples and carnations
Fishing Industry: The fishing industry is more of the recreational kind than fish caught and sold to boost the Colorado economy. Fly Fishing is a major tourist activity that contributes to the economy of the state.
Industry: scientific and medical instrument production, computers and communication equipment, leather and leather products
Mining: Oil, coal, natural gas, gold, copper, and silver
Have your students color and label an outline map of Colorado. Include the state capital, and largest city, of Denver. Be sure to include Pike National Forest, home to Pikes Peak, located in El Paso County. Red Rocks Park just outside of Denver is a site not to miss. Colorado is home to 158 rivers. A few of the major ones to map are: the Arkansas River, the Colorado River, and the Green River. And don’t forget “four corners” where Colorado meets Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
The distinctive design of the Colorado state flag was adopted on June 5, 1911. The colors were specifically chosen to represent key geographical elements in Colorado. White represents Colorado’s snow covered mountains, gold is a symbol for the great amount of sunshine, red exemplifies the red soil found throughout the state, and Colorado’s blue skies are represented by blue. The blue and white are shown in three stripes of equal size. A large “C” in red is in the middle of the flag, slightly off-center, and a gold circle fills the center of the “C.” The red and blue are the same shade as the the U.S. flag.
The state seal of Colorado was adopted in 1877. The design is circular with an outer circle that states “State of Colorado” and the date “1876” along with six stars. In the inner circle is a shield that pictures snow-capped mountains and a pick-ax and sledge hammer below the mountains. Above the shield is the “eye of God,” a graphic that can also be found on the U.S. one-dollar bill, and a Roman fasces which references a republican government. Below the shield, on a banner, is the state motto “Nil Sine Numine.”
Colorado State Bird: Lark Bunting
The Lark Bunting, a migratory bird, was adopted as the Colorado state bird in 1931.
Colorado State Flower: Rocky Mountain Columbine
Colorado’s school children voted for the Rocky Mountain Columbine to be the official state flower in 1899. The flower was first discovered in Colorado on Pike’s Peak in 1820.
Colorado State Tree: Colorado Blue Spruce
Designated as the official state tree in 1939, the Colorado Blue Spruce was voted as the official tree by school children on Arbor Day 1892.
“Where the Columbines Grow” – adopted in 1915 (click here to listen to the state song and to read along with the lyrics)
Learn about Colorado’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Trees commonly found in a variety of regions throughout Colorado are Boxelder, Chokecherry, Quaking Aspen, Rocky Mountain Maple, Ponderosa Pine, Piñon Pine, Narrowleaf Cottonwood, Gambel Oak, and the Thinleaf Alder.
The Spanish first explored the land that is known today as Colorado and claimed the land for themselves. In 1803, a portion of that land was included in the Louisiana Purchase giving the U.S. claim to the territory. Trading forts were established near the rivers in the territory increasing the population and the economy. After defeating Mexico in war in 1846, the U.S. claimed full rights to the property. In 1858 gold was discovered in Colorado which brought a small, short lived, segment of the California Gold rush to Colorado.
The territory of Colorado was established in 1861 but did not have official U.S. sanctions at that time. It is interesting that Colorado first became a territory during the time of secessions by many Southern states during the Civil War. During the period of 1863-1865, the U.S. had an armed conflict with native Americans known as the Colorado War. As the war ended, four Native American tribes were relocated to what is known as Oklahoma. This effort was a first step in Colorado becoming an official state. In 1893, women in Colorado gained the right to vote. In 1879, after the gold rush was over, silver was discovered in Leadville, CO. Coal was also mined in Colorado from 1884 to 1914 with great success. Today, coal mining continues to be successful in Colorado but not to the degree that it was in the early 1900s.
Because of the dry and sunny climate, Denver became a popular destination for tuberculosis patients in the 1860s. At one point there were so many TB patients that they were being taken to jail in order to give them a place to stay. The population grew and at one time the city of Denver was known as the “World’s Sanitarium.” The 1930s saw a rise in the economy with recreational snow skiing becoming popular. Resorts for the skiers were built and became popular vacation spots. Tourism continues to be a major source of today’s Colorado 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 Colorado
If you have a chance to visit the state of Colorado, 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.
From lush valleys to craggy peaks!!! This living showcase of the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, with elevations ranging from 8,000 feet in the wet, grassy valleys to 14,259 feet at the weather-ravaged top of Longs Peak, provides visitors with opportunities for countless breathtaking experiences and adventures.
Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.
RMDRC is home to an awe-inspiring display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous. Visitors can enjoy a wide collection of fossilized animals, see a working fossil laboratory and enjoy life-restoration as well as skeletons of these fascinating animals.
Travel on the World’s Highest cog train, ascending Pikes Peak in all seasons. Enjoy the invigorating grandeur! Climb to 14,115 feet and experience the magnificent panoramas that inspired the song America the Beautiful.
An academic unit of the Graduate School at the University of Colorado – Boulder with a mission to contribute to knowledge of the natural world and the humanities through research, teaching, and public education. The Museum’s collections number more than four million objects in anthropology/archaeology, botany, entomology, paleontology/osteology, and zoology.
Explore Colorado Springs’ paradise in one magical stop. Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark. Imagine dramatic views, 300′ towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak and brilliant blue skies. This world-class Visitor & Nature Center and museum is the most visited attraction in the region with all new interactive exhibits. Learn how the amazing red rocks got there with the NEW Geo-Trekker theater experience, shown every 20 minutes. Delight in one of Colorado’s most photographed views while eating in our glass-enclosed café or from our terrace overlooking Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods.
The Museum has over 40,000 objects in its collection including nationally significant collections of quilts, Van Briggle art pottery, plus the finest regional art collection in the state of Colorado. The Native American collection includes hundreds of items representative of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho cultures. A portion of author Helen Hunt Jackson’s house is reconstructed in the Museum, furnished with her original possessions. Other collections relate to the founding of the City, the area’s mining and agricultural history, its early prominence as a health resort, and its more recent significance as a center for military training and operations.
The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more!
One of the world’s highest suspension bridges. 360° of jaw-dropping rides. Miles of eye-popping natural Colorado beauty.
Take your family on an unforgettable vacation filled with one-of-a-kind, endless adventures you won’t find anywhere else!
Soaring® Tree Top Adventures is an all-day family friendly Colorado zip line and adventure tour for the whole family. Our Colorado zip line tour through the mountains of Durango, Colorado is the FIRST and LONGEST zip line in the United States.
Colorado’s newest state park is nestled in the landscape that inspired the song, “America the Beautiful.” Enter this park and marvel at the mountains above and the Colorado Springs skyline below. An amazing 1600 acres of natural trails and scenic picnic sites are currently open for day-use only. Years of thoughtful planning will unfold as this park opens in stages–over the next several years. Visitors can enjoy recreational opportunities open now; environmental education, trail exploration and picnicking. Campsites, cabins, group and meeting facilities will be opening later.
Through the discovery of money, America’s largest museum dedicated to numismatics brings culture to life. The museum explores art, history, science and much more to promote the diverse nature of money and related items. The museum includes exhibits in three main galleries, where visitors can find spectacular rarities and learn about the history of our nation and the world as seen through money.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain region’s leading resource for informal science education. A variety of exhibitions, programs, and activities help Museum visitors experience the natural wonders of Colorado, Earth, and the universe.
Families will enjoy hands on experiences as they learn about African Americans and their unique role in the Westward Expansion. Explore the customs, traditions, and crafts of the African American pioneers that make the colors of the West come alive! Families will learn what life was like as a pioneer, cowboy, miner, mountain man, and homesteader as they learn and play as families did in the late 1800’s.
The mission of Historic Denver’s Molly Brown House Museum is to accurately portray the story of Margaret Tobin Brown within the context of her lifetime through ongoing research, artifact collection, preservation, and educational programming in order to inspire courage, conviction and proactive change in the spirit of Margaret Brown.
Recognized as one of the best privately supported rail museums in the United States. This “can’t miss” site for railfans features over 100 historic narrow and standard gauge locomotives and cars exhibited on 15 acres at the foot of North Table Mountain, near Golden, Colorado.
Famous People from Colorado
“Aunt Clara” Brown (pioneer)
Kit Carson (frontiersman)
Bill Pickett (rodeo cowboy)
Molly Brown (Titanic survivor)
Interesting Facts about Colorado
“Beulah red” is the name of the red marble that gives the Colorado State Capitol its distinctive splendor. Cutting, polishing, and installing the marble in the Capitol took six years, from 1894 to 1900. All of the “Beulah red” marble in the world went into the Capitol. It cannot be replaced, at any price.
Colorado is the only state in history, to turn down the Olympics. In 1976 the Winter Olympics were planned to be held in Denver. 62% of all state Voters choose at almost the last minute not to host the Olympics, because of the cost, pollution and population boom it would have on the State Of Colorado, and the City of Denver.
The world’s largest flat-top mountain is in Grand Mesa.
In Fruita, the town folk celebrate ‘Mike the Headless Chicken Day’. Seems that a farmer named L.A. Olsen cut off Mike’s head on September 10, 1945 in anticipation of a chicken dinner – and Mike lived for another 4 years without a head.Denver, lays claim to the invention of the cheeseburger. The trademark for the name Cheeseburger was awarded in 1935 to Louis Ballast.
Denver, lays claim to the invention of the cheeseburger. The trademark for the name Cheeseburger was awarded in 1935 to Louis Ballast.
The United States federal government owns more than 1/3 of the land in Colorado.
Colorado has 222 state wildlife areas.
The Dwight Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel between Clear Creek & Summit counties is the highest auto tunnel in the world. Bored at an elevation of 11,000 feet under the Continental Divide it is 8,960 feet long and the average daily traffic exceeds 26,000 vehicles.
Katherine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful” after being inspired by the view from Pikes Peak.
Hundreds of thousands of valentines are re-mailed each year from Loveland.
Pueblo is the only city in America with four living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Every year Denver host the worlds largest Rodeo, the Western Stock show.
Dove Creek is the “Pinto Bean” capital of the world.
At 14,110 feet above sea level over 400,000 people ascend Pikes Peak each year.
Colorado has the highest mean altitude of all the states.
Mesa Verde features an elaborate four-story city carved in the cliffs by the Ancestral Pueblo people between 600 and 1300 A.D. The mystery surrounding this ancient cultural landmark is the sudden disappearance of the thousands of inhabitants who created the more than 4,000 identified structures.
The Kit Carson County Carousel in Burlington dates back to 1905, making it the oldest wooden merry-go-round in the United States. It is the only wooden carousel in America still with its original paint.
The highest suspension bridge in the world is over the Royal Gorge near Canon City. The Royal Gorge Bridge spans the Arkansas River at a height of 1,053 feet.
Colorado’s southwest corner borders Arizona, New Mexico and Utah the only place in America where the corners of four states meet.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Enjoy making some cowboy crafts.
Watch these video clips from the Western Stock Show rodeo.
Spend some time learning about the history of the fascinating Mesa Verde cliff dwellings and people — watch this video and then check out the books listed in your book basket.
Colorado Resource List
USA States Pack (use code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount)
Book Basket (Picture Books)
C is for Centennial by Louise Doak Whitney
Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorado’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Charmaine Ortega Getz
High As A Hawk by T. A. Barron (out of print but may be available at your library)
Cheyenne Again by Eve Bunting
Death of the Iron Horse by Paul Goble
Aunt Clara Brown: Official Pioneer by Linda Lowery
Prairie School by Avi
A Right Fine Life: Kit Carson on the Santa Fe Trail by Andrew Glass
“Hey Ranger!” Kids Ask Questions About Rocky Mountain National Park by Kim Williams Justesen
If You Were a Kid Aboard the Titanic by Josh Gregory
Book Basket (Non-Fiction)
Colorado Geography Projects by Carole Marsh
The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde by Susan Lamb
Mesa Verde: The Story Behind the Scenery by Linda Martin
Unfolding Journeys Rocky Mountain Explorer by Lonely Planet Kids
Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin’ Cowboy by Andrea Davis Pinkney
The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico by Virginia McConnell Simmons
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Little Fox’s Secret by Mary Peace Finley
Nothing Here But Stones by Nancy Oswald
One More Valley, One More Hill: The Story of Aunt Clara Brown by Linda Lowery (out of print but may be available at your library)
Clara Brown: African-American Pioneer by Suzanne Frachetti
Kit Carson and the Wild Frontier by Ralph Moody
Bill Pickett: Courageous African-American Cowboy by William R. Green Sanford
Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown by Elaine Landau
The Heroine of the Titanic by Joan Blos
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.
Enjoy this short video introduction to Colorado:
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!