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.
Tennessee Unit Study
In 1784, a group of people living in modern day upper east Tennessee attempted to form a state that they called Franklin. They applied for admission to the union by the Continental Congress but were refused. Twelve years later, on June 1, 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state to join the union. The state, as we know it today, is made up of 42,146 total square miles and ranks 36th in size in the nation. Kentucky and Virginia border Tennessee to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south; and Arkansas and Missouri to the west. The eastern part of the state is overshadowed by the Appalachian Mountains and the western border of the state is made up of the Mississippi River.
Tennessee is divided into three geographical areas. The East has large mountains and valleys that run deep. The Western part of the state is made up of farmland and is typically very flat. The Middle part of the state is a good mix of both with farmland and mountains. Despite the distinctive geography, the majority of the state has a humid subtropical climate. The only exception is the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains where the temperatures are a cooler humid continental climate.
Population: 6,652,819 (17th in the nation)
Nicknames: “The Volunteer State”
This nickname began in the midst of the War of 1812 when thousands of soldiers from Tennessee volunteered to serve. These men played a noticeable role in the Battle of New Orleans. Because of their notoriety for volunteering, the secretary of state asked for 2,800 volunteers for the Mexican War and Tennessee sent 30,000.
Motto: Agriculture and Commerce
The words “Agriculture and Commerce” first appeared, along with symbols to represent them, on the Tennessee state seal in 1802. In 1987, “Agriculture and Commerce” became the official state motto.
Agriculture: beef cattle, calves, broilers, soybeans, greenhouse and nursery products, cotton, dairy products, hogs, chicken eggs, and honey
Fishing Industry: trout, bass, sunfish, crappie, and catfish
Industry: Processed foods such as grain products, bread, breakfast cereals, flour, beverages, candy, meats and dairy products, transportation equipment and chemical production.
Mining: Limestone, coal, zinc, clay, phosphate rock, sand, and gravel.
Have your students color and label an outline map of Tennessee. Include the state capital of Nashville and the largest city in the middle of the state. Also, include the largest city of Memphis, which is the largest city in the Western part of the state, and the cities of Knoxville and Chattanooga – largest cities in the Eastern part of the state. Be sure to include the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River and Reelfoot Lake formed by the earthquakes of 1811 and 1812.
Officially adopted in 1905, the Tennessee state flag is a field of crimson with a blue strip on the edge. Included in the crimson field is a blue circle with three stars inside. The three stars represent the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee – the East, the Middle, and the West. Around the circle is a endless band of white.
The current state seal of Tennessee was adopted in 1987. It is almost an exact replica of the original seal from approximately 1866. The seal has several symbols that have always been important to the state of Tennessee. They are as follows: the Roman numeral XVI – representing Tennessee being the 16th state to enter the Union; the plow, sheaf of wheat, and cotton stalk – representing the agriculture in the state; a riverboat – representing river traffic bringing commerce into Tennessee. The words “Agriculture and Commerce,” along with the year 1796 also appear on the seal.
Tennessee State Bird: Northern Mockingbird
In 1933 the Tennessee Ornithological Society conducted an election to designate the Northern Mockingbird as the official state bird. Mockingbirds have the ability to sing up to 200 songs. The songs that they sing can be original to the Mockingbird, imitating other birds, sounds of insects and sometimes a mechanical noise.
Tennessee State Flower: Iris
The Iris, adopted as Tennessee’s state flower in 1933, is native to central and southern Europe. Although it comes in a variety colors, Tennessee accepts purple variation as the state flower. It is among the most loved garden plant. The song, “ “When it’s Iris Time in Tennessee” by Willa Waid Newman is one of Tennessee’s state songs.
Tennessee State Tree: Tulip Poplar
The tuliptree, or tulip poplar as it is officially recognized in Tennessee, was adopted as the state’s tree in 1947. The tree is found throughout Tennessee. It’s wood was used in the early pioneer days of the state for construction purposes.
State Song: Tennessee has 9 state songs. This is the most state songs of any state in the U.S.
In 2003, Tennessee passed a resolution to designate songwriting as an official state art form. Because of this resolution, Tennessee has nine official state songs. They are as follows:
- Adopted in 1925 – “My Homeland, Tennessee”, by Nell Grayson Taylor and Roy Lamont Smith. (Click here to listen to the song and here for the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 1935 – “When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee”, by Willa Waid Newman. (Click here to listen to the song and here for the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 1955 – “My Tennessee”, by Frances Hannah Tranum. This is the state’s official public school song. (Click here to read the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 1965 – “Tennessee Waltz”, by Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King. This is the state’s official song. (Click here to listen to the song and here for the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 1982 – “Rocky Top”, by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. (Click here to listen to the song and here for the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 1992 – “Tennessee”, by Vivian Rorie. (Click here for the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 1996 – “The Pride of Tennessee”, by Fred Congdon, Thomas Vaughn and Carol Elliot. (Click here for the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 2010 – “Smoky Mountain Rain”, by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan. (Click here to listen to the song and here for the lyrics.)
- Adopted in 2011 – “Tennessee”, by John R. Bean. (Click here for the lyrics.)
Learn about Tennessee’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Mammals common to Tennessee include: raccoon, gray and red foxes, coyote, american black bear, white-tailed deer, otter, muskrat, beaver, nine-banded armadillo, pygmy shrew, woodland voles, woodland voles
Common birds to Tennessee are: Magnolia Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Dickcissel, Red Crossbill, White-winged Scoter, Bufflehead, Wild Turkey, Horned Grebe, Anhinga, Sora, Nashville Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher
The English and French explored the area that is now Tennessee in the late 1600s. Prior to that time, the land was inhabited by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Creek Native Americans. They lived in the middle, west, and southeastern regions of Tennessee. With both English and French vying for the Tennessee land, the French and Indian War began and lasted until 1763. The War ended with the Treaty of Paris and all land east of the Mississippi was given to the English. At that point, the region that is now Tennessee became part of the North Carolina colony.
In the early 1770s permanent settlement began to take place in Tennessee. In 1779, the Cumberland Compact was written and government was established at Fort Nashborough, now Nashville.
John Sevier led a group from Tennessee to win the Battle of Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War. Around the same time, Indian battles were being fought. The people of Tennessee needed help but North Carolina did not send reinforcements. Due to the lack of support that they felt, the people of Tennessee revolted and formed their own government. This did not last long and North Carolina gained back control but in 1789 gave the land to the federal government.
By 1796 the population of Tennessee had grown large enough to become the 16th state of the Union. This made Tennessee the first state to be formed out of a government territory.
During the War of 1812, Tennessee’s voluntary troops were led by Andrew Jackson defeating the British at the Battle of New Orleans. It was Tennessee’s volunteers for the War that gave them the nickname of “The Volunteer State.”
By the mid 1840s, the Native Americans were forced to leave Tennessee on what is known as the “Trail of Tears” to the future Oklahoma.
Cotton, tobacco, corn, and the use of railroads grew the economy in the state. In the late 1850s, the state was divided due to views on slavery and several southern states seceded from the Union. This led to the Civil War. Tennessee held onto the Union and was the last to secede.
After many battles and the Confederacy surrendered, Tennessee was the first state readmitted to the Union. This was in July 1866. In the next 67 years, the state saw difficulty during War reconstruction leaving many homeless and jobless.
In the early 1900s, Tennessee began to grow, however the Great Depression saw a drop in the economy again. In 1933, an organization called the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was formed to conserve and develop natural resources. This brought many jobs to the state.
In 1941, an atomic energy plant that helped develop the atomic bomb that ended World War II was built in Tennessee.
By the 1960s, industry came into Tennessee and boosted the economy. This included manufacturing, banking, tourism, and more. The country music industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry adding revenue to Tennessee. Today, Tennessee is a leader in multiple types of industry that have boosted the state’s economy.
Famous People from Tennessee
Davy Crockett (frontiersman)
Sargeant Alvin C. York (patriot)
Sam Davis (confederate scout)
Mark Dean (inventor)
Wilma Rudolph (runner – first woman in history to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics.)
Sequoia (Cherokee scholar)
Cornella Fort (US aviator)
Elvis Presley (American singer)
Ella Sheppard (singer)
Morris Frank (the first person to be partnered with a seeing eye dog)
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Tennessee
If you have a chance to visit the state of Tennessee, 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.
Davy Crockett was a pioneer, soldier, politician and industrialist. He was born near the town of Limestone, Tenn. in 1786. Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park commemorates the birthplace of this famous Tennessean.
Located in Morristown, Tennessee, the Museum was built on the site of the boyhood home of Davy Crockett. It is a reconstruction of the 1790’s John Crockett Tavern. The museum was started in 1955, when a popular craze over the legacy of Davy Crockett was at its peak, and opened in 1958. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2013.
The museum’s main building is a log cabin structure built as a representation of the tavern that Davy Crockett’s father, John Crockett, established in 1794 at the approximate location of the modern museum.
The Pink Palace, located in Memphis, is a museum where you can visit a replica of the first self-service grocery store, walk through the Mid-South’s cultural and natural history, take a look at the history of Memphis, learn about dinosaurs and fossils, and see how health care has grown into the largest industry in Memphis. The Pink Palace is part of a group of museums that include a 3D theater, a Planetarium, a nature center, and more. Click HERE to learn about the family of museums.
The Lost Sea is the largest underground lake in America. It is located in Sweetwater, TN. When visiting the Lost Sea, visitors can shop at the General Store, enjoy a treat at the Ice Cream Parlor, mine for gems, picnic, and hike. There is also a café for sandwiches or barbeque.
Andrew Jackson’s home is called The Hermitage. It is located in Hermitage, TN. The seventh president of the United States lived in the plantation home from 1804 until 1845.
Gatlinburg is a popular vacation spot located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park has three entrances from downtown Gatlinburg making the park the most visited National Park in America. Visitors to Gatlinburg can look forward to shopping, dining, attractions such as mini golf, the Aquarium of the Smokies, or travel down the road just a bit and visit Pigeon Forge, TN, home to Dollywood and many other shows and attractions.
In the heart of Nashville is The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. While visiting the museum, visitors will venture through the history of country music learning what made the genre of music a multi-million dollar industry and a part of American culture that is beyond compare. The exhibits in the museum are world class with many hands on exhibits, theaters, and an educational center for all ages.
The Civil Rights Movement played a key part in shaping America’s history. The National Civil Rights Museum strives to share and educate visitors on the Civil Right Movement’s impact on our nation. The Museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
The Grand Ole’ Opry began as a radio broadcast in 1925. Today it is a live show that is considered an extraordinary entertainment experience. The Opry honors the history of country music and has been called the “home of American music.” It is also considered “country music’s most famous stage.” The original location of the Grand Ole’ Opry is the The Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman was built in 1892 as a church. The Union Gospel Tabernacle, was the vision of Thomas G. Ryman. Mr. Ryman wanted a place where the voice of Rev. Sam Jones would project clearly and powerfully for all to hear. Ryman died in 1904 and the Tabernacle became known as The Ryman Auditorium. The Grand Ole’ Opry began on it’s stage and it is also known as the birthplace of Bluegrass music.
Full scale replicas of ancient Greece’s Athena and Parthenon are located in Centennial Park in Nashville. The structure and statue were originally built in 1987 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition. The original Parthenon, built in Athens Greece is considered to be among the greatest examples of classic architecture. The re-creation of the building in Nashville was built as a monument to the original. It was not intended to be a permanent structure, however, the cost to demolish it was prohibitive for the city of Nashville so they chose to leave it standing. Over the years it has been used for outdoor theater productions, backdrops for movies, and now houses an art museum showcasing 19th and 20th century American artists.
Inside the Tennessee Aquarium visitors can explore the passage of water from the mountains to the sea. The aquarium houses animals native to Tennessee and many other creatures that can be found all over the earth.
Looking across the Knoxville skyline, it is hard to miss the Sunsphere. It was constructed for the 1982 World’s Fair. Still open today, visitors can dine at the restaurant, view Knoxville from the Observation Deck, or rent part of the structure for their next event. Over the years, the Sunsphere has seen renovation projects to improve the use of the spaces inside of it.
Rock City will amaze you…it’s in our nature! Located atop Lookout Mountain, just 6 miles from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City is a true marvel of nature featuring massive ancient rock formations, gardens with over 400 native plant species, and breathtaking “See 7 States” panoramic views.
Interesting Facts about Tennessee
Tennessee is home to roughly 3,800 caves.
Tennessee is home to the nation’s largest freshwater aquarium
Copper Basin can be recognized from space
Reelfoot Lake came from shaky beginnings – the lake was formed entirely from a series of earthquakes in 1811-1812
The first mini-golf course was located in Chattanooga. Though not invented in Tennessee, mini-golf was patented there by one Garnet Carter. It was originally known as Tom Thumb Golf
Tennessee is tied with Missouri for the title as the, “most-bordered state.”
During Teddy Roosevelt’s 1907 visit to Tennessee, he was served Maxwell House coffee and coined the phrase, “Good ’til the last drop.”
Reelfoot Lake is considered the, “Turtle Capital of the World.”
The actual word, “Tennessee” comes from the Cherokee Native American word, “Tana-see.” This means, “The Meeting Place.”
Among the bounty of delicacies invented in Tennessee: Mountain Dew, cotton candy, and moon pies.
Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains beats both the Grand Canyon and Yosemite as America’s most visited national park.
The architect of the state capitol building, William Strickland, died during the construction and is buried in the walls.
Ruby Falls the largest underground waterfall in the United States.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Here are a few ideas to get you started as you learn about arts and crafts in Tennessee:
Choose one of these guitars to make with your kids
Weave a basket (from newspaper)
Play a game of miniature golf, or set up a game of carpet golf in your own house
Make your own turtle to honor Reelfoot lake being the “Turtle Capital of the World”
Make a Goo-Goo Cluster, an American candy bar created in 1912 by Howell Campbell and the Standard Candy Company in Nashville
Take a virtual tour of the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
Take a tour of the “lost state of Franklin.”
Enjoy the music of the Jubilee Singers
Take a virtual tour of Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley
Tennessee Resource List
USA States Pack (use code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount)
Book Basket (Picture Books)
Tennessee: The Volunteer State (Our Amazing States) by
V is for Volunteer: A Tennessee Alphabet (Discover America State by State) by
A Picture Book of Davy Crockett by David A. Adler
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller
Swamp Angel by Ann Isaacs
Goin’ Somplace Special by Patricia McKissack
Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack
Daniel’s Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla
Band of Angels by Deborah Hopkinson
Shake Rag: From the Life of Elvis Presley by Amy Littlesugar (out of print but may be available at your library)
Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down!: How Elvis Shook Up Music, Me & Mom by Mark Alan Stamaty
Book Basket (NonFiction)
De Soto: Hernando de Soto Explores the Southeast (Exploring the World) by
A Time to Break Silence: The Essential Works of Martin Luther King, Jr., for Students (King Legacy) by
Tennessee Native Americans by Carole Marsh
Tennessee’s Sights and Symbols by J. Katlin
Andrew Jackson: Seventh President 1829-1937 by Mike Venezia
Sequoyah’s Gift: A Portrait of the Cherokee Leader by Janet Klausner (out of print but may be available at your library)
Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac
If You Lived with the Cherokees by Peter Roop
Scopes Trial: Photographic History by Edward Caudill
Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog by Becky Hall
Learning about Turtles by Jan Sovak
The Kid’s Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains by Eileen Ogintz
Beautiful Caves for Kids by K. Bennett
Birds of Tennessee Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
14 Curriculum Booklets on Tennessee history, just $2 each can be found here
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Check out these games, videos and pintables about Tennessee
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!