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.
Rhode Island Unit Study
Rhode Island became the 13th and last of the original 13 colonies to join the union, May 29, 1790. Rhode Island’s official name – State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations — gives the smallest state the longest name. Rhode Island was originally the name of the largest islands in Narragansett Bay. It was called “roodt eylandt” (red island) by Dutch explorers.
Rhode Island is the smallest state in size in the United States. It covers an area of 1,214 square miles. Its distances North to South are 48 miles and East to West 37 miles. Narragansett Bay nearly divides Rhode Island in half. The state contains 36 islands, mostly in the bay. You’ll find sandy beaches and rocky cliffs along the shore, low land with few trees east of the bay, and hilly forests west of the bay.
Rhode Island has warm, rainy summers and chilly winters. The highest temperature recorded was 104 °F, recorded on August 2, 1975, in Providence. The lowest recorded temperature in Rhode Island was −23 °F on February 5, 1996, in Greene. Monthly average temperatures range from a high of 83 °F to a low of 20 °F. Due to its location in New England, Rhode Island is vulnerable to tropical storms or hurricanes.
Population: 1.055 million
Nickname: “The Ocean State” — Rhode Island has 400 miles of coastline, including Narragansett Bay. All Rhode Islanders live within a 30-minute drive to the Atlantic Ocean or Narragansett Bay.
Agriculture: greenhouse and nursery products, sweet corn, dairy products, potatoes, apples, cattle and calves, chickens and eggs, and honey
Fishing Industry: mollusks, shellfish, anglerfish, clams, cod, flounder, scup, squid, whiting and yellowfish.
Industry: electrical equipment, jewelry, silverware, computers, and electronics
Mining: stone, sand and gravel
Have your students color and label an outline map of Rhode Island. Include the state capital and largest city of Providence. Also, include the cities of Newport, Cranston, Westerly, and Pawtucket. Be sure to include Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet, Blackstone, and Pawcatuck Rivers.
The flag of Rhode Island was adopted in 1877 and modified in 1897. It is based on a Revolutionary War flag with an anchor (a symbol of hope) on a white field (representing the white uniforms worn by Rhode Island soldiers during the Revolutionary War).
The flag of Rhode Island was adopted in 1879. It was only the third of the original 13 colonies to officially sanction a state banner. The flag has a white field with a circle of 13 stars (representing the 13 colonies) surrounding a gold anchor. The gold anchor and the sate motto, “Hope,” may have been inspired by the biblical verse from Hebrews 6:18-19: “Hope we have as an achor of the soul.”
The Seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations features a blue field with a golden maritime anchor as its central image below the phrase “HOPE.” The anchor has been used as a symbol for Rhode Island since the colony’s founding in 1636, well before the region claimed statehood.
State Bird: Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red Chicken was designated the official state bird in 1954. It has rust-colored feathers, with yellow feet and a reddish-brown beak.
State Flower: Common Blue Violet
State Tree: Red Maple
Rhode Island’s It For Me by Charlie Hall and Maria Day, was adopted as the official state song of Rhode Island in 1996.
Learn about Rhode Island’s state government here: Government
Rhode Island has no county government. The state is divided into 39 municipalities, each having its own form of government.
Flora and Fauna
Mammals native to Rhode Island include rabbits, woodchucks, raccoons, skunks, opossums, red and gray squirrels, minks, beavers, red and gray foxes, while white-tailed deer, eastern coyotes and wild turkey. Common birds include American Crow, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Brown-headed Cowbird, Carolina Wren, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, White-breasted Nuthatch, and White-throated Sparrow.
Rhode Island History
The Dutch explored the coastline of modern-day Rhode Island, possibly giving it the name Roodt Eylandt (Red Island).
In 1636, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He established the first practical working model of Democracy after he was banished from Plymouth, Massachusetts because of his “extreme views” concerning freedom of speech and religion.
In 1708, the Rhode Island colony’s first census was taken. The recorded population was 7,181.
Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-revolution era. In 1774, the slave population of Rhode Island was 6.3%, nearly twice as high as any other New England colony
The era know as The Industrial Revolution started in Rhode Island with the development and construction in 1790 of Samuel Slater’s water-powered cotton mill in Pawtucket.
During the American Civil War, Rhode Island was the first Union state to send troops in response to President Lincoln’s request for help from the states. Rhode Island furnished 25,236 fighting men, of whom 1,685 died.
In 1866, Rhode Island abolished racial segregation in the public schools throughout the state.
George M. Cohan was born in Providence in 1878. He wrote, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and a wide variety of other musical entertainment.
The first torpedo boat “Stiletto” was built in Bristol in 1887.
A rare type of rock called Cumberlandite is found only in Rhode Island (specifically in the town of Cumberland) and is the state rock. There were initially two known deposits of the mineral, but since it is an ore of iron, one of the deposits was extensively mined for its ferrous content.
Famous People from Rhode Island
Roger Williams (Puritan and theologian; founder of Rhode Island
Chris Van Allsburg (chilren’s author)
George M. Cohan (composer)
Gilbert Stuart (portrait artist)
Ann Smith Franklin (printer)
Ida Lewis (lighthouse keeper)
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Rhode Island
If you have a chance to visit the state of Rhode Island, 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.
Past meets present at this colonial farm site. Learn how windmills work and their role in Rhode Island history. Explore the beautiful gardens maintained by Master Gardeners from the University of Rhode Island. Hear about the capture of British General Prescott during the American Revolution, an act commended by George Washington himself. Or just bring a picnic and enjoy the grounds. Site open daily, sunrise to sunset.
This mid-eighteenth century homestead overlooking Narragansett Bay was the center of a plantation that produced food for local and foreign markets. Located near Newport, Casey Farm had access to material goods imported from England, enabling its early owners to live in a fashionable manner. Prosperity ended with the burning of Newport during the Revolution, and the farm settled into a pattern of absentee ownership.
A symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America, Newport’s most celebrated Gilded Age mansion was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1895 and reflects the unimaginable wealth of the Vanderbilt family. The Italian Renaissance “summer cottage” has 70 rooms, including a grand three-story dining room, and was built using imported French and Italian marble and alabaster.
The Cliff Walk along the eastern shore of Newport, RI is world famous as a public access walk that combines the natural beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport’s gilded age. Wildflowers, birds, geology … all add to this delightful walk.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame preserves and promotes the history of tennis and celebrates its champions, thereby serving as a vital partner in the growth of tennis globally.
The mission of Providence Children’s Museum is to inspire and celebrate learning through active play and exploration. The Museum welcomes children and adults of all backgrounds and from all communities. Its focus is on serving southern New England children, ages 1 to 11.
This award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans installed on the three rivers of downtown Providence, has been praised by Rhode Island residents and international visitors alike as a powerful work of art and a moving symbol of Providence’s renaissance.
Located on the southernmost tip of Jamestown, Rhode Island, the Beavertail Lighthouse museum features a collection of information, artifacts, and conversation about the history and site of the third-oldest lighthouse in North America. Come and enjoy New England hospitality as you engage with lighthouse history and with interesting elements of Narragansett Bay’s maritime science, technology, art, and culture.
The Museum of Natural History, Roger Williams Park, Providence, opened in 1896. It was founded by the City of Providence who owns and operates it.
The museum houses more than a quarter million (250,000) objects. As is true of most museums, less than 2% of its holdings are on exhibit for the public at any one time. The other 98% is stored behind the scenes in climate controlled vaults under the care of the curators. The museum’s collections are about 85% natural history and 15% cultural materials.
Interesting Facts about Rhode Island
The Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in North America. Built in 1763 the synagogue houses the oldest Torah in North America.
Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams, established the first Baptist church in America in 1638. The existing First Baptist Church in America was built in 1775 and continues to be a thriving church today.
St. Mary’s, Rhode Island’s oldest Roman Catholic parish was founded in 1828. The church is best known as the site of the wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier to John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1953.
Built in 1880, Channing Memorial Church was named for William Ellery Channing, a leader in the Unitarian Church and the abolitionist movement. Julia Ward Howe, author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, attended this church.
The Flying Horse Carousel is the nation’s oldest carousel. It is located in the resort town of Watch Hill.
Rhode Island is home to the Tennis Hall of Fame. Plan a visit if you’ll be in the area.
Rhode Island is known for making silverware and fine jewelry.
The world’s largest bug is on the roof of New England Pest Control in Providence. It’s a big blue termite, 58 feet long and 928 times actual termite size.
At Little Compton is home to the gravesite of the first girl born to colonists in New England. The baby was the daughter of pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden.
The Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport is the United States’ oldest library building.
Portsmouth is home to the oldest schoolhouse in the United States. The school was built in 1716.
Rhode Island isn’t actually an island, however it does have more than 30 islands within Narragansett Bay.
The official state rock of Rhode Island is Cumberlandite. This is a rare rock and is only found in the state.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Enjoy making a lighthouse with your children
Shop your local Goodwill for costume jewelry (or use your own!) and make something beautiful or useful out of it!
Choose one of these 30 American flag crafts!
Make a chickens lapbook using this free resource from Homeschool Share
Make coffee milk. Coffee Milk is similar to chocolate milk but is made with coffee syrup. Autocrat Coffee Syrup is the preferred syrup in Rhode Island. Autocrat of Rhode Island is a leading provider of premium coffee, syrup, and coffee extract since 1895.
Take a virtual tour of Rhode Island
Invite friends over for a Polar Express party!
Rhode Island Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
R is for Rhode Island Red: A Rhode Island Alphabet by Mark R. Allio
Hello Rhode Island by Marth Zschock
You’re a Grand Old Flag by L. Porterfield
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Book Basket (NonFiction)
A Primary Source History of the Colony of Rhode Island by Joan Axelrod Contrada
Rhode Island by Niels R. Jensen
Rhode Island Native Americans by Carole Marsh
Rhode Island: The Ocean State by John Hamilton
The Rhode Island Colony by Kevin Cunningham
Lighthouses for Kids: History, Science, and Lore with 21 Activities by Katherine L. House
Chicks and Chickens by Gail Gibbons
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
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.