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.
Virginia Unit Study
Jamestown, the first permanent English colony, was settled in Virginia in 1607. Named after Queen Elizabeth I, Virginia became the 10th state when it joined the Union on June 25, 1788.
Officially known as the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state ranks 35th in size in the nation with a total area of 42,769 square miles. Often considered the “gateway” of the South, Virginia is approximately halfway between New York and Florida. Ranking 4th in population of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Virginia’s borders are: our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. and Maryland to the north; the Atlantic Ocean to the east; North Carolina and Tennessee to the south; and West Virginia and Kentucky to the west.
Virginia has five distinctive climate regions. Over all it can be described as humid and subtropical, however, the weather can be drastically different in the five regions. This means that visitors can snow ski in the mountains, play golf in the valley, and participate in watersports on the coast all in the same day.
Population: 8.4 million
Nicknames: “Old Dominion” (due to it being the place of the first English colony in what would become the United States) and “Mother of Presidents” (due to eight U.S. presidents being born in the state)
Motto: Sic semper tyrannis (Latin for “Thus Always to Tyrants”)
Agriculture: broilers, cattle, milk, turkeys, greenhouse crops, soybeans, corn, grain, hay and tobacco
Fishing Industry: crab, oyster, summer flounder, and atlantic croaker
Industry: beverages, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fibers, transportation equipment, and software
Mining: coal, limestone, granite and slate
Have your students color and label an outline map of Virginia. Include the state capital of Richmond and the largest city of Virginia Beach. Also include the cities of Williamsburg, Alexandria, and Norfolk, where the largest Navy base in the U.S. can be found.
Virginia did not have a state flag until 1861 when she seceded from the Union. At that time the state seal was placed on a deep blue background to create the state flag. Though there have been a few revisions to the seal, the flag has remained the same since 1861.
The Virginia state seal was designed by George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, in 1776. It was added to the state flag in 1861. The seal is a white circle with a wreath of Red Virginia Creeper and green leaves around the edge. In the center of the seal stands Virtus, the goddess of virtue, dressed as a warrior. Her foot is resting on the chest of the a figure lying on the ground. The figure represents tyranny. She holds a spear in her right hand, pointing towards the earth, and a sheathed sword pointing towards the sky in her left hand. The crown of Tyranny has fallen off and lies close by. The state motto “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, which translates “Thus Always to Tyrants” is below the two figures.
Virginia State Bird: Northern Cardinal
Virginia designated the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) as the official state bird 1950. The Northern Cardinal is one of America’s favorite backyard birds. It is known for the male’s bright red color and for it’s distinctive singing. Both the male and female sing which is unusual as most female songbirds in America do not sing.
Virginia State Flower: Flowering Dogwood
Virginia State Tree: Flowering Dogwood
State Song: (click here to listen to the state song and here for the lyrics)
“Our Great Virginia” was written by Mike Greenly and arranged by Jim Papoulis.
Learn about Virginia’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Mammals common to Virginia include: coyote, least shrew, southern flying squirrel, virginia opossum, white tailed deer, and beaver. Common birds found throughout Virginia are: Canada goose, great horned owl, mourning dove, tufted titmouse, house sparrow, and red-tailed hawk
The history of America began in Virginia with the establishment of the first permanent English settlement, Jamestown, in 1607. Before the English arrived Native Americans lived in the territory that became Virginia. The majority of the first settlers died from starvation. They also fought with the Powhatan Indians until the settlers kidnapped Pocahontas, the daughter of the Powhatan chief in order to come to a truce with the Indians.
Jamestown was the capital city until 1698 when it was moved to Williamsburg. In 1775, the Revolutionary War broke out. Virginia did not hesitate to send troops to fight the British. In 1780, the capital was moved to Richmond because Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia, was afraid that Williamsburg was a vulnerable location during the American Revolution. Several important battles in the Revolutionary War took place in Virginia. The Battle of Yorktown was the end of the Revolution. On May 12, 1784, the British surrendered and the Americans won the war.
The Confederate States were formed when several southern states seceded from the Union. Abraham Lincoln was elected as president. Virginia was not quick to leave the Union but mainly because they did not want to fight their fellow southern states, they also seceded and joined the Confederacy.
Once they were a part, the capital of the Confederacy was moved to Richmond. Because of this, many Civil War battles took place on Virginia soil. The war ended with the surrender of Confederate general Robert E. Lee to Union general Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865.
Virginia was destroyed by the many battles that took place during the war. Cities, roads, railroads, and industries were ruined and had to be rebuilt. It took years beyond their readmittance to the Union for Virginia to recover.
Today, Virginia is still part of our government’s ongoing history. Many government organizations are headquartered Virginia; especially in Arlington located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
Famous People from Virginia
Mary Bowser (freed slave who worked as a Union spy during the American Civil War)
Admiral Richard E. Byrd (Explorer & first man to fly over North and South poles)
William Clark (explorer)
Patsy Cline (country music industry pioneer)
Gabby Douglas (olympic gymnast)
Ella Fitzgerald (jazz singer)
Benjamin Harrison (23rd President of the United States)
William Henry Harrison (9th President of the United States)
Patrick Henry (American Revolution figure)
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (Confederate military leader)
Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States & author of the Declaration of Independence)
Robert E. Lee (General in the Confederate Army)
Meriwether Lewis (explorer)
Cyrus McCormick (inventor)
James Madison (4th President of the United States & “Father of the United States Constitution”)
Lottie Moon (Christian missionary to China)
George S. Patton (World War II military leader)
Pocahontas (princess of Powhatan tribe)
Walter Reed (scientist)
Zachary Taylor (12th President of the United States)
John Tyler (10th President of the United States)
Booker T. Washington (educator, activist)
George Washington (1st President of the United States)
Woodrow Wilson (28th President of the United States)
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Virginia
If you have a chance to visit the state of Virginia, 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.
Historic Jamestown is a step back in time. Visit the site of the first English settlement in America. Watch as archaeologists continue to dig for artifacts related to the settlement. Jamestown was established by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort” in 1607 following several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jamestown served as the capital of the colony for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.
Yorktown is part of the National Park’s Service’s Colonial National Historical Park. Visiting Yorktown gives opportunity to see where key events in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars took place. The battlefield at Yorktown is where George Washington secured America’s independence in 1781. At Yorktown, you can visit the living history museum experiencing the Revolution through films, artifacts, and re-creations and re-enactments of the Revolution-era farms and Army camps.
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg is truly a historical experience. Visitors experience Williamsburg as it was in the time of George Washington, Patrick Henry, and more. Meeting the citizens of Colonial Williamsburg, along with re-enactments of different historical events that happen daily are what give visitors that sense of what Colonial days were like. The historic buildings are open for tours daily. While in Williamsburg, be sure to stop by one of the taverns for lunch or dinner.
Experience Virginia from the coastline to the mountains. The living exhibits give visitors a taste of Virginia’s natural heritage. Experiencing animals native to Virginia in habitats, discovery centers and interactive exhibits are part of the museum experience. A special treat for kids, and maybe some adults, is a Hobbit House. Children are invited inside the “story-book” structure that is part of the Children’s Garden.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a U.S. National Parkway that winds 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It connects the Shenandoah National Park on the northern end and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the southern end. It is often called “America’s Favorite Drive.” It gives visitors a few of the mountains and pastoral lands. Take a virtual tour here.
Click on the above link to go to interactive website where you can take a virtual tour of Virginia’s State Capitol.
Natural Bridge is a top attraction in Virginia. The “bridge” is a geological formation that was carved out by Cedar Creek. Other attractions at Natural Bridge are a wax museum, a toy museum, Natural Bridge Caverns, a zoo and other attractions.
Shenandoah National Park is a haven of approximately 200,000 acres of land and home to deer, songbirds, and more. Hiking, driving along Skyline Drive, picnicking, birdwatching, and camping are just some of the activities that can be experienced in the national park.
is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—take a hike, meander along Skyline Drive, or picnic with the family. 200,000 acres of protected lands are haven to deer, songbirds, the night sky…and you. Plan a Shenandoah escape today!
Mount Vernon is the 18th-century home of America’s first president. George Washington’s father began construction on the house as a farmhouse in 1735. Mr. Washington became the owner of Mount Vernon in 1754. Over the next 45 years, he enlarged the house to what we see today.
Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson. The house was designed and redesigned and built and rebuilt for more than forty years. It’s gardens were a masterpiece of both flowering plants and a source of food. The house and gardens are open for tours so that Americans can experience the home of a great man in American history.
Hands-on exhibits, a nature path, and marshlands are part of the experience when visiting the Virginia Aquarium. Experience over 300 species from the shores into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. As a plus, coastal habitats from around the globe are also on exhibit for visitors to see.
100 years of flight with more than 30 aircraft, flight simulators, and space-flight artifacts are part of what visitors can experience at the Virginia Air & Space Center.
Interesting Facts about Virginia
The first public school integration in Virginia took place in Arlington County and Norfolk in 1959.
Natural Bridge, VA is home to a full size replica of Stonehenge. The Interesting thing about the replica is that it is made entirely of foam thus giving it the name “Foamhenge”
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is the world’s largest bridge-tunnel complex. It is 18 miles long and has two bridges and two mile-long tunnels. It extends over the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and connects the cities of Cape Charles and Norfolk.
Virginia is known as “the birthplace of a nation.”
The first peanuts grown in the United States were grown in Virginia.
The Pentagon building in Arlington is the largest office building in the world.
Virginia’s borders have expanded and contracted numerous times since its inception as the first of the 13 original colonies. In 1792, nine counties known as the Kentucky District of Virginia entered the union as the state of Kentucky, and in 1863, western counties of Virginia were approved to enter the union as the state of West Virginia.
The Arlington National Cemetery, one of America’s most renowned military cemeteries, was originally built in the early 19th century as a mansion by George Washington’s adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. Robert E. Lee, who married Custis’ daughter, Mary Anna, lived in Arlington House at various periods until 1861, when Virginia seceded from the Union and the couple vacated the estate. On June 15, 1864, the property was established as a military cemetery.
Virginia was the birthplace of more U.S. presidents than any other state: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson.
Named in honor of President James Monroe, Fort Monroe and the Casemate Museum of Virginia is the largest stone fort ever built in the United States and the only moat-encircled fort still in active use.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
As you study Virginia, or any state, you will find arts and crafts opportunities. The ideas are endless, but here are a few to get you started:
Make a bow and arrow
Make your own silhouette, or maybe a patriotic one.
Make a whirligig
Make a replica of a longhouse similar to what the Powhatan Indians would have lived in.
Try out a couple of recipes that would have been served in Colonial Williamsburg.
Patrick Henry was a lawyer, but never went to law school. Learn how he became a lawyer without a college education, and discover in which states one can still become a lawyer through “reading law.”
Take a tour through a Powhatan village to learn about the habits of the tribe.
Virginia Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
You Wouldn’t Want to Be an American Colonist! by Jacqueline Morley
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Booker T. Washington: Great American Educator by Eric Braun
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.
Learn more about Virginia's historical sites
Appomattox Court House virtual tour
Download coloring sheets, puzzles and games coloring sheet
Learn more about Lewis & Clark's expedition here
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!