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.
Wisconsin Unit Study
Known today as “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin became the 30th state to join the union on May 29, 1848. Located in the north-central part of the United States, Wisconsin is bordered by Minnesota and Michigan to the north, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, and Minnesota and Iowa to the west. Canada is a mere 70 miles north of Wisconsin across Lake Superior.
Ranking 20th in population among the U.S. states, Wisconsin is the 23rd largest state in landmass covering 65,503 square miles.
The climate of Wisconsin varies around Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, however, it is generally considered to be continental across the rest of the state. Wisconsin’s winters are typically cold and snowy and their summers are warm. It is not unusual for the temperature to dip into the negative during the winter months, depending on whether you live in the northern or southern part of Wisconsin. The summer months rarely see temperatures above 90 degrees and have been known to even see freezing temperatures, again depending on the area of the state you are in.
Population: 5,783,242 million
Nickname: The Badger State
The nickname “The Badger State” came from miners in the 1800s digging, and often living in, tunnels are they searched for lead ore. This action was thought to be badger-like, thus the name.
In 1851, Wisconsin adopted the state motto “Forward” because of their determination to be a leader among the states in the nation.
Agriculture: Dairy products, beef cattle and calves, corn for grain, hogs, broilers (young chickens), chicken eggs, honey, snap beans, and carrots
Fishing Industry: Lake Whitefish
Industry: Machinery (such as engines, construction equipment, HVAC), transportation equipment (such as motor vehicle parts), and food products (such as cheese, butter, and canned fruit).
Mining: Sand, gravel and crushed stone
Have your students color and label an outline map of Wisconsin. Include the state capital of Madison. Also include the largest city of Milwaukee. Be sure to include North Freedom where you can see Forevertron, largest scrap metal sculpture in the world. Don’t miss noting Lake Michigan and Lake Superior – two of the great lakes, and Ripon – home to the Little White Schoolhouse that is said to be the birthplace of the Republican Party.
The state flag of Wisconsin has been through a few revisions. The first flag was made official in 1863. In 1913 it was redesigned, and in 1979, alterations were made to the 1913 design. The flag is a field of dark blue featuring the state’s coat of arms in the center. The state motto is above the coat of arms and “1848,” the date that Wisconsin became a state is below. At the top, in bold white letters, is “Wisconsin.”
The state seal was designed in 1851. Like the state flag, the seal features the state coat of arms and displays the state motto “Forward.” The badger, Wisconsin’s state animal is above the shield portion of the coat of arms. In the center of the coat of arms is a shield that is held by a sailor and a miner. Mining, farming, laborers, and the shipping industry are represented by symbols on the shield. A cornucopia, a stack of lead bars, and 13 stars are also featured. These items symbolize the success of the state, their wealth of minerals, and the stars are for the original thirteen colonies.
Wisconsin State Bird: Robin
The Robin is one of the most abundant summer inhabitants of Wisconsin. School children in 1927 chose the Robin as a favorite to be the state bird. It became the official state bird in 1949.
Wisconsin State Flower: Wood Violet
In 1909, the wood violet was selected by school children over several other flowers to be the state flower. It became official in 1949.
Wisconsin State Tree: Sugar Maple
In 1893, school children across the state of Wisconsin chose the Sugar Maple tree to be the official state tree. This decision was confirmed again in a vote among school children in 1948 and in 1949, the Sugar Maple was declared the official state tree.
State Song: ‘On Wisconsin!’ (click here to listen to the state song and to view the lyrics)
“On Wisconsin,” written by William Purdy, was originally a fight song for the University of Wisconsin in 1909. It became the official state song in 1959.
Learn about Wisconsin’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Trees that are found in areas across the majority of Wisconsin include: White Pine, Black Ash, Green Ash, Quaking Aspen, American Basswood, Paper Birch, Black Cherry, Chokecherry, Alternate-leaved Dogwood, American Elm, and the Red Oak.
Mammals native to Wisconsin include Northern short-tailed shrew, Star-nosed mole, Snowshoe hare, Least chipmunk, Eastern gray squirrel, Plains pocket gopher, American beaver, Southern red-backed vole, Common muskrat, southern bog lemming, north american porcupine, coyote, american black bear, and the fisher.
Common birds include Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Gray Partridge, Ring-necked Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Eastern Screech Owl, Northern Flicker, Horned Lark, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Curve-billed Thrasher, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and the House Finch.
Aside from several native tribes, the first group to explore Wisconsin were from France. Fur trade was one of the main incentives for the French and British to explore the area. The Indians supplied the much demanded beaver skins in exchange for weapons, cooking utensils, alcohol, wool blankets, porcelain beads, and more. The business was lucrative as the pelts were supplying hats and other items around the world. In the 1700s, the British made an attempt to gain a portion of the fur trade with the Indians in Wisconsin. This led to several battles for control of the fur trade. In 1760, the French lost their hold on the trade, and the Wisconsin territory, to the British. In the early 1800s, the number of beavers and other fur-bearing animals were scarce due to the many years of hunting and by 1850, Wisconsin was no longer a source of fur trade in America.
Wisconsin had become part of the Northwest Territory in 1787. The area included what would become Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan and was all mostly controlled by the British. During the War of 1812, America gained control of these states. Lead ore was discovered in 1820 and with it came an influx of settlers to the area. The Black Hawk War was fought over the land with the Americans ultimately remaining in control over the Wisconsin land and sending a message to the native tribes that the U.S. would fight for the land that they hoped to obtain. On May 29, 1848, Wisconsin joined the union. When the Civil War broke out, Wisconsin remained loyal to the Union sending approximately 90,000 soldiers to fight for the north. While it’s soldiers were off fighting, the rest of the state was increasing its industry. The industrial growth was slowed considerably with the start of World War I. There were many German-Americans living in the Milwaukee area that were opposed to the war. Many of these Wisconsin residents opposed America being involved in the war, however, many of them ended up supporting Britain when Germany began their submarine warfare. Over 100,000 citizens of Wisconsin were in the military for the cause of the war.
Wisconsin, in 1919, was the first state to give women the right to vote in a federal election. This right did not apply for state elections until 1934 when women were then able to vote the state ballot. Electric power and the invention of the automobile had a tremendous effect on the economy of Wisconsin. Harley Davidson designed a motorized “bicycle” for the military and produced just shy of 20,000 of them for the troops. Tourism began to take off with the building of the state highway system. As roads were built, residents and visitors toured the state contributing to the state’s economy. Along with tourism, logging for the paper industry; the mining of lead, and the dairy industry have carried the economy of Wisconsin for many years. The railroads that span the state contribute to all of these as they carry supplies and finished products out of Wisconsin to consumers. Beginning with a booming fur trade business to now being a top producer of cheese, paper and lead ore, Wisconsin is truly a great state in America.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip Wisconsin
If you have a chance to visit the state of Michigan, 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.
Ripon’s Little White Schoolhouse was designated a National Historic Site in 1974. This simple frame schoolhouse, built in 1853, holds a powerful history. In this building a decision was made by a small group of Ripon citizens that changed the future of our nation. Acting on their convictions, and having the courage to stand firm to their beliefs, these men and women of Ripon voted to form and become members of a new political party that would be called “Republican.” The birth of this party brought a dedicated following of individuals who pledged to organize together and fight against the spread of slavery.
Taliesin is the home, studio, school, and 800-acre agricultural estate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright built Taliesin on his favorite boyhood hill in the Wisconsin River valley homesteaded by his Welsh grandparents and named it Taliesin in honor of the Welsh bard whose name means “Shining Brow.”
Heritage Hill State Historical Park is a living history museum devoted to the preservation of buildings and artifacts and the interpretation of the history of Northeastern Wisconsin and its people. The Park opened in 1977 on a 54 acre site with 24 historical and reproduction buildings representing the early history of Northeastern Wisconsin from 1672 to 1940.
This is the starting point of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway and Laura’s birthplace where Little House in the Big Woods took place. The log cabin standing on the site today is a re-creation of the Ingalls’ home and sits on the very land that Ma and Pa owned.
Devil’s Lake State Park is the biggest state park in Wisconsin. state park is known for its 500-foot-high (150 m) quartzite bluffs along the 360-acre (150 ha) Devil’s Lake, which was created by a glacier depositing terminal moraines that plugged the north and south ends of the gap in the bluffs during the last ice age. The sand at the bottom of Devil’s Lake is thought to be deposited by glaciers. Devil’s Lake is situated in the Baraboo Hills.
A mustard museum? ABSOLUTELY! According to Barry Levenson, founder & curator of the National Mustard Museum, you can blame it all on the Boston Red Sox. In the wee hours of October 28, 1986, after his favorite baseball team had just lost the World Series, Barry was wandering an all-night supermarket looking for the meaning of life. As he passed the mustards, he heard a voice: If you collect us, they will come.
He did and they have. In 1992, Barry left his job as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Wisconsin to open this most improbable museum, now one of Wisconsin’s most popular attractions.
With a collection of more than 200 historic airplanes along with world-class galleries and displays, the EAA Aviation Museum is a year-round destination, combining the passion of aviation’s past with the promise of its exciting future.
The Circus World Museum is a large museum complex in Baraboo, Wisconsin, devoted to circus-related history.
Located five miles southeast of Fremont, Wisconsin, Union Star Cheese Factory offers tours every morning except Sundays. Come in, watch us make cheese, then taste it. Our cheese is made daily, except Sundays, and our fresh curds are ready to eat between 9 am to 10 am. The best time to arrive for viewing is 8:30 am. Tours take place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only.
Famous People from Wisconsin
Frank Lloyd Wright (architect)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (pioneer)
Marguerite Henry (author)
Harry Houdini (magician)
Georgia O’Keeffe (artist)
Interesting Facts about Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s Door County has five state parks and 250 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan. These figures represent more than any other county in the country.
Devil’s Lake was established in 1911. The facility has become one of Wisconsin’s oldest and most famous state parks. It leads the state parks in attendance.
The House on the Rock was designed and built in the early 1940s. It is considered an architectural marvel and is perched on a 60-foot chimney of rock. The 14-room house is now a complex of rooms, streets, buildings, and gardens covering over 200 acres. The Infinity Room contains 3,264 windows.
The first typewriter to be commercially successful was designed in Milwaukee in 1867.
Wisconsin snowmobile trails total 15,210 miles of signed and groomed snow highways. Eagle River is known as the Snowmobile Capital of the World.
Mount Horeb is the Troll Capital of the World and home to the Mustard Museum. The Mustard Museum holds the world’s largest mustard collection. The museum contains more than 2,300 varieties of mustard. The museum celebrates National Mustard Day each August.
The nation’s first kindergarten was established in Watertown in 1856. Its first students were local German-speaking youngsters.
Wisconsin is the dairy capital of the United States. Wisconsin produces more milk than any other state.
The original Barbie is from Willows. Barbie’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts.
Bloomer is the Jump Rope Capital of the World.
The first Ringling Brothers Circus was staged in Baraboo in 1884.
Milwaukee is home of Harley Davidson Motorcycles.
Two Rivers is the home of the ice cream sundae.
The Republican Party was founded in Ripon in 1854.
The Hamburger hall of fame is located in Seymour.
Monroe is the Swiss Cheese Capital of the World.
Arts, Crafts, and Cooking
Make ice cream sundaes!
Try one of more of these cow crafts.
Use building bricks (ie: Lego) to learn more about architecture.
Choose one of these activities based on the book, Little House in the Big Woods.
Paint a robin in watercolor.
Learn to draw BIG flowers inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe.
Learn all about the Effigy Moundbuilders.
Learn how to jump rope (or a find a new way to jump rope).
Immerse yourself in a study of the Great Lakes.
Learn a magic trick!
Wisconsin Resource List
USA States Pack (use code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount)
Book Basket (Picture Books)
B is for Badger by Kathy-Joy Wargin
The Milk Makers by Gail Gibbons
Winter Days in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pioneer Girl: The Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson
A Picture Book of Harry Houdini by David Adler
Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez
Georgia’s Bones by Jen Bryant
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Wisconsin the Badger State by Amy Rechner
Native People of Wisconsin by Patty Loew
Fantastic Facts About Badgers by Miles Merchant
Frank Lloyd Wright for Kids: His Life and Ideas by Kathleen Thorne-Thomsen
Famous Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright by Bruce LaFontaine
The Future Architect’s Handbook by Barbara Beck
Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson
Georgia O’Keeffe (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder: Young Pioneer by Beatrice Gormley
Who Was Laura Ingalls Wilder by Patricia Brennan Demuth
Who Was Frank Lloyd Wright by Ellen Labrecque
Who Was Harry Houdini by Tui Sutherland
Snowmobile: Bombardier’s Dream Machine by Jules Older
Tents, Tigers, and the Ringling Brothers by Jerry Apps
Enjoy this video introduction of Wisconsin:
Learn how cheese is made: The Art of Cheesemaking
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!