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Facts From Coast To Coast

Facts From Coast To Coast
based on Scholastic Atlas of the United States
by David Rubel
Grades: All Ages

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About the Book
Does one of your students want to know the motto of Kentucky ("United we stand, divided we fall")? Is another searching for the highest point in Michigan (Mount Arvon)? The answers to both those questions can be found in this new and updated 144-page reference book. The book will expand your students' knowledge of geography about the United States through its clear maps, vivid photos, and fact-filled text. Divided into the eight regions of the country, the atlas gives information about every major geographical feature, including major cities and state capitals, interstate highways, lakes, rivers, marshlands, forests, and mountain systems.

There's more! The Did You Know? sections give unusual tidbits ("South Carolina's coastal swamps are home to most of the poisonous snakes found in the U.S."), sure to make the study of geography exciting for the kids in your class.

Set the Stage
Get your students intrigued about U.S. geography by asking this riddle: I'm thinking of a state in the U.S. that has more free-roaming buffalo than any other state. Its nickname is the Mount Rushmore State and its capital is Pierre. What state is it? (South Dakota) Explain that students can find the answers to this and many other questions in a book called Scholastic Atlas of the United States. Explain that an atlas is a reference book with maps and often has facts and figures, too.

Now talk with the class about instances in which an atlas comes in handy: while planning a vacation ("Which state has lots of fishing?"), finding an interstate highway as you drive cross country ("Can I take 95 all the way to Orlando?"), or researching a state's flag for a class report ("What does the state flag of Idaho look like?").

Orient students to the way this atlas is organized (by region). Have students look at the page for their state and point to their own approximate location on the map.

Have them read the facts on the page and see if they can learn one new thing about their state. Point out the Contents and explain that it lists the topics in the book. Show the Index and explain that they can use it to quickly find a topic that interests them and the page where information can be found.

Use these questions to measure students' understanding of an atlas.
• Why kinds of information can be found in the About _______ (name of state) section?
• What information is given in the legend for each state?
• If you wanted an explanation of the origin of a state's name, where on the pages would you look?
• What one new fact did you learn by reading this reference book?

Student Activity
Students will apply their research skills to find information about the states in the U.S. On this activity sheet, students will answer seven questions, then identify a state by its shape alone.

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Related Activities
To extend students' enjoyment of the book, try these:

  • Wish You Were Here: Ask each student to make a picture postcard of a state of his or her choice. Students can draw an illustration on the picture side and an interesting fact about the state on the message side of the card. Then they can send postcards to classmates through the class mailbox.
  • Visit Texas!: Have each student introduce his or her state to the class by making a cardboard shape of the state, wearing the shape as a billboard, and introducing him- or herself to the class and telling interesting facts. ("Hi, I'm Vermont. I'm the state with the leading production of maple syrup.")
  • Great Reasons to Visit . . . New Hampshire: Ask students to work in teams to make a travel brochure of a state or region found in the atlas. Remind students that a brochure shows the best features of the area.
  • Bag It!: Is that a bologna sandwich inside that student's brown paper bag? Doubtful. Ask students to place objects or pictures in a bag that represent a state they've selected. Examples? For Louisiana, there may pictures of a magnolia (state flower), a brown pelican (state bird), and a gasoline sign (it's the nation's fourth leading petroleum producer).

Lesson Developed by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods. The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults, Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.