The Bluegrass State: A Kentucky Unit Study

When I used to teach elementary school, every teacher used a portion of the fourth-grade year to teach a rich Kentucky unit study. It was always full of learning about historical events and people, as well as important state symbols, culture, and things that make KY a special place to live.

As a proud Kentucky resident, of course, I want my children to learn all about their home state, too. That’s exactly what we did during this lengthy unit study that included plenty of history, culture, literature, and amazing field trips.

Our study of KY was the perfect mix of information, exploration and project-based learning.

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Kentucky Unit Study Lessons

I don’t tend to use workbooks in our homeschool very often, especially those that are somewhat frivolous. However, we had a lot of fun with The BIG Kentucky Activity Book. It provided us with some light-hearted activities to break the ice each day – and taught us things about Kentucky’s history, geography, important people, common animals, and even some folklore.

The quick worksheets occasionally taught us everything we needed to know about a certain topic. But often, they would serve as introductory material to more in-depth learning through research, literature, documentaries, projects, or field trips.

I didn’t plan precise lessons to be sure we covered everything there is to know about KY during our study and I didn’t worry about making sure everything was in chronological order. We mostly just enjoyed the study as it happened. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t make any plans. I compiled plenty of books, jotted down some potential projects, and researched to make a list of a bunch of potential field trips.

Kentucky Field Trips for Kids

In fact, the field trips are what brought our study of KY history to life! They were more impactful than I could have ever imagined in understanding the history, culture, and geography of our state. Not to mention, the love my children developed for each unique region was both surprising and heartwarming.

As I saw how important these trips were, I decided to dedicate the entire semester to as many pertinent field trips as possible. Even though we didn’t spend nearly that much time on the unit study, we kept the field trips going throughout that semester and even into the summer.

A giant list of Central KY field trips - great for history.

As usual, pages were completed in our field trip journals after visiting each site. A long time ago, we started collecting brochures and snapping pictures of our field trips as a sneaky way to incorporate writing into the day. My kids have been motivated to document memories, jot notes, and add memorabilia to their acid-free spiral notebooks ever since!

Kentucky Unit Study Field Trip Journal

A County Scavenger Hunt 

I’d like to share one particular field trip activity that was so much fun! I developed a scavenger hunt of our county that familiarized my children with the location of important places, community jobs, and names of people holding elected offices.

To create the scavenger hunt, I basically just typed prompts concerning our county that I wanted my children to know then printed off a copy for each of them. We spent an entire afternoon visiting places like the courthouse, city building, and tourism office asking different people to help fill in the facts. 

You are welcome to use our scavenger hunt to discover your own county – no matter which state you live in!

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    Another afternoon, we visited the cemetery to learn more about some notable people buried there and visited our local historical museum. Be sure to grab your free cemetery scavenger hunt here.

    Living Books About Kentucky for Kids

    Of course, we enjoyed plenty of living books during our study! Each day found us reading non-fiction books, historical fiction books, or picture books about Kentucky. We read books by KY authors, too, like George Ella Lyon, Marie Bradby, and Nancy Kelly Allen.

    When we focused on something in particular, we enjoyed plenty of books about that topic. For instance, you can’t complete a Kentucky unit study without discussing pioneers. I didn’t hesitate to add general books about pioneers like A Pioneer Sampler and Life on a Pioneer Homestead to round out our study.

    Below are some specific books directly about Kentucky.

    B Is For Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet (Discover America State by State)A Picture Book of Daniel Boone (Picture Book Biography)Who Was Daniel Boone?Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved BooksAbe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend)In Coal Country: (Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, New York Times Notable Book of the Year and Best Illustrated Book of the Year) (Dragonfly Books)Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping BirdsThe Rag CoatThat Book WomanDanger at Sand Cave (On My Own History)D is for Derby: A Kentucky Derby Alphabet: A Kentucy Derby Alphabet (Alphabet Books (Sleeping Bear Press))Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World's Greatest JockeysLast Black King of the Kentucky DerbyBlue Grass Boy: The Story of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass MusicSally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett


    Kentucky Unit Study Notebooks

    As my kiddos completed pages from The Big Kentucky Activity Book, I asked them to compile the pages in a very simple notebook make from a three-prong file folder. These notebooks were used at the end of our study on presentation day.

    Some of the worksheets, specifically the ones you see in the picture below, came from other resources that I had from my classroom teaching days. Even though those resources aren’t available anymore, you can easily search for and print copies of important things that aren’t included in The Big Kentucky Activity Book.

    Kentucky Unit Study

    Kentucky Unit Study Topics To Cover

    To help you fill in any gaps and know what topics to research for living books, documentaries, movies, projects, or field trips, I’ll share a list of the topics that were important for me to cover:

    • State symbols
    • Government
    • History (eras, events, people)
    • Geography
    • Culture
    • Industries
    • Folklore

    Kentucky Geography and Science Strewing

    This little learning center sat in the corner of our school room for the entire unit study. It included books about Kentucky (and general geography), nature journals with wildlife and bird field guides, some US board games and puzzles, and a bird memory game.

    While not all Kentucky-specific, these strewing items gave my children some focused independent learning activities to enjoy during afternoon free time. Because they paired nicely with what we were learning together, it helped keep the interest level high, too.

    Kentucky Unit Study

    Kentucky Projects

    You might remember that most of our unit studies culminate with some project-based learning. These independent (or partner) projects allow my children to practice kid-friendly, research-based learning about topics that interest them. On the last day of the study, they present their projects to the family during an end-of-unit celebration.

    So, after the notebooks were completed, books were read, and field trips were taken, it was project time. Here are the two end-of-unit project prompts that both kiddos had to complete:

    *Research one animal native to Kentucky. Create a diorama of its habitat and present information about the animal during our unit study celebration.

    *Choose one famous Kentuckian to research. Create a poster-sized body of your person and cut the face out so your face fits in the hole. You will present first-person information about your famous person as you hold the poster during our unit study celebration.

    Native Animal Reports and Dioramas

    For their animal research projects, my daughter chose to learn about raccoons and my son chose to learn about black bears. After preparing dioramas, including the animals in complete habitats, they had to give oral presentations (from small research papers) telling everything they learned.

    Kentucky Unit Study

    Famous People Posters

    During their presentations about famous Kentuckians, my daughter transformed into Jenny Wiley, a pioneer woman taken captive by Indians and who bravely escaped. (One of our state parks is named after her.) My son became Daniel Boone, the explorer who basically paved the way for pioneers to settle in Kentucky. Poster people reports are always a hit in our house!

    Kentucky Unit Study

    And there you have it – a full unit study that helped us learn so much about our great state. I hope you enjoy your own study and glean fun ideas whether you live in Kentucky or not!

    Other posts you might like

     Slavery and Civil War Unit Study Picture Books Across the USA Living Literature Booklists


    1. You just saved me a ton of work! Thank you!

    2. How long was your study?

    3. Karen Hayden says:

      Beautiful! Now I’m really homesick! Thanks for sharing.

    4. Jeanne, it was about 6 weeks – including several field trips.

    5. Aw, Karen. I love KY! Until January and February… lol

    6. Love all of your ideas!! We’re about half way through KY History, we’ve been using “State History from a Christian Perspective”. We’ve got first, fourth and sixth grader, . They make it very doable for all ages, giving many ideas for extra work for older children..
      We also purchased the Big KY activity book! Highly recommend this as a supplement to any state curriculum !
      Great suggestions, keep up the good work !

    7. Thank you for your encouraging words! I loved our KY history studies so much and I’m glad you guys are loving yours, too!

    8. Christina Duhon says:

      I’m concerned the free scavenger hunt requires my credit card. Is this normal and safe?

    9. No, Christina. You shouldn’t be asked for a credit card to download the free printable. I just tested the form and it seems to be working just fine. Perhaps you will want to scan your computer for a potential threat. Good luck!

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