I love geography, I really do. Sadly, so many students (and adults) think geography is boring. When taught well, geography will engage your students and keep them interested! What’s the secret? Make it real. One of my students’ favorite projects is to plan a vacation. No matter what country or continent you are studying, you can plan a trip! Who doesn’t enjoy going on vacation?

Learn Geography While Planning A Trip Across the U.S.A.

Organizing a U.S. Regions Project

In Florida, we focus on the regions of the United States in fifth grade. I had my students plan a trip through the five regions in a class center, but it could also be done during research periods. Although this project takes time to complete, teachers can integrate a lot of skills in one project.

Social studies

Students research two states in each region (total of 10 states.) They learn basic facts for each state, as well as learn about two places of their choice in each state. At the end, students practice their map skills by plotting the locations of their places to visit and planning the route of their trip.

Reading

Research, research research. Students will need to use their reading skills to find the information they need.

Writing

I have my students create a journal entry for each place they “visit.” The journal entries may be one paragraph of longer, but in the end they will have written ten entries.

Math/Economics

Depending on time and what math skills we need, I sometimes extend this project to include a budget. (If parents want to use this as a summer project or for homeschool, it is very easy to add in this real world math.) Students could have to research the entrance fees for the places they plan to visit. For food, gas, and hotel costs, I would probably provide a set amount in a classroom full of students or just have them total the admission fees. As a summer project, I would make my own kids work out the entire budget!

Art

Teachers can have students design illustrated maps, with symbols representing their places to visit.

Learn Geography While Planning A Trip Across the U.S.A.

Resources Needed

I broke my students into small groups so I only needed a few books. If students will all be researching at the same time, more resources will be needed. Teachers also need to find materials on every state, so A LOT of resources are needed. Sometimes there are great books that discuss all 50 states, so I looked for those in addition to books focusing on just one state. There are a few places to find resources for each state:

  1. School Libraries – I always took a crate down to the library and checked out books to keep in my classroom.
  2. Public Libraries – Same as the school library.
  3. State Tourism Websites – If you have access to the internet, every single state has a website devoted to tourism! Some are easier to use than others, but they are good sources of information.
  4. Brochures – If you plan far enough in advance, you can go to all of those state tourism websites and request tourism booklets and brochures. They will send them to you for FREE. However, it takes up to two months for your requested materials to reach you. This is a great plan as long as you do it far enough in advance. If you know people who are traveling by car, you can also ask them to stop at the tourism centers when they cross state lines. They also have free brochures.

How to Differentiate the Project

This project is super easy to differentiate for students. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have students research fewer states – perhaps one each in region instead of two.
  • Have students research less information on each state. (Fewer topics to find.)
  • Have students work with a partner to complete the project.
  • Break students into small groups, and have each group research one region. Then have the groups present their region to the class.

 

U.S. Geography States & Regions Research Project

If you’d like to purchase a research unit that is ready to use, check out my U.S. Geography States & Regions Research Project. My students loved this project, and it is one of my best sellers! Teachers have enjoyed using it with their classes:

  • Kate S. said, “This was by far one of the best unit plans I have bought from TPT. Everything is laid out so nicely and is easy to follow. With teaching 3 grade levels in one room, I always have a hard time finding something that all three grades will be interested in until the end. This did just that!”
  • Amy H. said, “My 4th and 5th grade children (homeschool) love, love, love this. I combined this with a little economics and they were able to plan and cost out our next summer road trip.”

The resource includes:

  • A research page for each region
  • A research page for each state (including a state map)
  • A U.S. map for students to plot their trip
  • A student letter explaining the project
  • A project checklist
  • Notes on how to write a bibliography
  • A rubric

Other than gathering the research materials, this project is ready to print and go! Teachers have used this project with a wide variety of grade levels, from 3rd grade to high school special education.

How do you teach geography in your class? What do your student enjoy about geography?

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