The Curriculum of the Steiner School - Class 5

Notes and Lesson Plans

United States Geography
updated April 10, 2021

This page has helpful links and LOADS of free resources to help you plan your fifth grade year. Enjoy!

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United States Geography
for Class 5

Please note that this block would only be "United States Geography" for those students who live in the U.S. This is really the geography of your home country, whatever that is.

    Waldorf Geography Curriculum
    Scope & Sequence

    Grade 4 - the geography of your Region (Local History & Geography)
    and I personally include Early Humans at the beginning of this block - the most logical starting question is "Who were the first people to live here and where did they come from?"

    Grade 5 - the geography of your Country

    Grade 6 and 7 - World Geography

    Grade 8 - World Geography & Economics

Pinterest - Renee Schwartz
My curated collection of visuals! Browse sample main lesson book pages, watercolor paintings, chalkboard drawings, etc. for Local History & Geography / U.S. Geography.

I have combined these boards because what is local to me is U.S. Geography for others; what is U.S. Geography for me is local geography for others.

FREE eBooks at the Online Waldorf Library
Excellent resource! Published Waldorf curriculum books provided here in PDF format for you to download, keep, and read... for free!

Sample Lessons and Free Curriculum

Other Helpful Links

Books to Buy

I am using the Native Dwellings series, below, only because we did not do the third grade Housebuilding block and thus I am incorporating it into this. The sole book I recommend for U.S. Geography is Ready-to-Use Outline Maps of the U.S. States and Regions: 159 Different Copyright-Free Maps Printed One Side by Phillip Runquist. It is essential and, happily, it is inexpensive.

I am also using Minn of the Mississippi as a read aloud story during this block but the story you choose will likely be determined by where you live (my second pick would be Paddle-to-the-Sea).

Recorded here is my own personal collection of articles, resources, favorite links, teaching ideas, and lesson plans. It encompasses many years, from the very beginning of my experience studying and learning about Waldorf to the present time. People from all around the world visit my site and recommend it to others. Welcome!

This site records my journey. I hope my honesty is encouraging and helps break down some barriers that may prevent people from trying Waldorf methods. Because this is an ongoing site documenting my curriculum planning and ideas, some materials are more Waldorf-y than others. Please feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

I am currently teaching this block, in March 2017. My students did NOT do the third grade Housebuilding block, so we are using the Native American Dwellings series by Bonnie Shemie to guide the presentation of U.S. Regions and the accompanying modern-day U.S. States & Capitals.

And here are some VERY helpful Montessori Materials which I highly recommend for this block!

Biomes Curriculum

Biomes Maps

    I also really like the Waseca Biomes Biomes of the World Mat ($75.00). You can also buy paper maps of each continent with the biomes indicated, as opposed to political maps. A complete set is $25.00. Lastly, if you'll be making your own maps, I do suggest investing in the Map Legend Stamp ($30.00). It will be useful for all of middle school World Geography.

Political Maps

We did this in three weeks, so two regions per week. Here was our pacing and our stories:

Introduction - reviewing the Dewey Decimal System

Story #1 - Houses of Bark: Tipi, Wigwam, and Longhouse (392 or 970)
Woodland Indians

Story #2 - Northeast Region (New England and the Mid-Atlantic)
13 states (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV, VA)

    outline map of the Northeast on plate 21
    except Ohio

    States & Capitals List
    Maine - Augusta - plates 18, 28
    New Hampshire - Concord - plates 18, 28
    Vermont - Montpelier - plates 18, 28
    Massachusetts - Boston - plates 15, 28
    Rhode Island - Providence - plates 15, 28
    Connecticut - Hartford - plates 14, 28
    New York - Albany - plates 15, 28
    New Jersey - Trenton - plates 14, 28
    Pennsylvania - Harrisburg - plates 14, 28
    Delaware - Dover - plates 14, 28
    Maryland - Annapolis - plates 14, 28
    West Virginia - Charleston - plates 11, 27
    Virginia - Richmond - plates 11, 27

    review yesterday's story: Houses of Bark
    add Story #1 summary and illustration to MLB

    two sample chalkboard drawings for lighthouse and lighthouse and church in New England

    sample chalkboard drawing for the Mid-Atlantic

    trace outline map using tracing paper - color according to biome map - add to MLB
    add biome map key in the margin using the map legend stamp

    it is easiest for children if you purchase a stamp pad which is large enough to fit the entire size of the stamp. it also works well to stamp the map legend on a 4 x 6 blank index card, and then glue it in, so that if you have a blurry image you can redo it

    glueing tracing paper into main lesson books is nearly invisible if you use glue dots. I like the 3/8 inch (1 cm) ultra thin dots

      Prismacolor pencils (box of 24) aligned to biome color key
      desert - 918
      grassland - 1034
      temperate forest - 912
      tropical forest - 908
      wetland - 903
      mountains - 932
      polar regions - 938
      ocean - 904

    if you don't want to buy the set of biome maps, you can make your own by coloring their free PDFs - the blackline biome map is page 1 of each of the downloadable set of masters

    review names of states and capitals and postal abbreviations - students take notes

    hand out Word Search - U.S. Capitals

Story #3 - Mounds of Earth and Shell (392 or 970)
The Southeast

    trace outline map for Northeast Region again using tracing paper
    arrange the two maps on facing pages of the MLB
    for this map, label the states by postal abbreviations
    add the state names and capitals in the margin

    hear Story #3

    plan field trip to Cahokia Mounds

    I was saddened to find NO example chalkboard drawings or main lesson book pages for the Mound Builders available online. Becca did a Textured Painting of the Great Serpent Mound on her backboard last year for her Mound Builders report. And I've just added pictures of her fabulous project to my newest blog post!

    the "cross-section of a mound" illustration on pp.8-9 of Mounds of Earth and Shell would also work well for a chalkboard drawing or a MLB page

    the study of the Mound Builders was when my students began to appreciate the technology and advanced civilization of the Native Americans. students began to comment that they had always thought of the Native peoples as being rather stupid and primitive and that thought was beginning to change. (for something really radical to discuss, consider the article The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race from Discover Magazine... then again, you may want to wait until 8th grade)

Story #4 - Southeast Region (Southeast and the Mississippi & Ohio River Valleys)
15 states (NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MI, LA, AR, TN, KY, OH, IN, MI, WI, IL)

    outline map of the Southeast on plate 20
    plus Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois (plate 20)

    States & Capitals List
    North Carolina - Raleigh - plates 13, 27
    South Carolina - Columbia - plates 13, 27
    Georgia - Atlanta - plates 13, 27
    Florida - Tallahassee - plates 12, 27
    Alabama - Montgomery - plates 12, 27
    Mississippi - Jackson - plates 12, 27
    Louisiana - Baton Rouge - plates 12, 26
    Arkansas - Little Rock - plates 7, 26
    Tennessee - Nashville - plates 11, 27
    Kentucky - Frankfort - plates 11, 27
    Ohio - Columbus - plates 11, 26
    Indiana - Indianapolis - plates 10, 26
    Michigan - Lansing - plates 10, 26
    Wisconsin - Madison - plates 10, 26
    Illinois - Springfield - plates 10, 26

    review yesterday's story: Mounds of Earth and Shell
    add Story #3 summary and illustration to MLB

    trace and add biome map of region to next page of MLB; add biome map key

    review names of states and capitals and postal abbreviations - students take notes

    The Trail of Tears in Southern Illinois (PDF)

    Trail of Tears National Historic Trail - U.S. National Park Service

    Trail of Tears State Park - Jackson, Missouri

    Tribal Nations Map - North America (PDF)

    Indian Reservations in the Continental United States Map (PDF) and map index
    print map at 30% to fit on a sheet of copy paper

    Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Cornelia Cornelissen

Story #5 - Houses of Hide and Earth (392 or 970)
Plains Indians

Story #6 - Midwest Region
10 states (MN, IA, MO, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, WY, ID)

    outline map of the Midwest on plate 20
    except Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois
    plus Montana, Wyoming (plate 22)

    States & Capitals List
    Minnesota - St. Paul - plates 9, 25
    Iowa - Des Moines - plates 9, 26
    Missouri - Jefferson City - plates 9, 26
    Kansas - Topeka - plates 7, 25
    Nebraska - Lincoln - plates 6, 24
    South Dakota - Pierre - plates 6, 25
    North Dakota - Bismarck - plates 6, 25
    Montana - Helena - plates 3, 24
    Wyoming - Cheyenne - plates 3, 24
    Idaho - Boise - plates 1, 23

    review yesterday's story: Houses of Hide and Earth
    add Story #5 summary and illustration to MLB

    trace and add biome map of region to next page of MLB; add biome map key

    review names of states and capitals and postal abbreviations - students take notes

    The Buffalo Nickel by Taylor Morrison

Story #7 - Houses of Adobe (392 or 970)
The Southwest

    add political map for Midwest Region to MLB opposite biome map

    hear Story #7

    sample chalkboard drawing for an adobe house

    "Prayer to the Mountain Spirit" - Navajo prayer on page 47
    and Navajo verse on page 33 of In Every Tiny Grain of Sand ed. by Reeve Lindbergh

    "Adobe Village" project from Learning about the World through Modeling by Arthur Auer, pp.69-71 (available free at the link above)

    I had my students each make individual adobe houses on 16 inch square ceramic tiles (these were about $1.20 each) but he suggests a group project on a 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 foot piece of half inch plywood. Drape with a damp towel to keep moist overnight. We started with 5 lbs of self-hardening clay per person.

    also, Auer's "Simple Pottery Project" after reading When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor

Story #8 - Southwest Region
7 states (TX, OK, CO, NM, AZ, UT, NV)

    portion of the outline map of the West on plate 22

    States & Capitals List
    Texas - Austin - plates 8, 25
    Oklahoma - Oklahoma City - plates 7, 25
    Colorado - Denver - plates 5, 24
    New Mexico - Santa Fe - plates 5, 24
    Arizona - Phoenix - plates 4, 23
    Utah - Salt Lake City - plates 4, 24
    Nevada - Carson City - plates 2, 23

    review yesterday's story: Houses of Adobe
    add Story #7 summary and illustration to MLB

    the illustration on page 14 is a good one for the MLB since it is not too complicated

    trace and add biome map of region to next page of MLB; add biome map key

    review names of states and capitals and postal abbreviations - students take notes

Story #9 - Houses of Wood (392 or 970)
The Northwest Coast

Story #10 - Northwest Region
3 states (CA, OR, WA)

    portion of the outline map of the West on plate 22

    States & Capitals List
    California - Sacramento - plates 2, 23
    Oregon - Salem - plates 1, 23
    Washington - Olympia - plates 1, 24

    review yesterday's story: Houses of Wood
    add Story #9 summary and illustration to MLB

    coming up with an illustration for this story was challenging
    I recommend the coastline (pp.4-5), the Kwakiutl house front (p.15),
    or the household implements -- canoe, loom, boiling box -- on pp.22-23

    trace and add biome map of region to next page of MLB; add biome map key

    review names of states and capitals and postal abbreviations - students take notes

Story #11 - Houses of Snow, Skin and Bones (392 or 970)
The Far North

Story #12 - States 49 and 50 (Alaska & Hawaii), U.S. Territories and the Tribal Lands
2 states (AK, HI) plus Washington, District of Columbia (DC)
and 16 territories (five of which are inhabited: AS, GU, MP, PR, VI)

    States & Capitals List
    Alaska - Juneau - plates 19, 29
    Hawaii - Honolulu - plates 19, 29

    review yesterday's story: Houses of Snow, Skin and Bones
    add Story #11 summary and illustration to MLB

    trace and add biome maps of Alaska and Hawaii to MLB
    (we didn't do a separate political map, just wrote the state name and capital beside each)

    list the territories (inhabited, undisputed, disputed)

    Washington, District of Columbia

    Inhabited Territories List
    American Samoa
    Northern Mariana Islands
    Puerto Rico
    U.S. Virgin Islands

    "Members of Congress from the territories seated as of January 2015 are Gregorio Sablan for the Northern Mariana Islands, Madeleine Bordallo for Guam, Amata Coleman Radewagen for American Samoa, Pedro Pierluisi for Puerto Rico, and Stacey Plaskett for the U.S. Virgin Islands."

    Uninhabited Territories List
    "Eleven territories are small islands, atolls and reefs, spread across the Caribbean and Pacific, with no native or permanent populations."

    "The 11 uninhabited territories administered by the Interior Department are Johnston Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef, Jarvis Island, Baker Island, Howland Island, Navassa Island, Wake Island, and Midway Islands. While claimed by the US, Serranilla Bank and Bajo Nuevo Bank are disputed."

    Howland Island is most famous for being the place where Amelia Earhart was supposed to land to refuel for the next leg of her journey; however, her plane disappeared on July 2, 1937. The land and water around Howland Island and Baker Island were searched thoroughly to no avail. It is now thought she most likely landed on nearby Gardner Island, also uninhabited, and then perished there along with her navigator, Fred Noonan.

    add a description of Indian Reservations
    Indian Reservations in the Continental United States Map (PDF) and map index
    National Park Service
    print map at 25% or 30% to fit on a sheet of copy paper

    Indian Lands in the United States (PDF)
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    includes Alaska
    print map at 23% to fit on a sheet of copy paper

    American Indian Tribes puzzle

Conclusion - Assessment (optional)

Sometimes we just need to memorize things... and knowing the names of the U.S. states and their capitals falls into that category! Some quick & easy options for student assessment are

It would also be nice to wrap up this block by having students research a U.S. territory and give a report to the class, instead of the more traditional state reports. Students often already know a lot about their chosen state. The territories are mostly unfamiliar and the research would be authentic. Plus, requiring print resources would give students more practice with the Dewey Decimal System!

This detailed State Research Organizer is available in a .doc format so it is super-easy to edit it and adapt it for a U.S. Territory report.

Please read my very helpful blog post: Breaking Down the Skills Needed to Write a Research Paper

FYI, I changed the template and the rubric to be as follows:

    Rubric for Final Project

    ____/10 Cover Page (title of report, name of student, date)

    ____/20 History (2 paragraphs - one paragraph on history before becoming a U.S. territory;
    one paragraph on history after becoming a U.S. territory)

    ____/10 Economy (1 paragraph)

    ____/10 Physical Geography (1 paragraph)

    ____/10 Flora & Fauna (1 paragraph)

    ____/10 Cities & Capital (1 paragraph)

    ____/10 Places to Visit (1 paragraph)

    ____/5 Flag

    ____/5 Map (2 maps - one biome map; one political map)

    ____/10 Overall Neatness

    TOTAL SCORE: ____/100 points

As part of her report, Becca also served an authentic dish from Guam called "Golai Hagun Sune." She found the recipe on p. 306 of Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt, a juvenile fiction book which is set in Guam. Other books she read for her Guam research included Guam's Brown Tree Snakes: Hanging Out by Kevin Blake, from the series "They Don't Belong: Tracking Invasive Species," Guam by William Lutz, from the series "Let's Visit Places & Peoples of the World," and page 40 of Puerto Rico and Other Outlying Areas by Michael Burgan, from the series "World Almanac Library of the States." She also visited Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo's website.

*NEW* My friend Kathy just shared another Guam recipe with me: Beef Tinaktak.

My blog posts from teaching this topic in 2017:

My blog posts from teaching this topic in the 2020-2021 school year:

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