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Exploring the U.S.A. What do I already know? How many of the 50 States can you name? Locate on a map? (try this interactive quiz to see how you do)

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Exploring the U.S.A.

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what do i already know
What do I already know?
  • How many of the 50 States can you name? Locate on a map? (try this interactive quiz to see how you do)
  • See who can get the best score in % accuracy, the lowest average error, and the quickest time! Try again later to see if you learned from your mistakes the first time.
how much do i know cont d
How much do I know? cont’d
  • What do you know about the history of the United States? What names or events come to mind when you think of U.S. history?
  • When you think of American culture, what associations do you make? Do you think of what you’ve seen in movies, or are there other sources of your impressions?
stereotypes discuss
Stereotypes - discuss
  • What are stereotypes of Americans?
  • Southerners?
  • “Yankees”?
  • Midwesterners?
  • Westerners?
    • (some answers)
defining a region
Defining a “region”
  • It is important to understand that there are many different ways to look at the regions of the United States. A state may have characteristics typical of more than one region. “Border states” are particularly difficult to classify; for example, Maryland is technically a part of the South, as it is south of the Mason-Dixon line, but culturally it is usually classified with the Northeast.
  • We will use the U.S. Census Bureau’s official breakdown of regions.

A New England Lighthouse

Boston’s Harbor

Central Park, Manhattan Island

The Northeast is known for colorful fall foliage

birthplace of a nation
Birthplace of a nation
  • The Boston Tea Party – colonists protested their lack of political power, which sparked Revolutionary fervor
  • Philadelphia - Founding Fathers met to write the Declaration of Independence, and later to establish, in the U.S. Constitution, guidelines for the new nation
  • “The Ivy League”

- an association of world-renowned schools concentrated in the Northeast are considered to provide superior education and opportunities for students

On the campus of Brown University

new york city
New York City
  • New York is a lively, vibrant place – “the city that never sleeps.” NYC is a multi-cultural mega-city, known for welcoming immigrants from around the world throughout U.S. History.
  • New York is also a major Cultural Center for fashion and the arts. “Broadway,” once just a street name, is now the seal of quality for a whole genre of theatre which integrate music and dance into the plot. Broadway musicals are performed nationwide, but to attend a performance on Broadway is, for many, the ultimate theatre experience.
  • Many early settlers came to America seeking religious freedom. As a result, religion was very important in the original colonies!
  • Puritans – Probably the best-known group of early American settlers, the Puritans first began the idea of a “City on a Hill” – the creation of a community which would set a positive example for everyone who sees it
  • The Salem Witch Trials – one of the most sensational events of U.S. religious history took place in New England
financial center
Financial Center
  • The Northeast is a booming financial and economic center for the United States, perhaps best symbolized by New York’s World Trade Center (which is now even more widely known after Sept. 11, 2001)
  • New York City’s Stock Exchange is also of central importance to businesses and investors worldwide
  • Major urban centers can be found especially concentrated along the coastline and in the Mid-Atlantic region

New York Stock Exchange

Philadelphia, a.k.a. “Philly”

the south at a glance
The South At a Glance
  • Traditionally an agricultural region – cotton and tobacco were major exports in early colonial days
  • Traditionally less urban, more relaxed, more nature
  • Becoming a very popular destination – more and more people are moving south!
  • Colorful history and culture – from the Confederacy to Civil Rights conflicts to rednecks and Texas… The South is a diverse and proud region!

Magnolias – these blooming trees are strongly associated with the Southern United States

cultural basics
Cultural basics
  • Friendly atmosphere – “neighborly”
  • Slow pace of life – time for fishing, sitting on the front porch, enjoying life
  • More “traditional” life of “small-town America” – old-fashioned home-cooked food, leave your doors unlocked, friendly, neighborly attitudes, neighborhood church, etc. (popular idea of “Mayberry”)

“The Andy Griffith Show” features small-town Southern life in the fictional town of Mayberry, NC

the civil war
The Civil War
  • We often associate the Civil War with the issue of slavery. However, many Southerners would emphasize that the Confederacy in fact had other reasons to want to separate from the Union! Economic, as well as cultural differences made many Southerners eager to be free of the Northern “Yankee.”
  • Throughout the nation, Civil War enthusiasts attempt to bring history to life by reinacting battles as precisely as possible (no actual casualties result!). Along with these reinactors come collectors and vendors peddling guns, personal items that soldiers would have used during that time – a true “step back in time”.
civil rights and racism
Civil Rights and Racism
  • Rosa Parks made a stand for Southern blacks as she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. This bold act of protest may have seemed small at the time, but she is still known by students across America for her courage!
  • The KKK – a White Supremacist group known for its violent treatment of minorities is still active in much of the South. They were greatly feared at the height of their power, due to the common practices of lynching and cross-burnings.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a minister in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. The peaceful methods of resistance that he encouraged contrasted greatly to the predominantly violent approaches of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers’
miss southern manners
Miss (Southern) Manners
  • Manners are very important among traditional Southerners. Politeness and propriety are key values, and children are taught to address elders by “ma’am” and “sir” - especially in the Deep South!
  • Proper social behavior is important in order to succeed in the community
  • The idea of Southern Hospitality is also an important element of the social code – A Southern Belle must never be caught without a (home-baked) treat to offer to visitors!

Southern Belles always behave themselves in public!

nashville tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
  • It’s been said that everyone in Nashville is a musician. While this is not quite true, Nashville is the country music capital of the world! A number of important recording studios are based there, and many musicians of all levels live in this town.
stereotypical images
Stereotypical Images

Tornadoes are a common occurrence in the Midwest, and Kansas is particularly famous for them. (the film The Wizard of Oz includes a tornado in Kansas). For storm chasers, the Midwest is an ideal destination in springtime, peak season.

The Midwest, particularly the plains states, are so flat that you can see for miles. With no hills to wind around, the flat, straight roads of the plain states make it easy (and tempting) for people to drive through very quickly (look out for speeding tickets!)

  • The Breadbasket! Why is the Midwest called the breadbasket of the United States? Because most of the grain used to feed the entire nation (and beyond) is grown here! From early pioneer settlers, who faced daily grueling work just to survive, to modern “mega-farmers” with huge productivity, farming has always been the main business of the Midwest.
the lay of the land
The Lay of the Land
  • Spacious, by comparison to the East, but less so than further West – towns tend to grow through “urban sprawl” – industries, businesses, and homes developed amid plenty of space
  • Prairies, plains, and rolling hills cover most of this region.
cultural climate
Cultural Climate
  • “Midwest values” – There is generally a high emphasis on “family values” and hard work.
  • Conservatism is prevalent, but not exclusive. (eg: there are many “red states”, but plenty of blue spots as well). Patriotism, and a high sense of duty tend to be strong in this region.
early settlers
Early Settlers
  • Much of the Midwest was settled directly by immigrants, including a large number of Northern Europeans. The area of Wisconsin and Minnesota have a heavy Scandinavian influence still, while Michigan shows evidence of its Dutch settlers (especially the area around Grand Rapids).
  • Settlers faced harsh climates (extreme temperatures, droughts, tornadoes), isolation, conflicts with indigenous tribes, and many struggled to survive. Today, of course, life is much easier, but young Americans often learn about this pioneer life by reading “Little House On the Prairie” books, semi-autobiographical children’s novels written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The family-oriented television series “Little House on the Prairie” depicts pioneer life as one that requires hard work, strength, and cooperation

chicago illinois
Chicago, Illinois
  • Also known as “the windy city,” Chicago is the financial and economic capital of the Midwest.
  • Originally known for meatpacking, Chicago still holds strong associations with the cow. Probably the most famous American cow in history lived in Chicago. “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow” has historically been blamed for starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which burned down thousands of homes in the city.

The Sears Tower, until recently, was world’s tallest building

  • Native Americans are often associated with the Western United States. Many of the best-known struggles occurred here (Little Big Horn, for example).
  • A large majority of those Native Americans who still identify with their tribe today live out west on reservations or in towns.
  • Some tribes had lived in the West for generations. Others had been driven out by white settlers, and later the U.S. government, and assigned new “territory”. The Cherokee nation’s “Trail of Tears” sent a peaceful, cooperative, and already-displaced community farther West from the Tennessee valley to make room for settlers.
natural beauty
Natural Beauty
  • The Western United States offers some of the most magnificent natural beauty in the country. The number of National Parks alone make the West worth a visit, if you have the time!
  • It is hard to realize how spacious the U.S. is until you go out west. The trip that once took many months can now be done in a few days, but driving across the West is not a quick trip any way you look at it!
some national parks
Some National Parks

Yellowstone – Old Faithful

Redwood Forest, California

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Badlands, South Dakota

  • What brought white settlers out west? For some, it was the promise of land ownership. For others, a desire for adventure led them West. Still others had religious reasons (the Mormons in Utah). But the biggest and best-known flow of settlers came with the California Gold Rush of 1849!
  • “Boom Towns” were created as prospectors arrived in certain sites, hoping to strike it rich. Later, when enthusiasm had waned, many of these became “ghost towns”.
settlers cont d
Settlers, cont’d
  • Those who moved out West originally knew that they would probably never again see family and friends who they were leaving behind. Great opportunities lay ahead of them, but many sacrifices had to be made as well. As with many pioneers before them, independence and hardiness were necessary for such a move.
san francisco
San Francisco
  • Known for its liberal values, its gay population, its trolleys, and the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is a city worth exploring!
  • “SanFran” has a funky, unique atmosphere, a diverse community, and a rich history and heritage
  • On a nearby island is Alcatraz, the former maximum-security prison also known as “The Rock”, reserved for the most hardened criminals
i want to know more
I want to know more!

Choose a region above that you’d like to explore some more! (other options)

non region specific projects
Non region-specific projects

Learn about some American Sports!

Civil rights and race relations

projects for the northeast
Projects for the Northeast
  • A Nation founded on a dream – learn about the founding fathers (eg: Benjamin Franklin – great website!)
  • Academic strength – a basis for a strong workforce – the Ivy League – look into requirements to get in, academic programs, alumni statistics… What makes these schools special? Are they really better than others?
  • Rural Northeast – What kinds of things would visitors to New England expect to see and do? How about New England seafood (clam chowder)? What can you do to ‘get away’?
  • Choose a city (NYC, Boston) and investigate its history, and how this relates to its present-day importance.

Start research / go to webpage

Return to options

american sports
American Sports
  • Learn about American Football!! How is it played? What are the positions? Where did it originate? What leagues exist? What equipment is needed? Etc.
  • Baseball, “America’s Pastime”, is still widely unknown in Europe. Its history is rich with links to popular culture, the arts, even civil rights.
  • Lacrosse, which originated as a Native American game, is a little-known sport worldwide, but it is gaining popularity in the United States. Learn more about its history, how it is played, and its place in the sporting world today

Start research/go to webpage

back to optionsmore sports topics

more on sports
More on sports
  • Look into sports teams, and how they represent the area. Why the Nebraska Cornhuskers, or San Francisco 49er’s? Why are Wisconsin’s Green Bay fans called “cheesehead”s? There has also been controversy in recent years over mascots that represent specific people groups, particularly Native Americans in potentially insulting ways. Does a team’s mascot really matter? Do the name and symbol play a role in helping fans to identify with the team?
civil rights
Civil Rights
  • Compare the approach of Martin Luther King (as seen in his “I Have A Dream” speech) to that of Malcolm X. How did their goals, their philosophies, and their methods line up? Did they want the same things? What strengths do you see in each approach? What weaknesses?
  • What comparisons can you make between the African American community and Native Americans? Which group, in your opinion, was treated worst? Who suffered the most? Who seems to be better off now in American society?

(to tackle these questions, see the Civil Rights page)

projects for the south
Projects for the South
  • Learn more about Southern culture by exploring southern websites; what do they seem to value? How do they present themselves? How can you tell a Southerner from any other American?
  • How have the issues of racial identity and integration progressed over time? What about racism today? Look at the KKK website; what do they have to say for themselves?
  • Read up about the Civil War. Try to find information from both a Union and from a Confederate perspective. We tend to learn our history through the eyes of the victors. What about the South?

Start research/go to web page

Return to options

  • The Midwest is known for its cultural conservatism. Can you find evidence of this from looking at state websites? Do you see anything that points in other directions?
  • Farming has remained a cornerstone of the Midwest’s economy. How do organizations like FFA (Future Farmers of America), and 4H contribute to the farming community. What about State Fairs? See if you can make any links.

Start research/ go to web page

Return to options

  • Native Americans are often associated with the Western United States because the later struggles occurred in the West. What can you learn about their societies, their struggles, and their current position in U.S. society?
  • What about the white settlers? What attracted them to the West? Who were the 49ers? What’s a ghost town? What is it like to live in the West today?
  • The West is unbelievably spacious, and much of it is sparsely populated. A large proportion of the best-known National Parks are found in the West, and “back-to-nature” is a common value. Plan a trip out west and decide which parks, and which sites and activities you would most like to see and do. Keep in mind the driving time/distance between places! (mapquest)

Go to the West web page

Return to options

some stereotypes
Some Stereotypes
  • Americans: loud, rude, bold, fat, always eat fast food, creative, daring, risk-takers
  • Southerners: slow-speaking, rural, uneducated, unsophisticated, friendly, polite, racist,
  • “Yankees”: busy/hurried, urban, sophisticated, fashionable, successful, unfriendly
  • Midwesterners: rural, hard-working, conscientious, religious, family-oriented
  • Westerners: adventurous, outdoorsy, cowboys, wild
about stereotypes
About stereotypes
  • Remember that stereotypes are often derived from some observation that is true, but are never accurate when applied to a whole group of people!
  • Which of the stereotypes you came up with are positive? Which are negative?
  • Which ones do you think most accurately reflect the culture of each region? Keep these things in mind as you further explore the U.S.A.

I’m ready to Explore!