Unit Study Supplement: Minnesota, U.S. 32nd State
How did Minnesota get its name? What does the name Minnesota mean? Minnesota is named after the Minnesota River and comes from the Dakota word “mnishota,” which means “sky-tinted” or “cloudy/milky water.”
Its official nickname, the North Star State, comes from its motto “Star of the North” which is featured on its flag and state seal. However, other nicknames such as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, “The Gopher State”, “Bread and Butter State” and “Wheat State” are also attributed to Minnesota.
With its numerous lakes, you might not be surprised to find out that water-skiing was invented in Minnesota in 1922!
In this article you’ll learn more interesting facts about Minnesota, including historical facts about Minnesota, a Minnesota history timeline, geography facts and more. Time4Learning members can download our list of PreK-12 interactive activities that align with your study of Minnesota. Here are a few Minnesota facts for kids:
Minnesota Fast Facts
Became a State:
May 11, 1858
Order it Joined the Union:
Showy (Pink and White) Lady’s Slipper
Historical Facts About Minnesota
Let’s turn to the history of Minnesota! People lived in Minnesota as early as 12,000 years ago. Many centuries later, Minnesota was home to two major Native American tribes, the Ojibwa (or Chippewa) and the Dakota Sioux. The Ojibwa lived mainly in the north and east while the Dakota lived in the south and west, but the Ojibwa pushed the Dakota farther and farther south and southwest onto the prairie.
Other Native American tribes inhabiting Minnesota included the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Iowa, Omaha, and Winnebago people. Today, Pipestone National Monument preserves a sacred place where Native Americans met to quarry red rock used for making peace pipes.
Based on the discovery of the Kensington Stone, a slab of sandstone showing Germanic script, some people believe that the area now known as Minnesota was originally explored by Norsemen. What is known, however, is that French explorers came during the 17th century to search for the Northwest Passage (a westward route from the Atlantic to the Pacific).
The first settlement occurred when French fur traders, called voyageurs, took the 9-mile “portage” around the Pigeon River falls and rapids and created an outpost known as Grand Portage, which became an important center for trade. The first permanent US settlement was at Fort Snelling, a military outpost where the Mississippi meets the Minnesota River. The population of Minnesota grew slowly until the lumber potential of the area was realized in the 1880s.
The Minnesota Territory was eventually formed by combining land that was taken as a result of the American Revolution and other negotiations with the British, land that was part of the Louisiana Purchase and land gained through treaties made with the Native Americans. The territory was further expanded through additional Native American treaties, and it became the 32nd state in the US in 1858.
Now that you have the gist of Minnesota’s history, read the Minnesota history timeline below to learn important historical facts about Minnesota through the events that occurred in this state.
1778Grand Portage outpost was established by French fur traders
1787Part of Minnesota between the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers became part of the Northwest Territory
1783Part of Minnesota east of the Mississippi was acquired by the US as a result of the American Revolution
1803Part of Minnesota southwest of the Mississippi was acquired by the US as part of the Louisiana Purchase
1818Northwest portion of Minnesota was acquired by the US as part of the Anglo-American convention setting the northern border of the US territories at the 49th parallel
1819Fort Snelling, the first permanent US settlement, was established
1842First Treaty of La Pointe allowed the Ojibwe to use the portage route
1849Minnesota Territory was formed with Saint Paul as its capital
1854Second Treaty of La Pointe established the Grand Portage Indian Reservation for the Ojibwe
1858Minnesota became the 32nd state in the US, under President James Buchanan, with Saint Paul as its capital
1861Minnesota was the first Northern state to send volunteers to fight in the American Civil War
1862Sioux Uprising, an attack by the Sioux on isolated farmsteads in response to the US breaking of treaties (i.e., sale of land promised for reservations); first railroad connecting Saint Paul and Minneapolis was completed
1898Kensington Stone was unearthed, suggesting early exploration of the area by Norsemen
1948Mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert H. Humphrey, gave a plea for civil rights at the Democratic National Convention
1968American Indian Movement was founded in Minneapolis to protect Native American rights
Bring history and geography to life with Time4Learning’s interactive online social studies curriculum for grades 2-12.
Minnesota Geography Facts
Now that you have some interesting Minnesota history facts under your belt, we can explore the state’s geography. Have you heard the legend of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe? Their footprints were said to have made Minnesota’s lakes! Actually, however, the state’s landscape was largely formed by glaciers that carved out it’s almost 12,000 lakes, as well as its plains and low hills.
The northern part of the state can be described as having ridges and forests, as well as deep lakes and streams. Lake Superior, bordering this area, is the largest freshwater lake (by area) in the world! Minnesota’s 90,000 miles of shoreline is more than California, Hawaii, and Florida combined! The southeastern part of the state is the only part that wasn’t affected by glaciers, resulting in high bluffs, caverns, valleys, and streams.
Minnesota’s glacier-made landscape supports a variety of trees and flowers. The state has 52 native tree species amid its hardwood forests, needleleaf forests, and tallgrass prairie. These include the American elm, quaking aspen, white spruce, mountain maple, and red pine (state tree). Its wildflowers consist of black-eyed Susans, sunflowers, doll’s eyes, sweet pea, and white meadowsweet.
Those looking for wildlife may be able to find foxes, white-tailed deer, raccoons, porcupines, minks, weasels, muskrats, skunks, and American martens, as well as great horned owls, eagles, gyrfalcons, hawks, ospreys, and snipes. In the north, moose, black bears, bobcats, lynx, wolves, and coyotes can be found. Venomous timber rattlesnakes are also found in Minnesota, as well as garter snakes, prairie skinks, northern map turtles, eastern red-backed salamanders, and western chorus frogs.
Take a peek at this map of Minnesota to start getting familiar with the state. Then read through the following Minnesota geography facts. Print out the map of Minnesota provided below and add these items to the map.
- Minnesota is bordered by Canada (Manitoba and Ontario) in the north, Iowa in the south, North Dakota and South Dakota in the west, and Lake Superior and Wisconsin in the east.
- The capital, Saint Paul, lies on the Mississippi River midway on Minnesota’s border with Wisconsin.
- The Mississippi River flows from the north-central part of the state, beginning in Lake Itasca, and becomes the border with Wisconsin after passing through Saint Paul.
- The St. Croix River forms part of the Wisconsin border until it reaches the Mississippi River.
- The Red River of the North forms part of the northwestern border with North Dakota until it joins the Bois des Sioux River.
- The Minnesota River flows from the border with the northeastern part of South Dakota to the south-central part of Minnesota.
- Lake Itasca, the primary source of the Mississippi River, is in the northern part of the state.
- The Rainy River and Rainy Lake form the border with Canada in the north central and northeastern parts of Minnesota.
- Upper Red Lake and Lower Red Lake are found in the north central part of the state.
- Mille Lacs Lake can be found east of the Mississippi River in central Minnesota.
- Minnesota’s highest point is Eagle Mountain, at 2,301 feet above sea level, in northeastern Minnesota.
- The lowest point in Minnesota is along the shoreline of Lake Superior at 602 feet above sea level.
Minnesota State Map
Download our FREE Minnesota state map printable. Use it as a coloring page or use it to plot the state’s geographical features.
Activities for Children in Minnesota
Now that you’ve learned some fun facts about Minnesota, visit the state if you can to learn even more! Homeschoolers in Minnesota can take a day trip while out-of-state homeschoolers may need some help planning. Here are a few ideas for how to learn some more Minnesota state facts:
- Bell Museum (Saint Paul): Discover this newer natural history museum and explore its planetarium. Learn about the diversity of life on earth, the state of Minnesota, the time of the woolly mammoth, and what science holds for the future. See high-tech exhibits and enjoy outdoor learning experiences. View the famous wildlife dioramas.
- Mall of America (Bloomington): Shop the more than 500 stores in the biggest mall in the US. Explore the seven acres of attractions (27 rides) and entertainment in Nickelodeon Universe or enjoy the creative opportunities to mix color, chemistry and technology at the Crayola Experience. Enjoy the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, the FlyOver America virtual aerial tour of the US, or the LEGO store. And there is so much more!
- Minnesota Zoo (Apple Valley): Visit more than 500 species of animals and learn about the zoo’s many conservation efforts. Check out the website for an extensive list of youth and family programs, distance learning opportunities, detailed information about the zoo’s animals, and more.
- Minnesota Children’s Museum (Saint Paul): Learn about forces, lasers, optical illusions, and gardening through play. Experience a pretend town, makerspace and painting studio. Enjoy a four-story climbing structure, a giant spiral slide, and a 40-foot catwalk. Whether you can visit or not, check out the free parent resources for ways to help children learn through play.
- The Works Museum (Bloomington): This is a museum devoted to engineering! Learn about science, technology, and engineering through design challenges and interactive experiences created specifically for kids ages 4-12. Watch for classes, events, camps, and scheduled Homeschool Workshops. Access the Elementary Engineering Resources for your homeschool at home or to prepare for a visit.
Looking for more things to do with your kids in Minnesota? Check out this post full of field trip ideas in Minnesota!
Minnesota Freebies and Deals for Homeschoolers
Some of the places where you can learn Minnesota facts and information do not cost much. Below are just a few ideas:
- Como Park Zoo & Conservatory (Saint Paul): Explore one of the last free zoos in the US. In addition to the variety of animals, you can also enjoy the gardens and pieces of art throughout the property, as well as several attractions and experiences. There are costs for additional programming, but general admission is free.
- Historic Fort Snelling (Saint Paul): Visit the Dakota homeland, known as Bdote, to discover some 10,000 years of history. Explore the military fort and its surrounding areas to learn about Native peoples, soldiers and veterans, trade, immigrants and enslaved people, and the changing landscape. Discounted admission is available through the History-Connects program or for Bank of America cardholders during the first full weekend of every month.
- Minneapolis Institute of the Arts (Minneapolis): Discover more than 90,000 works of fine art covering over 5,000 years of world culture over six continents. General admission is free. If you cannot visit, you can see many of the pieces online.
- Minnehaha Regional Park (Minneapolis): Visit one of Minnesota’s oldest parks to see a 53-foot waterfall, river overlooks, and limestone bluffs. The park was purchased in 1889, and its name originates from words meaning waterfall in the Dakota language. See the life-sized bronze sculpture of Hiawatha and Minnehaha, characters from Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Song of Hiawatha.” Find the mask of Chief Little Crow and the statue of Swedish poet, scholar, composer, and politician, Gunnar Wennerberg, or simply enjoy the recreational activities of the park. Admission to the park is free.
- Walker Art Center (Minneapolis): Visit this modern art museum to experience dance company collections, moving image collections, performances, and artist books as well as modern art pieces by featured artists. Children and teens (ages 0-18) are free every day, and all admission is free on Thursday nights and on the first Saturday of every month.
Minnesota Learning Games for Children
Do you feel confident that you know some interesting things about Minnesota? Test your knowledge of Minnesota facts for students with these free games and activities: