February 24, 2013

Booking Across the USA - Kentucky (Derby Activities)

Jodie from the blog Growing Book by Book has brought together bloggers from across the nation to bring you a list of books and activities for every state in the USA.  That's kind of fun, huh?  I am lucky enough to share some things about Kentucky!

I love Kentucky.  Most of you have probably never been to Kentucky.  It's a great place to live.  The people are friendly, the country is beautiful, and the seasons are mostly wonderful.  I grew up in California, but my husband is from Kentucky and I am so glad to be out here with him.  You really should visit sometime, especially in the spring and fall.  (I admit I still have issues with the summer humidity. We are not friends.)  

There were lots of Kentucky books I loved, and which I'll share a list of at the end of the post, but the one I chose to do my activity with is "B is for Bluegrass" by Mary-Ann McCabe Rhiehle.  It presents a multitude of facts about the state using the alphabet, from natural landmarks to famous citizens. If you're a baseball fan you will know that the Louisville Slugger baseball bat is the official bat of Major League Baseball.  If you're a fan of the outdoors, you might have heard of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave in the world.  If you like gold then maybe you've heard of a place called Fort Knox.  (Actually, this is totally unrelated, but once my husband was talking in his sleep and yelled out "Fort Knox! Are you crazy?" haha.  Sorry.  It just makes me laugh every time.)

And then there are the horses!  I love the horses and the fences of the horse park and horse farms.  You might have heard of something called the Kentucky Derby.  It's kind of a big deal here.  I decided to share some Derby related activities with y'all.  You will find references to horses and the Derby with the letters E, H, J, and R in the book.  

First some facts: The Derby happens on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.  Some things traditional to the Derby include wearing fancy hats, and drinking Mint Juleps.  Tickets to sit in the stands are expensive, but many people buy tickets to watch from the infield.  The song "My Old Kentucky Home" is played as the horses are led on to the track.  The track is 1 and 1/4 miles long and horses usually run it in about 2 minutes, often called the most exciting 2 minutes in sports.  Only one horse has ever run it in under 2 minutes, and that was Secretariat back in 1973. A garland of roses is placed over the back of the winning horse, which is why the Derby is sometimes called "The Run for the Roses".  

Here are some Derby related learning activity ideas:

Music: learn the song "My Old Kentucky Home" and the trumpets "call to the post".  Or just listen to them or watch on YouTube

Science:  ya know, learn about horses and stuff

Math:  With little kids, you could talk about ordinal numbers. With older kids you could do a bunch with odds and probability, but I understand if you want to stay away from the gambling aspect of horse races with the kids.  I always just tell the kids "Some people gamble, but we don't." You can also do word problems with comparing number of people in attendance in the stands vs. the infield, or with the cost of tickets or cost of horses, etc. You can also talk about pace and the length of the race.  Just some ideas. 

Language Arts:  Naming horses - the horses always have ridiculous names, like "Bodemeister" and "I'll Have Another".  You can have the kids either name a horse and write why they chose that name, or you can have a list of actual names from the Derby and ask them to choose one and say why they like it or why they think the owners named their horse the way they did.  

History: Um, talk about the history of the Derby.  Sorry.  Just boring.

Drama:  Act out a horse race. Or, first listen to a radio announcer calling an actual race and then take turns pretending to call a horse race on the radio, using really excited voices towards the end.  That might be fun. 

Cooking (which is also science):  Make Derby Pie! (which is pretty much a chocolate pecan pie and very popular here, meaning with my husband)  Also, in lieu of Mint Juleps (which is an alcoholic drink), maybe try making mint milkshakes (a little mint ice cream, a little milk, and voila!) 

Art:  Make Derby hats!  You can either add decorations to a ball cap or other hat the kids already have, or you can use paper bowls or plates as a base and tie them on with string or elastic.  Then add all sorts of crazy things on top, like fake flowers, miniature plastic horses, dinosaurs - anything goes.  Then have a parade or a contest of sorts.  
- You can also make stick horses to have a Derby of your own!  That's what I did with the kids the other day.  They were really easy to make and the kids love them!  You can see more pictures and instructions if you click here.  

I think that's about all for the Derby ideas.  Other things you can do to celebrate Kentucky would include listening to bluegrass music, cheering for the UK basketball team (go Cats!) and eating at KFC.

(Giveaway is now closed. Winner announced here.)
For this book event I am hosting a giveaway! (for those in the continental US)  I will give one lucky friend a copy of "B is for Bluegrass".   To enter this giveaway, do the following:

1. follow my blog in some manner (you are going to want to anyway, because I always post such interesting things)
2. do 10 jumping jacks (because I'm helping you be fit and healthy)
3. leave a comment on this post saying hi and telling me what you would name your Derby horse (it doesn't have to be creative. i.e., my son named his horse Nathan, which also happens to be his name, but you will get brownie points if it has some reference to chickens)

The giveaway will close on 3/3/13 at 9:00p.m. (EST).  One entrant will be randomly drawn and announced on Chicken Babies the week of 3/3/13.  I'll send them an email. If I haven't heard from them in 48 hours, I'll choose someone else. 

The other books I had looked at deal with less fun facts about Kentucky. The eastern side of the state is in Appalachian country, and some of the people there have a different kind of life.  These books introduce children to that perspective.

  "Mama is a Miner" by George Ella Lyon (a book about life in the coal mines)
  "A is for Appalachia!" by Linda Hager Pack (a great collection of Appalachian stories and facts)
  "The Rag Coat" by Lauren Mills (it might make you cry)
  "That Book Woman" by Heather Henson (a great book about the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky)
  "Silver Packages" by Cynthia Rylant (this is a Christmas book and one you should add to your collection)

Hope you all have enjoyed this post and found something useful. Thanks for reading!  And also, head on over to Growing Book by Book to check out the other states, some of which are also hosting giveaways.  


  1. Another way you can celebrate Kentucky is by cheering on the CARDS!!! Go Cards! :-) (Sorry, I live in Louisville, and honestly, I like both teams!)

    Last year, I made Derby hats with my students out of paper. We used the big rolls of paper, and I formed them into hats that fit each child's head. Then we decorated them with crepe paper ribbon and flowers. They were so cute! I can't wait to do it again this year, but I'll start on Monday so they'll all be finished by Thursday!

    I also love the idea of making "mint juleps" :-) Too cute.

    I don't have any idea what in the world I would name my Derby horse. Maybe something about going back to bed! I love the crazy Derby horse names!

    butler . erica @ gmail . com

    1. Oh yeah . . . I guess there is another basketball team in Kentucky. Weird that I forgot to mention that. ;)

      Going back to bed would be a fantastic horse name. It'd be a great thing to do, too.

    2. I would definitely put my money on a horse named 'Going back to bed'!!! :-)

      I find that most UK fans 'forget' there is another team. LOL. I don't know where you are in KY, but around here, it's hard to forget!

    3. Ha. Yeah. I'm in Lexington. Lots of UK fans around here. :)

  2. Just found your blog and am glad I did! I teach preschool here in Ky and would love the book! I am happy just to know about the book :)
    I think I would name my horse Clickin' for the 'Cats. I live on the UK Wildcats side of the state!

    1. Yay! Brownie points for rooting for the right team! :)

  3. Thanks for the ideas around horses. Have a riding stable just down the street from us and the children enjoy seeing the horses, now have ideas for tie ins. We also enjoy dramatic play with horses from small figures to ponies like yours here - only ours are from pool noodles.
    Will be enjoying parts of your state as we head to Mooresville NC in April.

  4. I love all of your fun ideas! I did the Utah book in the same series for my project. New follower! Fellow LDS homeschooler, too.

    1. Thanks! Following you back. It's a great series of books. I had never seen them before I started looking for a Kentucky book.

  5. I can't believe I wasn't already a follower of the Wonderful Chicken blog!! :) Fixed that problem though. And I just ran up and down 7 flights of stairs...will that count?! ;) As for the Derby horse, I let my daughter decide and it's name shall be Princess. :)

  6. I'd name my horse queen of England! Just because. :) sounds like a fun book!

  7. Fantastic! Great Kentucky activities!

  8. What a fun giveaway. That is a great series of books. I definitely think of horses when I think of Kentucky. It's a beautiful state. Thank you so much for participating in the Booking Across the USA project. I'm off to share on Google + now!

    1. Thanks for inviting me to participate! It's been fun looking at everyone's different activities.

  9. Thanks for the giveaway! Great books. I think I would name my horse Feathers.

  10. I would name my horse Leavenworth.

  11. I am a new follower! My grandparents have lived in Louisville (Luhvul) their whole lives and have a MASSIVE collection of derby glasses in their basement (that probably held some pretty stiff mint juleps at one time. actually bourbon. my grandma drinks a loooooot of bourbon). Anyhooo, I have no idea what I would name my horse, but it would have to be something funny, like Pickle Soup.

  12. We're visiting Kentucky next month, and I can't wait to show my daughter Louisville, Ft Knox, various Abraham Lincoln sites, and Mammoth Caves NP!
    We like old, traditional family names in our family, even for our animals. So our horse would be called something like Johann or Henry.

  13. I follow by GFC, and I'd name my horse Lukie, after my grandson.


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