Illinois Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

The United States is full of history, and each of the 50 states that are part of the Union has its own story to tell. In this lesson you will explore the history of the state of Illinois.

The 50 States

What do you know about your state? Do you know the state bird? The Illinois state bird is the cardinal. Do you know your state fish, or that states even have official fish? The bluegill is Illinois state fish. What about the state flower of your state, do you know what it is? In Illinois the answer is the native violet. The state tree in Illinois is the white oak, and I bet you can guess the state song. It's called 'Illinois.'


The state of Illinois joined the United States of America in December of 1818, becoming the 21st state. The word 'Illinois' comes from the French term 'Iliniwek.' 'Iliniwek' means tribe of superior men. When French explorers first came to the land that would be Illinois, this was how they described the Native American tribes they encountered. Illinois has 56,345 square miles of land. This makes Illinois the 25th largest state in the United States of America. Illinois has the fifth largest population in the United States.

State Flag

The Two Parts of Illinois

The state of Illinois is often broken into two categories: the Chicago area, including the nearby suburbs, and the rest of the state. Chicago has a population of 8 million people - of the state's total 12 million people. This means that the Chicago area has great population density. Population density refers to how close together people live in an area. The more people in an area, the greater the population density. Does where you live have great population density?

The Capital of Illinois

Springfield is the capital of Illinois, but it was not always. When Illinois first became a state in 1818, the capital was moved to the town of Vandalia. It would remain in Vandalia for 19 years. In 1839, Springfield became the capital of the state.

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