Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by jayla. jayla Wonders, “the smallest state” Thanks for WONDERing with us, jayla!

Have you ever noticed how the BIG things always seem to get a lot of attention? We’re always amazed by whatever is the biggest, or tallest, or most spectacular.

Of course, wisdom tells us that good things come in small packages, too. And that’s certainly true when it comes to today’s Wonder of the Day. We’re not talking about Alaska, or Texas, or any of the BIG states. We’re talking about the smallest state in the U.S.

And what state is that? It’s Rhode Island, of course! Rhode Island isn’t one big island—but it does contain a lot of small islands! Rhode Island is known as The Ocean State. No part of the state lies more than 30 miles from salt water!

So how small is Rhode Island? From top to bottom (north to south), it stretches only about 48 miles. From side to side (east to west) is only around 37 miles. Altogether, this state is 1,045 square miles in size.

Of course, a large part of Rhode Island is made up of water. Parts of the Atlantic Ocean surround many of its islands. This includes a large body of water in the middle of the state called Narragansett Bay. The bay is named after the people of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. They have lived in Rhode Island for over 30,000 years.  Even if you count this water, Rhode Island only amounts to about 1,550 square miles. That’s still quite a bit smaller than the next smallest state, Delaware.

Yes, Rhode Island is very small. But it has the longest official name of any state in the U.S. Its full name is “The State of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.” Most people just call it Rhode Island. The state also goes by many nicknames, such as “Little Rhody.”

Are you WONDERing where Rhode Island’s name came from? There’s some debate about exactly how it came to be. One story claims that the name came from Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano. He visited the area in 1524 and met the Narragansett people. He later compared the area to the Isle of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea.

Others claim that Dutch explorer Adriaen Block named the area “Roode Eyland” in 1614. They say he did so because of the red rock ledges along the coast of Aquidneck Island. Whichever story is true, Europeans knew the area as “Rode Island” when Englishman Roger Williams colonized it. It became one of the original 13 British colonies. It was the last of these to become a state on May 29, 1790.

Today, Rhode Island remains an important state with strong ties to the sea and trade. It houses many major industrial businesses. The state is known in particular for its silverware and fine jewelry. Other major industries include textiles, rubber products, machinery, and tourism.

What about the area’s original inhabitants? The Narragansett people have experienced many years of oppression from colonizers and, later, the U.S. government. Today, the Narragansett Indian Tribe is a sovereign nation within the state of Rhode Island. The people work in many industries, from law and medicine to fishing and cooking. They continue to pass down their ancient culture and work to protect the land they have lived on for thousands of years.

Have you ever been to Rhode Island? Would you like to visit the smallest state in the U.S.? Many find it to be a great place to travel with family. Maybe you’ll find a home away from home on one of the state’s many islands!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, C3.D2.Geo.1, C3.D2.Geo.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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