Delaware Facts for Kids

Delaware, known as The First State, holds a special place in U.S. history. It’s called The First State because it was the first to ratify the Constitution on December 7, 1787. This small state may be tiny in size, but it is packed with fascinating facts and unique characteristics.

Delaware's state bird, the blue hen, perches on a peach blossom tree. The state flag waves in the background, with the state flower, the peach blossom, blooming below

Delaware is located in the northeastern region of the United States and is the second smallest state after Rhode Island. It spans 96 miles in length and varies from 9 to 35 miles in width. Despite its small size, Delaware is rich in history and culture, making it a vibrant place for kids to learn about.

Nicknamed the Small Wonder and The Diamond State, Delaware boasts a variety of natural resources and wildlife. Its geography is diverse, with boundaries touching Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Atlantic Ocean, providing a mix of landscapes from farms to beaches. Kids will find it exciting and educational to explore the state’s significant contributions to American history and its natural beauty.

Geography

A map of Delaware with its major cities, rivers, and landmarks highlighted

Delaware is situated on a peninsula on the East Coast of the United States. It’s known for its small size but diverse features, including various water bodies and a range of elevations.

Location and Size

Delaware is located on the Delmarva Peninsula, bordered by Pennsylvania to the north. The Delaware River, Delaware Bay, New Jersey, and the Atlantic Ocean lie to the east, while Maryland borders it to the south and west. The state is 96 miles long and ranges from 9 to 35 miles wide, covering an area of 1,954 square miles. This makes Delaware the second smallest state in the U.S. after Rhode Island.

Climate

Delaware experiences a temperate climate, with mild winters and warm summers. The summers are generally hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 85°F (29°C). Winters are mild, with occasional snowfall, especially in the northern region. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, supporting the lush greenery and agriculture in the area. The climate is influenced by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, which helps moderate temperature extremes.

Major Water Bodies

Several major water bodies run through or border Delaware. The Delaware River and Delaware Bay form the state’s eastern boundary, connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. These water bodies provide various recreational opportunities and are crucial for transportation and commerce. The state also features many smaller rivers and streams that flow into these larger bodies. Coastal areas along the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Coastal Plain are known for their wetlands and wildlife.

History

A map of Delaware with important historical landmarks and dates displayed

Delaware’s rich history begins with the early Native American tribes and continues through colonial settlement, statehood, and significant events like the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Early Inhabitants

The region now known as Delaware was originally home to Native American tribes, including the Lenni Lenape and the Nanticoke. These tribes lived in the area for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. They engaged in hunting, fishing, and farming, and had a deep connection to the land. The Lenape, in particular, were known for their peaceful nature and trade networks.

Colonial Era

European settlers began arriving in Delaware in the early 1600s. The Dutch first established a trading post called Zwaanendael near what is now Lewes in 1631. However, this settlement was short-lived due to conflict with the local Native Americans. Later, in 1638, Swedish colonists established the first permanent European settlement at Fort Christina, which is now Wilmington. The English eventually took control in 1664, naming the region after Lord De La Warr. Delaware was originally part of the Pennsylvania colony but gained its own assembly in 1704.

Important Dates

  • December 7, 1787: Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, earning it the nickname “The First State.”
  • Revolutionary War: Delaware played a key role, with notable figures like Caesar Rodney.
  • Civil War: Delaware, a border state, remained in the Union but was a place where slavery was legal at the war’s start.

These events were pivotal in shaping Delaware’s role in American history and solidifying its place in the Union.

Government and Politics

The Delaware state capitol building stands tall against a blue sky, surrounded by lush green trees and a flowing river

Delaware’s government mirrors the structure of the United States federal government and includes three main branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Key political figures from Delaware include President Joe Biden, among others.

State Government

The state government of Delaware consists of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.

The Governor serves as the head of the executive branch. The current Governor oversees the administration and enforces state laws. The state capital, Dover, is where the Governor’s office is located.

The General Assembly is Delaware’s legislative body. It is made up of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. These elected officials create state laws and manage the budget.

The Judiciary, led by the Delaware Supreme Court, interprets state laws and ensures justice is delivered. This highest court handles significant cases and sets precedents for other courts within the state.

Political Figures

Delaware has been home to several notable political figures. President Joe Biden, who grew up in the state, is one of the most well-known Delawareans.

Another key figure is Ruth Ann Minner, who was the first female Governor of Delaware.

The General Assembly has members who influence state policies significantly. Senators and Representatives from Delaware play roles both at state and national levels.

Key places such as the Delaware Memorial Bridge connect Delaware to neighboring states. The state’s postal abbreviation is “DE”.

Symbols like the State Bird (Delaware Blue Hen) and American Holly (the official state tree) also reflect the unique identity and pride of Delaware.

Economy

A bustling town with diverse businesses, schools, and parks. A mix of modern and historic buildings line the streets, with the Delaware River flowing nearby

Delaware’s economy includes agriculture, industry, and tourism. Each sector plays a significant role in contributing to the state’s financial health and community well-being.

Agriculture

Delaware has strong agricultural roots. Farming remains crucial, with crops like corn, soybeans, and peas being major products. The rich silt loam soil in New Castle County is ideal for growing these crops. Dairy farming is also important, with many farms producing fresh milk.

Poultry farming is significant, especially in Sussex County. The state is one of the country’s leading producers of chicken. Farmers also grow potatoes and other vegetables. Agriculture not only provides food but also supports local jobs and communities.

Industry

Industry in Delaware is diverse. The state is home to DuPont, a large chemical company known worldwide. DuPont has contributed to Delaware’s economy for many years and continues to be a major employer.

Many small and medium-sized industries thrive here, from manufacturing to biotechnology. These industries provide jobs and help drive economic growth. Delaware’s location near major markets on the East Coast makes it ideal for businesses to operate and distribute goods.

Tourism

Tourism is vital for Delaware’s economy. The state attracts visitors to its beautiful beaches and historic sites. The Dover International Speedway is a major attraction. Known as the “Monster Mile,” it hosts NASCAR races, drawing large crowds.

Tourists also visit Delaware for its state parks, museums, and shopping outlets. These attractions generate significant revenue. The hospitality industry, including hotels and restaurants, benefits from this influx of visitors, providing numerous jobs and supporting local businesses.

Demographics

A group of children of various ages and backgrounds gather around a map of Delaware, pointing to different landmarks and discussing interesting facts about the state

Delaware has a diverse population and a rich cultural influence shaped by its geography and historical ties. The state has various communities, including urban and rural areas, each contributing to its unique identity.

Population

Delaware’s population is over 1 million people. The largest city is Wilmington, followed by Dover and Newark. New Castle County is the most populous, home to more than half of Delawareans. Middletown and Smyrna are other notable towns in this county.

Kent County and Sussex County are less populated. Sussex County, known for its beaches, draws many tourists and residents looking for a quieter lifestyle. Delaware’s population is a mix of ages, with many families, young professionals, and retirees.

Cultural Influence

The culture of Delaware is influenced by its location and history. Being close to cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., it blends urban and rural traditions. Wilmington is known for its arts and cultural festivals. Newark, home to the University of Delaware, has a youthful and academic environment.

In Sussex County, seafood and farming are cultural staples. Delaware has cultural events like the Delaware State Fair in Harrington and smaller county fairs. The state has a mix of people from different backgrounds, including African American, Hispanic, Asian, and European American communities, adding to its vibrant culture.

Education

A colorful map of Delaware with key landmarks and symbols, surrounded by children reading books and learning in a school setting

In Delaware, students receive education through a variety of schools and higher education institutions. The state ensures access to quality education for children and adults alike.

Primary and Secondary Schools

Delaware has numerous public and private schools that cater to students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The public school system is divided into several districts, each with its own local governance. Major districts include Red Clay, Christina, and Brandywine in New Castle County. These districts aim to provide comprehensive education programs that cover core subjects such as math, science, and English, as well as extracurricular activities like sports and arts.

Among private schools, notable institutions include Salesianum School and Wilmington Friends School. They often offer different curriculums and have smaller class sizes. Charter schools are also an option, providing specialized programs in areas like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Higher Education

Delaware is home to several higher education institutions. The University of Delaware (UD) is the largest and offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. UD is recognized for its programs in engineering, business, and sciences.

Delaware State University (DSU) is another key institution, known for its research and strong agriculture programs. Wilmington University focuses on professional studies and offers flexible learning options, including online courses.

For those interested in technical skills, Delaware Technical Community College provides certification programs and associate degrees in various fields such as healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing. These institutions work to support students’ educational and career goals through a mix of traditional and innovative programs.

Culture

A traditional Native American powwow in Delaware with dancers, drummers, and colorful regalia. Tipis and a lush forest backdrop

Delaware has a rich culture that includes unique state symbols, vibrant arts and literature, and numerous sports and recreational activities.

State Symbols

Delaware’s state symbols reflect its heritage and pride. The Delaware Blue Hen is the state bird, known for its historical significance. The Grey Fox is the state wildlife animal. Weakfish represents the state fish, while the Peach Blossom symbolizes the state flower. Sweet Goldenrod is the state herb, and the American Holly is the state tree. Delaware’s state butterfly is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and Belemnite is the state fossil. These symbols highlight Delaware’s natural beauty and historical background.

Arts and Literature

Delaware boasts a thriving arts scene. Howard Pyle, a famous illustrator and author from Wilmington, is known for works like The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. His legacy continues through the vibrant art community. Delaware is home to numerous art galleries, theaters, and museums that showcase both historical and contemporary art. The Delaware Art Museum offers a variety of exhibitions and educational programs. Literature and the arts play an essential role in Delaware’s educational and community life, promoting creativity and history.

Sports and Recreation

Sports and outdoor activities are popular in Delaware. The state has many parks and beaches, perfect for recreation. Sandy beaches like those in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach are favorite spots for both residents and visitors. Delaware has various sporting events, from local school sports to professional venues. Football, basketball, and baseball are widely followed. Additionally, outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating are common. The state’s sports culture fosters community spirit and active living.

Infrastructure

A bustling city with bridges, highways, and ports, showcasing Delaware's infrastructure. Tall buildings, busy streets, and a mix of transportation modes

Delaware’s infrastructure includes a variety of systems and services that help people live and work. These include transportation networks, healthcare facilities, and energy sources.

Transportation

Delaware has a well-developed transportation network. Major highways like I-95 connect the state with nearby areas, making travel easy. The Delaware Memorial Bridge links Delaware to New Jersey, facilitating interstate travel and commerce.

Public transportation options include buses operated by DART (Delaware Transit Corporation), providing extensive routes within cities and towns. Additionally, train services like Amtrak and SEPTA offer connections to major cities, including Philadelphia and New York.

For those who prefer flying, Wilmington-New Castle Airport offers convenient domestic flights. There’s also Dover International Speedway, which hosts numerous racing events, attracting visitors who contribute to the local economy.

Healthcare

Delaware has several healthcare facilities that cater to the needs of its residents. Major hospitals include ChristianaCare, Bayhealth, and Nemours Children’s Health. These hospitals provide a wide range of services from emergency care to specialized treatments.

ChristianaCare in Newark is renowned for its cardiac care and trauma center. Bayhealth, with locations in Dover and Milford, offers comprehensive care, including birthing centers and cancer treatment. Nemours focuses on pediatric care, ensuring children’s health needs are met.

In addition to hospitals, there are numerous clinics and urgent care centers across the state. These facilities ensure that residents have access to medical services close to home.

Energy

Delaware’s energy infrastructure includes a mix of traditional and renewable sources. Much of the state’s electricity is generated by natural gas, but there’s a growing emphasis on sustainable energy.

Wind and solar power projects are increasingly common. Offshore wind farms are being developed to harness the wind energy from the Atlantic Ocean. Local initiatives also encourage the use of solar panels for homes and businesses, helping reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Delmarva Power is a major utility provider, delivering electricity and natural gas across the state. Their efforts include modernizing the grid to improve efficiency and reliability, ensuring residents have consistent access to energy.

Stephanie Creek