Teacher Guide to North America
North America is the northernmost region of the land mass that is also called The Americas or The New World. It connects with South America only at the Isthmus of Panama.
The coastline of North America is irregular and long. The largest body of water that indents the continent is the Gulf of Mexico, followed in size by Hudson Bay.
There are many islands off the coasts of the North American continent, including the Aleutian Islands, The Greater and Lesser Antilles, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas. Bermuda is often thought to be a part of North America, but it is actually an oceanic island, close to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.
Most of North America is located on the North American Plate, which is a tectonic plate that runs under the ground. Parts of Mexico and California are on the Pacific Plate, and the area where these two plates meet is a well-known fault, the San Andreas. There is another tectonic plate near the continent as well, the Caribbean Plate, on which you will find the West Indies. These plates grind against each other, which causes occasional dramatic earthquakes.
North America includes several basic regions as far as geography is concerned. The Great Plains, which stretch from the Canadian Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico; the Rocky Mountains and the rest of the mountainous west; the Great Basin, which includes Alaska and California; and the Canadian shield, which encompasses states and provinces in the northeast.
If someone asked you to name the city with the largest population in North America, you might well guess New York City. That's close, since New York is the second largest city. The most populous city on the continent is Mexico City, Mexico.
The languages spoken most often in North America are English, French and Spanish. In Latin America, the area south of the continental United States, the romantic languages are spoken, including languages that were derived from Portuguese, Spanish and Latin.
French as a language played a large part in the development of Canada, in the northern part of North America. They also speak French, along with Creole, in Haiti. Many of the Spanish and French speaking people also speak English, since that is the main language of trade in the region.
The United States and Canada are the most wealthy and developed countries of North America, and Mexico is third. The continent has many diverse ethnic and racial groups represented, with the two main groups being whites and African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans.
North America and the area under what is now the United States has taught geologists many things about various time periods. More dinosaur remains have been discovered in the United States than in any other modern country. Many of these finds are in the western area of the United States.
The original inhabitants of North America were the Native Americans and other groups that populated the southern portion of the continent. Most researchers are of the belief that the Inuits from the Arctic came into lower North America later than other groups native to the area.
The southern area's cultural groups domesticated many crops now grown around the world, including squash and tomatoes. And of more importance was their domestication of maize, now known as corn, which is now a foodstuff in many lands.
The Mayan civilization is probably the most well-known ancient civilization in North America. They built temples and pyramids, and developed a writing system, and a calendar.
The Native American population decreased in North America as settlers advanced westward. Some Native Americans were killed by diseases brought by the Europeans, which they had no resistance to. Others were pushed from their lands by people wishing to settle there, to farm or to build villages and towns.