Unit 1 The United States and Canada

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Unit 1 The United States and Canada

Chapter 1: Using Geography Skills

Chapter Overview

Geography is the study of the Earth and its people. Physical geography examines physical aspects of the Earth such as land areas, bodies of water, and plant life. Human geography focuses on people and their activities such as religions, languages, and ways of life. In their study of people and places, geographers use five themes: location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and regions. People use the information provided by geographers to plan, make decisions, and manage resources.

Flocabulary Five Themes of Geography

BrainPOP Geography Themes

Flocabulary Human Environment Interaction

Flocabulary What is a Region?

Flocabulary Regions

In their study of Earth, geographers use many tools. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are computer systems that gather, store, and analyze geographic information and then display it on a screen. They can also make maps. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a group of satellites that use radio signals to determine the exact location of places on Earth. Satellite images of the Earth taken from space can help geographers determine how the Earth is changing.

Careers in Geography

Flocabulary Map Skills

BrainPOP Map Skills

Flocabulary Longitude and Latitude

BrainPOP Latitude and Longitude

Latitude & Longitude Practice

Latitude & Longitude United States Practice

Latitude & Longitude the World Practice

Latitude & Longitude Timed Quiz

The Earth is one of eight planets in the solar system; it rotates on its axis every 24 hours and takes a year to orbit the sun. The tilt of the Earth in relation to the sun leads to changing seasons. Different hemispheres experience different temperatures and seasons because of their location in relation to the sun. The beginning of summer in one is the beginning of winter in the other. Similarly, the sun also affects Earth’s temperatures. The sun’s rays hit the low-latitude areas near the Equator directly, creating very warm temperatures. In the high latitudes of the North and South Poles, the sun’s rays are indirect, so temperatures are always cold. Geographers use this knowledge of Earth’s location in the solar system to understand how that location affects life on the planet.

The Sun and Earth’s Seasons

BrainPOP Leap Year

Crash Course Kids The Sun and Its Influence on Earth

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 2: Earth’s Physical Geography

Chapter Overview

Earth has a variety of landforms, and many of which can be found both on the continents and on the ocean floors. Forces from within and the actions of wind, water, and ice have shaped Earth’s surface. Inside the earth are four layers: the inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust. Scientists theorize that volcanoes, earthquakes, and continental drift are caused by the movement of tectonic plates that float on top of the liquid rock in the mantle. The forces of weathering and erosion also continually change the Earth’s surface.

About 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water, but only 3 percent of the water is usable freshwater. However, much of the freshwater is frozen in ice. The total amount of water on Earth does not change. The water cycle moves water from the oceans to the air through the process of evaporation. During this process, water changes from a liquid to a gas. When water vapor reaches cool air temperatures, condensation occurs: tiny droplets of water are suspended in clouds. Water returns to the ground, and finally back to the oceans, through precipitation such as rain or snow.

Geographers call the usual patterns of weather in a region its climate. Water, sun, and wind all influence Earth’s climate. Landforms also influence climate: the distance between landforms as well as their nearness to water can affect the temperatures and rainfall in a region. The effects of wind, water, latitude, and landforms combine to create what geographers identify as different climate zones on the Earth. Each zone shares common characteristics and has particular kinds of vegetation. The five major climate zones are tropical, mid-latitude, high latitude, dry, and highland.

Human actions can affect climate and the environment. A delicate balance exists in the Earth’s atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. People burn coal or gas or release chemicals into the air, which can cause pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere. The lithosphere, or the Earth’s crust, is also affected by human actions. Logging, mining, and farming can have negative effects on the land. Pollution of the hydrosphere, or surface water and groundwater, also poses a threat to humans, other animals, and plants. Changes in a region’s climate can lead to decreasing populations of plants and animals in some parts of the world.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 3: Earth’s Human and Cultural Geography

Chapter Overview

The world’s population has increased rapidly in the past two centuries. One reason for this growth is that the death rate has decreased as a result of better living conditions and health care. Another reason is that some parts of the world have high birthrates. Such growth creates many new challenges. More food is needed, and some countries face shortages of water and housing. These countries are usually those that are more densely populated than other countries. Sometimes people emigrate from their homes to find better living conditions. Often these people move to cities: now, nearly half the world’s population lives in cities.

One result of the movement of people is that their cultures move with them. Culture is the way of life of a group of people who share similar beliefs and customs. Language, religion, art, and daily life are all part of culture. One cause of cultural change is technology that brings new ways of life. Another cause of cultural change is cultural diffusion—the process of spreading ideas, customs, or languages from one culture to another. Because of the increasing movement of people, as well as technology such as the Internet, we now live in a global culture.

Like people, resources are not distributed evenly around the world, and countries develop economic systems that help them use and manage their resources by deciding what goods to produce and how to produce them. Developed countries have generally strong economies with a mix of agriculture, service, and industry. Developing countries have little industry and rely on agriculture rather than technology and manufacturing.

Trade is important for both developed and developing countries. Because resources are not evenly distributed around the world, countries trade these resources and products made from them with other countries. In recent years, many countries have agreed to eliminate barriers to trade. Growing trade among countries has made the world’s people more interdependent.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 4: Physical Geography of the United States and Canada

Chapter Overview

The United States and Canada cover most of the land area of North America and share many of the same physical features, resources, and climates. Canada’s vast size makes it the second-largest country in the world after Russia; the United States is third-largest. The countries share the Great Lakes—the world’s largest group of freshwater lakes—and cooperated to build the St. Lawrence Seaway to link these lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The project benefited both countries’ trade and transportation of goods.

Projects like these link the economies of the United States and Canada. Both are strong industrialized economies. Both also have major energy resources such as oil and natural gas reserves. Because the United States uses more of these resources than it produces, however, it buys some of these resources from Canada. Both countries have other natural resources such as rich soil, timber, and fish. The countries work together to address environmental issues caused by economic growth.

The entire region rises in elevation from east to west. Most people live in the moderate middle latitude climates of each country, although the region as a whole has a great variety of climate zones. Few people live in the frozen tundra of Alaska and northern Canada, while the tropical climates of southern Florida and Hawaii attract tourists throughout the year. Natural hazards affect the region: hurricanes bring heavy winds to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, while earthquakes are threats to the West and blizzards hit parts of both countries.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 5: History and Cultures of the United States and Canada

Chapter Overview

Native Americans are North America’s earliest inhabitants. In the late 1400s, Europeans explored the world and set up colonies in the Americas. France and Great Britain established colonies in North America, until the British defeated the French and took over its colonies. However, colonists in the British colonies that would become the United States declared independence in 1776 and established a separate country in 1783, after several years of fighting. For the next two centuries, the United States grew both physically, as the result of annexations and treaties, and economically. By the 1900s, the United States was a major industrial power.

Like the United States, Canada eventually won independence from British rule. A region of Canada called New France, located in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River area, was under French rule until the 1760s, when Great Britain won control of it. In 1867, Canada became one dominion when most of the separate colonies joined together. At the country’s founding, the new government promised to protect the French language and culture, especially in Quebec, though some French speakers still want to secede from the rest of the country.

Both countries formed and maintained representative democracies as their government. The United States has a strong central government that still gives some control and responsibilities to the states. Canada has a parliamentary democracy, in which voters elect representatives to a lawmaking body called Parliament. The cultures of both countries have been shaped by immigrants from around the world. Foods and pastimes in Canada reflect the regional life; in the United States, most people live in urban and suburban areas. Nature and natural themes have been a part of the art and literature of both nations, and people in both countries enjoy leisure activities such as watching and playing sports. Unlike the United States, however, Canadians lack a strong sense of national identity, perhaps because of the vast physical distances between some of its regions and cities.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 6: The United States and Canada Today

Chapter Overview

The United States and Canada have free market economies, and each country contains different economic regions that produce goods and services. The U.S. Northeast has large urban areas and is a center of business and trade; the South’s rich soil meant that agriculture has always been important to its economy. Like the South, the Midwest relied historically on agriculture, and later it shifted into a focus on manufacturing; over time, however, many of these factories closed down. The Interior West’s scenery makes it a draw for tourists, and fertile areas of the Pacific Coast focuses on fruits and vegetables, fish, and timber.

In Canada, the fishing industry was important to the Atlantic Provinces, although in recent years overfishing has become a major concern. Finance and business are important to the large cities in the Central and Eastern regions, while ranching and farming, especially wheat, are keys to the economy of the West. The Northern one-third of Canada has many mineral resources, including gold and diamonds.

The two countries are important trading partners and goods and services flow freely between them. While the United States has an international trade deficit, Canada enjoys a trade surplus. The countries cooperated, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in increasing security along their common border. They have also cooperated to address environmental issues faced by the region, including acid rain and the lowering water levels of the Great Lakes. Both countries have made progress in cleaning up their air and water. Still, pollution remains a problem.