Archipelago Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

There are many different types of landforms, including island chains called archipelagos. In this lesson, learn about how archipelagos are formed and discover some famous archipelagos.

What is an Archipelago?

If you were flying in a plane and soaring high above an ocean, you might see a bunch of green dots in the water. No, you're not seeing spots! You are looking at an archipelago. This is a type of landform that consists of a group of islands clustered together, and they are often called island chains. Archipelagos are most often found in ocean waters, but they can also be found in rivers and lakes. Let's learn more about archipelagos.

This archipelago, or island chain, is located in Sweden.

How Archipelagos are Formed

So do these islands magically pop up around the world? Not exactly. Most archipelagos are formed due to volcanic activity. This means that on the ocean floors there are volcanoes that erupt. When a volcano erupts, hot melted rock called magma escapes from inside of the Earth. The magma becomes lava as it comes up to the Earth's surface. It cools and builds up over time, forming an island. Did you know that the state of Hawaii is one big archipelago? It formed thanks to years of volcanic activity.

The state of Hawaii is an archipelago formed by volcanic activity.
land form

Not every archipelago is created by hot lava from volcanoes. Some are actually created by ice-cold glaciers. A glacier is a large piece of ice that moves very slowly. When glaciers move, this is called glacial activity. Sometimes glacial activity causes the land in the glacier's way to be carved out. Once the glacier moves away from the carved land, water fills in the carved-out spot, and this creates islands that weren't there before. Many archipelagos that are found in lakes and rivers were created by glacial activity.

Large Archipelagos

It's pretty amazing that an entire state is an archipelago, but would you believe that there is a whole country made of an island chain? That country is Japan, and it is located in the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the largest archipelagos in the world. In fact, there are more than 3,000 islands that make up this country! Japan is an archipelago that was formed by volcanic activity.

Japan is an entire country created by an archipelago.

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