Great Plains Lesson for Kids: Facts & Geography

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  • 0:04 What Are the Great Plains?
  • 0:58 Geography
  • 1:37 History
  • 2:32 Interesting Facts
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kristin Pia Hayman

Kristin taught for over 10 years in the elementary classroom. She holds a B.A. in Journalism as well as a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

The Great Plains are located in the central part of the United States. They may look rather flat and inactive, but the area is actually home to remarkable amounts of life and a very rich history. Come learn about this unique part of American geography.

What Are the Great Plains?

The Great Plains is a term used to describe a big chunk of land in the central United States. This includes part or all of the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Some of the land in central Canada is sometimes considered part of the Great Plains, but many people use the term to describe just the land in the U.S.

What makes the Great Plains so great, you may ask? For starters, the area stretches for more than a half a million square miles! There are rolling grasslands, farms as far as you can see, and some urban areas as well. This region is home to much of America's agriculture, the practice of growing crops and raising livestock. The farms in the Great Plains are the top U.S. producers of wheat, corn, and soybeans, as well as cattle and sheep. This is due to the Plains' rich soil and flat lands, which are ideal for farming.

Geography

The massive and flat grassland of the Great Plains is also called a prairie. Prior to European settlers arriving in the area, the prairies covered more land in the United States than forests and deserts - over a quarter of the continent! There are several major river systems that run through the flat prairies. The most important ones are the Mississippi River and the Missouri River. These rivers are each over 2,300 miles long and have provided many resources, such as water, food, and transport.

The climate of the Great Plains is a harsh one. In winters, temperatures can plunge far below freezing, and in the summers the hot sun is sweltering. Also, tornadoes are very common in the area. Watch out!

History

For thousands of years, the Great Plains area was home to many thriving Native American tribes. These tribes did not live in one place; instead, they followed buffalo across the prairie. They depended on the buffalo to provide them with many essential things, including food to eat, fur for clothing, and bones to make everyday items.

In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase opened the door to white settlement of the area. As part of the Purchase, the US bought a portion of what is now the Great Plains from France. Explorers were sent out and trails were blazed to bring more settlers out West. Sadly, many Native American tribes were forced out of their land to make room for more settlements.

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