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South America Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Zimmerman

Michelle has taught 4th and 5th grade and has a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

Picture a rainforest in your mind with its high trees, chirping birds, and chattering monkeys. You could be picturing the Amazon Rainforest in South America! This is just one of many beautiful places to visit on this continent. This lesson will tell you many of the interesting facts about South America.

Geography

South America
South America map

South America is in the Western Hemisphere. To the east of the continent is the Atlantic Ocean, and to the west is the Pacific Ocean. Almost at the southern tip of South America, you will find the Strait of Magellan. A strait is a very narrow waterway, and this one is named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed there on his journey around the world in 1520. Another famous landform is the Amazon River. It is about 4,000 miles long, which makes it the longest river in South America and second longest river in the world. The rainforest that surrounds parts of the river is home to thousands of plants and animals. In the western part of South America are the Andes Mountains. This very long mountain range extends the whole length of South America. One of the driest places on earth can be found in Chile: the Atacama Desert. It usually gets less than one quarter inch of rain all year! South America is also home to the tallest waterfall in the world. At Angel Falls in Venezuela, the water drops down over 2,500 feet; that's more than 15 times taller than Niagara Falls.

Angel Falls
Angel Falls

History

Before European explorers, like Christopher Columbus, knew that South America existed, there were many different Native American groups living there. One very powerful group was the Incas. The Incas had a strong military and would defeat neighboring tribes and make them part of their empire. The Incas were able to build amazing things. They had a complex system of roads to connect people in the empire, and they built beautiful temples honoring their gods. They also were able to create an irrigation system, which is when water is taken from a river into smaller channels to water crops for farming. The Incas were very successful until the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. The Spanish brought diseases like smallpox, and they also attacked the Incas to take their gold and silver. A great number of the Incas died after the arrival of the Spanish, and they were no longer able to stay in power.

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