Western Hemisphere Lesson for Kids: Geography & Facts

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Have you ever heard someone talk about the 'New World?' In this lesson, you'll find out what the phrase 'New World' means and what it has to do with the division of the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

The 'New' World

About 500 years ago, almost all the people in the world lived in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Slowly, they started exploring other parts of the world and found that there were lands and people they had never seen before!

These new lands included what we now call the continents of North and South America. Because they were newly discovered by the explorers, they're called the 'New World,' and Africa, Europe, and Asia are often called the 'Old World.'

Today, we divide the world into hemispheres. The word 'hemisphere' means 'half of a sphere,' or in other words, half of the Earth. When we draw an imaginary line called the Equator at the center of the Earth, it divides our planet into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

When we divide the Earth in the other direction, drawing an imaginary line that goes around the Earth through the North and South Poles, we divide the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The Western Hemisphere contains most of the Earth that was once called the 'New World.'

The Prime Meridian

The Prime Meridian is the imaginary line that divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. It's also called 0 degrees longitude. Lines of longitude are a series of imaginary vertical lines on the map that helps you tell where you are on the Earth. They run from the North to the South Pole.

Prime Meridian

All the land and ocean west of the Prime Meridian is included in the Western Hemisphere, while those that are east of the Prime Meridian are in the Eastern Hemisphere. On the opposite side of the Earth, directly across from the Prime Meridian, is an imaginary line at 180 degrees longitude. As you continue westward from the Prime Meridian, through the Western Hemisphere, when you get to the line at 180 degrees longitude, you cross over into the Eastern Hemisphere.

Western Hemisphere Facts

  • The continents of North and South America are entirely in the Western Hemisphere. About half of the continent of Antarctica is also in the Western Hemisphere. The very western-most parts of Europe and Africa fall on the western side of the Prime Meridian, even though they were part of the 'Old World.'
  • The Western Hemisphere has less land than the Eastern Hemisphere. North America and South America contain about 29% of the world's land. Half of Antarctica would add on a little bit more; together, the Western Hemisphere has a little more than 1/3 of all the land in the world.

North and South America are in the Western Hemisphere.

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