What is the Canadian Shield? - Definition, Location & Formation

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Dynamic Earth: Internal & External Forces that Shape Earth's Surface

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 What Is the Canadian Shield?
  • 1:18 Location
  • 1:53 Composition
  • 3:06 Formation
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

Half of Canada is covered by an enormous plate of very old stone. In this lesson, we'll discuss the Canadian shield - what it is, where it's found, and how it was formed.

What Is the Canadian Shield?

What holds up the continents? The answer is a craton, a stable piece of the earth's crust that floats around on a sea of magma (or liquid rock) and supports continents, islands, and sea beds.

The North American craton is made of hard rock and rests under most of North America. It extends from Mexico to Greenland, holding up much of Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

The Canadian shield is the exposed part of the North American craton, one section of the earth's floating crust. Shaped somewhat like a horseshoe, or like the shields that ancient warriors used to carry into battle, the Canadian shield occupies roughly half of Canada. It is made up of what geologists consider to be some of the oldest rocks to be found on Earth, some dating almost as far back as the original formation of our planet.

The Canadian shield occupies the part of the North American craton that's on the eastern side of Canada. Unlike the rest of the craton, the Shield is nearly bare, with only a thin blanket of earth covering its surface. This makes the area much less useful for some activities, such as farming and manufacturing, and more useful for other activities, such as mining, logging, and hydroelectric power generation.



As the picture shows and name implies, the Canadian shield is mostly in Canada. From the Labrador coast on the east, the shield covers most of Quebec and extends into Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Arctic Archipelago. In the United States, the same shield touches Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin. The Canadian Shield is divided into the Bear, Churchill, Grenville, Nain, Slave, Southern, and Superior provinces (different geological regions), each of which has its own special characteristics and minerals.


The earth's crust is made up of thin plates of hardened rock that float around on the liquid rock mantle underneath. The highest points on these floating pieces become continents and islands, while the lowest points remain covered with oceans and other bodies of water. They are kind of like a huge spherical jigsaw puzzle floating on a bubble of liquid. These pieces are enormous, so when they bump together, mountain ranges form, edges fuse, land surfaces change, and things get rearranged.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account