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Southwest Region of the United States

The five regions of the United States all have many things that make them unique. Although the Southwest is only made up of four states, they are very large. The Southwest region is known for its vast deserts, delicious food, the Grand Canyon, and rich culture. Let’s learn all about what makes the Southwest so unique, and an amazing place to visit or live!

Student Activities for US Regions Southwest

Essential Questions for The Southwest Region of the United States

  1. Which states are located in the Southwest?
  2. How does its geography and climate affect life in the Southwest?
  3. What is the culture of the Southwest?
  4. Where are some interesting places to visit in the Southwest?
  5. What are the natural resources and products of the Southwest?

Southwest Region of the United States


The landforms in the Southwest are spectacular. A large part of the Southwest land is desert. The Sonoran Desert, which has large, sandy plains and bare mountains, covers a lot of Arizona and New Mexico. The Chihuahuan Desert, which is the largest desert in North America, is located mostly in Mexico, but extends into parts of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. The Central Plains area of the region has fertile soil, making it home to many ranches and farms. Perhaps the Southwest is most commonly known for its plateaus and vast canyons. The largest and most famous of these canyons is the Grand Canyon, which is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and one mile deep in some parts! The Colorado River travels through the Southwest and ends in the Gulf of California. The river is over 1,400 miles long, and often flooded years ago, so the Hoover Dam was built to control the water flow. Another large river in the Southwest is the Rio Grande. The river is over 1,800 miles long and forms part of the border between the US and Mexico.


The climate of the Southwest is hot and dry, with very little rain. It is considered a mild climate because it has very little change in the weather; many parts of the Southwest have more than 300 days of clear skies and sunshine a year! There are some parts of Texas and Oklahoma that get enough rainfall to grow crops, but water must be used sparingly and carefully. Because there is so little rainfall, forests cannot grow and much of the land in the Southwest is bare.

Natural Resources

A natural resource is something that occurs in nature and is used to make products that contribute to a region’s economy. The desert has many minerals such gold, copper, iron, and silver. The Southwest is also rich in fuels such as coal, uranium, and natural gas. The most prevalent and valuable natural resource from the Southwest is oil. There are also many ranches in the Southwest, making it the leading region for raising beef cattle and sheep.


The Southwest has a history that has contributed to its culture. In the mid 1800s, Texas split from Mexico to become a part of the United States, causing a war over the land. One of the most famous battles during this time was at the Alamo, which is now known as a symbol of Texas’ independence. The United States won this war and Mexico had to give up the land, but there is still a strong Spanish and Mexican culture in the Southwest. Many people in the Southwest speak Spanish and many festivals and foods come from Spain or Mexico. There are more Native Americans in the Southwest than anywhere else in the country, and many live on reservations and follow Native American traditions and ways of life. The food in the Southwest is a big part of its culture. Many Southwest foods are made with tortillas such as nachos, tacos, and quesadillas. Many foods in this region are spicy, as chili peppers are grown in the area and used in many foods. Chili is a popular dish in the Southwest, and there are even contests around the region to choose who makes it best! Some other foods from the Southwest include tamales, flan, and sopapillas, which are deep fried donuts.

Places to Visit

The Southwest is the home of one of the world’s natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is 217 miles long, and at some points 18 minutes wide and a mile deep. It is so deep in places that the top and the bottom can have different weather! The Carlsbad Cavern National Park is also located in the Southwest. This park was established in 1930 as a tourist destination. It has 83 caves, and is the home of over a million bats! Another popular landmark in the Southwest is the Johnson Space Center. The JSC is where all of NASA’s astronauts live and train, and where all of the human spaceflight missions are planned.

States and capitals of the Southwest



OklahomaOklahoma City
New MexicoSanta Fe

Our country is filled with diverse culture, land, attractions, and so much more. The regions of our country are all different in so many ways, and it is important for students to understand how and why. While studying the Southwest region, students will show what they have learned through posters, spider maps, and other creative graphic organizers. The combined use of illustrations and words allows students with different learning styles to showcase their work in unique ways. Teachers may use the provided templates, or encourage students to start from scratch, allowing for more of a challenge and differentiated approach. Teachers may also assign an extension activity where the students write a report or create a powerpoint of all their storyboards to share.

How to Teach Southwest Economy and Resources in a Project-Based Learning Format


Define the Learning Objectives

Begin by clearly defining the learning objectives for the project. What do you want students to understand about the Southwest economy and resources? Ensure that the objectives align with relevant curriculum standards.


Select a Real-World Scenario

Choose a real-world scenario or problem related to the Southwest economy and resources that students can investigate. For example, you could focus on water resource management in the region, the impact of tourism on the local economy, or the challenges and opportunities in the energy sector.


Provide Background Information

Offer students foundational knowledge about the Southwest's economic and resource-related context. This can include presentations, readings, videos, or guest speakers to provide the necessary background information.


Guide Project Development

Break the project into manageable steps and guide students through the project development process. This might involve the following sub-steps: a. Brainstorming: Encourage students to brainstorm ideas and research questions related to the chosen scenario. b. Research: Instruct students to conduct in-depth research using credible sources to gather data and information about the scenario. c. Data Analysis: Teach students how to analyze the data they've collected and make connections to the Southwest's economy and resources. d. Solution or Proposal: Have students propose solutions, recommendations, or strategies based on their research findings.


Project Presentation

Have students present their project findings and solutions to the class or a wider audience. This could include presentations, reports, posters, or multimedia presentations.


Reflection and Evaluation

Encourage students to reflect on the project, what they've learned, and the real-world relevance of their findings. Evaluate the projects based on the learning objectives and the depth of their analysis.


Additional Considerations

Provide ongoing support and guidance throughout the project, addressing questions and challenges as they arise. Incorporate peer evaluations to promote accountability and teamwork within the project groups. Encourage students to think critically and creatively as they work on their solutions and consider the ethical and environmental implications of their proposals.

Frequently Asked Questions about US Regions Southwest

What states are considered part of the Southwest region in the United States?

The Southwest region of the United States typically includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. In some contexts, parts of California and Colorado are also considered part of the Southwest.

How has the environment and conservation efforts affected the Southwest, particularly in relation to its national parks and natural wonders?

The Southwest region has seen significant environmental impacts due to factors like climate change, urbanization, and tourism. Conservation efforts have become crucial in preserving the region's national parks and natural wonders. These initiatives aim to protect biodiversity, manage water resources, reduce pollution, and ensure the sustainability of these iconic landscapes for future generations.

What types of information should be included in worksheets for teaching about the Southwest region?

Worksheets for teaching about the Southwest region should include information related to its geography, climate, culture, history, and notable points of interest. Activities may cover topics such as mapping the region, exploring cultural traditions, examining historical events, and analyzing the environmental challenges faced by the Southwest.

What are some creative and interdisciplinary ways to integrate storytelling and worksheets into the teaching of the Southwest region, such as through art, music, or literature?

Incorporating art, music, and literature into the teaching of the Southwest can be engaging. For example, students can create art projects inspired by Southwest landscapes, compose music with indigenous instruments, or read literature from or about the region. Worksheets can include critical analysis of artwork, song lyrics, or literature to deepen the understanding of the region's culture and history, making the learning experience more interdisciplinary and creative.

Image Attributions
  • 2542340 • Jen Healy • License Free To Use / No Attribution Required / See for what is not allowed
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