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!
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.
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.
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.
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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.