The world is a lot bigger than your neighborhood, town, state, or even your country. Today, the world is made up of seven continents, although scientists think this wasn't always the case. Each continent is unique both in climate and the people and creatures that live there.
General Information About the Continents
The seven main areas of land on the earth are called continents. Some of the continents are surrounded completely by water, and others are joined by land. Scientists believe that all the continents were once a single landmass called Pangaea, which broke up and drifted apart.
The names of the continents are Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and Africa. One way to remember their names is by using a mnemonic device. The first letter of each word in the following phrase represents a continent name that begins with that letter. Memorize the phrase, and it will help you memorize the seven continents.
"Eating apples near Susan's aunt's all afternoon"
- Eating (Europe)
- Apples (Asia)
- Near (North America)
- Susan's (South America)
- Aunt's (Australia)
- All (Antarctica)
- Afternoon (Africa)
Facts About Asia
Location and Landscape
- Asia is located in the eastern and northern hemispheres or sections of earth.
- It is the largest continent.
- It features the world's tallest mountain and the world's deepest lake.
- The weather varies widely across this continent, which has shorelines, mountains and flatlands.
- You'll find a range of temperatures from very cold temperatures in places like Russia to temperatures that are warmer in places like Singapore.
- Asia has everything from deserts to subarctic landscapes.
- Asia has the highest human population of any of the continents.
- Animals that are commonly found on the Asian continent include camels, elephants, hamsters, cobras, and karakul (sheep).
- There are cacti in the deserts of Asia, and there are low grasses in the lowlands.
- Other plants include ferns, towering trees in the rain forests, and bamboo in the temperate mixed forests.
- Some of the most common languages spoken in Asia include Hindi, Mandarin, Arabic, and Russian.
- Based on population, China is the largest country in Asia. The Maldives is the smallest country of this continent.
- Asia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, Europe and Africa to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Indian Ocean and Australia to the south.
Facts About Africa
Location and Landscape
- Africa is the world's second largest continent and has 54 different countries.
- It features the Nile, the world's longest river.
- Africa is also home to the Sahara, the world's largest desert.
- The majority of Africa has a tropical atmosphere, except for the Great Rift Valley mountains.
- The continent contains deserts, savannas, and jungles.
- Aardvarks are native to Africa. They eat ants.
- The African Gray parrot is a bird that can be taught to talk through mimicry.
- African wild dogs are native to this continent.
- Aloe is a common plant which is sometimes used to soothe burnt skin.
- Arabica coffee plants are native to Ethiopia, and they produce beans which are roasted and brewed to make the popular beverage.
- Madagascar orchids are flowering plants which have a 12-inch long nectar tunnel that can only be fed from by a certain type of moth with a very long, trunk-like feeding organ.
- Africa is surrounded by water, with the Suez Canal and Red Sea to the northeast and the Mediterranean due north. The Indian Ocean lies to the east and along the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean is to the west.
- The five major languages spoken in Africa are Afroasiatic, Austronesian, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, and Khoe-san.
- Lake Victoria is in Africa and is the largest lake on the continent and the second largest freshwater lake on the globe.
Facts About Europe
Location and Landscape
- Europe comes in number six among the continents in size. It has about 47 countries, as well as some territories and islands.
- While it is part of the landmass known as Eurasia, it is traditionally considered its own continent since it is separated by Russia's Ural Mountains.
- The geology is varied, with everything from plains to rolling hills to the Scottish Highlands.
- The mountainous areas are colder with snow and precipitation.
- The central and western regions have a mild, maritime climate.
- The southern regions in the Mediterranean are warmer.
- The cony, a rabbit-like mammal, is found in Europe.
- Crickets are a type of insect commonly found in Europe, as well as many other parts of the world.
- Dachshunds are a breed of dog that originated in the European country of Germany.
- Ermines are a type of weasel that live in the colder European regions.
- Lavender is a plant with exceptionally fragrant blossoms.
- Stinging nettle is a plant that has a number of medicinal uses.
- Gorse is a small, spiny European shrub that has yellow flowers.
- Grape vines produce grapes for eating, as well as for making jelly, wine, and other edible products. France produces an exceptionally fine grape crop.
- Europe is bordered by the Ural Mountains and water all around, including the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Even though it is one of the smaller continents, it has the second largest population of all the continents.
Facts About North America
Location and Landscape
- North America is the third largest continent in size.
- It is made up of 23 different countries and dozens of territories. It includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Surprisingly, the island of Greenland is also part of North America.
- It is made up of mountains, deserts, jungles, coastal regions, and forests.
- The climate of North America is widely varied with tropical temperatures in the south eastern islands to the cooler weather of Canada.
- The central part of the continent experiences all four seasons, while southerly areas experience fewer extremes.
- Alligators are a species of reptile that live predominantly in the southern regions of the continent.
- American buffalo is a species of bison that once roamed the grasslands of Canada, the United States, and parts of Mexico. They almost became extinct, but they've made a comeback in national parks.
- Crows are relatively large black birds found throughout most of the continent.
- The American Paint Horse is a breed that developed from escaped horses of Spanish decent. Paints roamed the Great Plains in wild herds, much like the buffalo. The breed is now considered domesticated.
- The hummingbird trumpet is a plant found in the southwestern United States. Its bright red, trumpet-shaped blossoms attract hummingbirds that feed on nectar from the flowers.
- Sycamore trees are one of the largest hardwood trees, and they can grow to be 100-feet tall or more.
- Wild lupines are native North American plants that provide food for Karner Blue Butterflies.
- The continent is located in the northern and western hemispheres. The Arctic is located north of North America, while the Atlantic Ocean is located to the east, the Pacific Ocean is located to the west, and South America is located to the south.
- North America has every type of climate, and it is the only continent that experience all the climates across various regions.
- The tallest point in North America is Mount McKinley in Alaska, and the lowest point is Death Valley in California.
Facts About South America
- South America is the world's fourth largest continent in area. It has 12 different countries and three territories.
- It is located mostly in the southern hemisphere, but part of it also stretches into the western hemisphere.
- The continent's landscape includes mountains, lowlands, and highlands.
- Most of South America is wet and hot.
- Four major regions/climates are found in South America: tropical, arid, temperate, and cold.
- The Anaconda, the world's largest snake, is native to South America.
- Alpacas are related to llamas and camels, and they are grown primarily for their fleece.
- Blue Morpho butterfly are found primarily in South America.
- The capybara is the largest rodent in the world, and its closest relative is the guinea pig.
- The four o'clock flower is a colorful native that originates from Peru.
- The goldfish plant is native to Brazil, and it produces small orange flowers that are shaped like goldfish and filled with nectar.
- Cow's Udder is a native ornamental plant that produces poisonous, orange-colored fruit.
Facts About Australia
Location and Landscape
- Australia is the smallest of all the continents.
- It's located in an area known as Oceania in the southern hemisphere.
- It is a single landmass with a few outlying islands.
- Two thirds of the continent is flat desert.
- The atmosphere is warm and humid.
- The bilby is a native marsupial that looks similar to a rabbit.
- The dingo is a free-ranging dog that mainly roams Australia.
- The koala is a native marsupial that mainly lives in trees.
- The kangaroo is a large marsupial that has powerful legs, large feet, and a large tail that helps the animal maintain its balance.
- The kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand.
- Gum trees are smooth-barked relatives of the eucalyptus.
- The golden wattle is Australia's national tree.
- Spinifex is a type of grass native to the continent.
- Banksia is a type of flower only found in Australia.
- Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world.
- The continent is bordered by the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Facts About Antarctica
Location and Landscape
- Antarctica is the fifth largest continent, and it's located in the extreme southern hemisphere at the pole.
- It's bordered by the Southern Ocean.
- The landscape is almost entirely covered by ice.
- The continent experiences 24 hours of daylight during the summer.
- The emperor penguin is the largest species of penguin, and it's native to Antarctica.
- Humpback whales feed in the cold waters of this continent.
- The South Georgia pipit is the only songbird in Antarctica.
- Weddell seals spend a lot of time under the ice, and they have the southernmost range of all seal species.
- Moss and lichen have adapted to the low temperatures of Antarctica.
- Antarctic hair grass and Antarctic Pearlwort are the only flowering plants found on the continent.
- Antarctica was not considered a continent until 1840. Before that, it was thought to be a group of islands isolated from the rest of the world because of the extreme temperatures.
- Antarctica is also known as the "frozen continent" because the land is permanently frozen and surrounds the South Pole. It contains about 90 percent of all the ice in the world.
- The continent only experiences two seasons, which are summer and winter. It's always light during the summer when the continent is tilted toward the sun, and it's always dark during the winter when it's tilted away from the sun.
Unit Study for Homeschool
One of the best ways to learn about the continents is to do a homeschool unit study on this topic. In addition to the facts above, you can use Adobe to download the two printables on this page and use them as you work on the unit.
Follow these steps to get the most out of your unit study.
- Purchase a medium-sized, spiral bound drawing pad to hold the papers and information gathered. A drawing pad works well because students can add maps of their own directly to the blank pages. They can also glue other items to the pages.
- Print the maps on this page and glue them into the drawing pad. The labeled printable works well as a cover.
- Begin with one continent, and have students add information to the drawing pad as they discover new details about that continent. You may even want to find pictures of animals and plants on the Internet and either have students draw them or print and paste them into the notebook.
- Use the facts above as a starting point, and then dig a bit deeper into the areas that are of the most interest to students, such as the animals that live on the continent or the weather. Older children who have studied the continents deeper may also enjoy taking fun map quizzes on Africa, Europe, and other continents.
The Importance of Studying Continents
Studying the continents helps children learn that there is a much bigger world around them. It offers them a simple understanding of geography, where different countries are located, and how continents and countries are similar or different from the one they live in. In a world that has grown increasingly global, it will be important for them to have a basic understanding of the continents as they grow up and enter careers of their own.