The following activity will help you become familiar with some amazing landforms.  You may have had an opportunity to visit them and if not you might not even be aware that they exist.  As you go throughout this course, you should start understanding the concepts behind the formation of these landforms.

SUSD5 Student version of this assignment.

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Click on the link below to see some of the images and geologic information about how cool some of these landforms are.

Awesome Landforms of North and South America

There are many, many more landforms in North and South America and thousands more across the globe. Some of the general landforms that we will discuss in this chapter are mountains, plains, and plateaus.

Mountains, Tetons

Plains with horses


Plains are large fairly flat areas.  You can find them near oceans and we call these coastal plains.  Many times coastal plains are referred to as lowlands.   Plains contain low rolling hills, swamps, and marshes.  Marshes are grassy wetlands, that are usually flooded with water.  Lowlands usually have an elevation of zero or below.  Elevation is the distance above or below sea level.  There are two major coastal plains in the US, the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Coastal Plains

Flooded Coastal Plain in Guyana

Other types of plains found in the center of land masses are called interior plains. These too, contain low rolling hills and are many times filled with tall grasses and shrubs.  In the USA we have an interior plain called The Great Plains.  The Great Plains make up the central US.  The Great Lakes, Central Lowland, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers are all part of the Great Plains.  The great plains once consisted of shallow seas that have been filled in with sediment from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains.

Great Plains

Great Plains in Montana

Plateaus are another type of landform.  These are large relatively flat lands that have been raised above the surrounding area.  Plateaus are made of mostly horizontal rock layers.  There are three awesome plateaus in the US: The Colorado Plateau, The Ozark Plateau, and the Appalachian Plateau.

Colorado Plateau

Colorado Plateau: Mogollon Rim is part of edge

Mountains are landforms that rise high above the ocean and make up some of the most prettiest places on Earth.  The highest peak in the US is Mt. McKinley, which is found in Alaska.  Mt. Everest found in the Himalayan Mountains is the tallest mountain in the world and rises 8,800 meters above sea level.  

Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest

There are four types of mountains: Folded, Upwarped, Fault-Block, and Volcanic.

Folded mountains occur when rock layers are squeezed and begin to buckle and fold.  The Appalachian Mountains are great examples of folded mountains.  They folded about 300 to 250 million years ago.  These are also the oldest mountains found in the USA.  Once upon a time the Appalachian Mountains were much higher than the Rocky Mountains, but the Appalachians are no longer being built, weathering and erosion are slowly breaking the mountains down.  They are now only 2000 or so meters high.  The tops of the folds are called anticlines and the bottom of the folds are called synclines.

Folded Mountains

Upwarped mountains are created when the crust is pushed up by forces within the Earth.  Over time sedimentary rock erodes leaving behind the igneous and metamorphic rock.  These igneous and metamorphic rocks weather at different rates causing sharp peaks and ridges.  Adirondack Mountains in New York are good examples of upwarped mountains.

Adirondack Mountains

Adirondack Mountains in NY

Fault-Block Mountains are made from huge tilted blocks of rock that are separated from the surrounding rock by faults.  On large block of rock tilts up and the other block slides down.  A fault is nothing more than a large crack in rock where you can see some movement on either side of the rocks crack.  Excellent examples of fault-block mountains are the Grand Tetons and the Sierra Nevadas.

Grand Teton Mountains

Grand Tetons in Wyoming

Volcanic mountains form when molten material reaches the surface through weak areas in the crust.  As the volcano erupts, material piles up, layer after layer until a cone is visible.  Mt. St. Helens and Arenal in Costa Rica are examples of volcanic mountains.  Volcanic mountains can appear, grown and shrink in a relatively small amount of time compared to other mountains.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

The assignment below is going to have you search for other examples of these types of landforms.  

  1. One person in each group is going to create a Google Doc and title it "Landforms."  Then he/she will share it out with the rest of the group and the teacher.
  2. Create the following table.
    • Landform Type 2 Examples and Location Origin/Formation 1 image
      Coastal Plain      
      Interior Plain      
      Folded Mountain      
      Upwarped Mountain      
      Fault-block Mountain      
      Volcanic Mountain      
  3.   In the Examples and Location column, write the name of the landform and in which country it is found.  If you use a landform in the USA, make sure you name the state as well.
  4. In the Origin/Formation column, give a little bit of the geologic history of the area.
  5. In the Image column, you just need to find one image that is a good representation of the landform.