1. Discuss the role of rivers as major transportation routes and their influence on where people first settled.
Explain to students that rivers were among the first highways of the Americas. Many large cities grew alongside rivers and other waterways, because rivers provided convenient transportation before railroads and roads were built. Display for students the NG Education interactive map. Use the zoom bar and other navigation to explore more major cities and rivers in both North America and South America. Refer to the map to help inform the class discussion.
2. Have students choose a major river in the Americas to research and write about.
Distribute a copy of the worksheet Rivers in the Americas to each student. Have students select a major river to research. Allow students time on the Internet or in the school library to research their river, using the worksheet as a guide. Then have each student write a story from the point of view of the river. The story should be about the river’s journey from its source to where it empties into the sea, and should include factual information about the body of water.
3. Have students identify their rivers on a large map of the Americas.
Have students use yarn or markers to outline the river they selected on one of the large maps of the Americas from the Americas MapMaker Kit. Students should indicate the river’s source, its length, and where it empties into the sea. Students may also attach pictures or index cards with points of interest along the river.
4. Have students present their stories to the class.
Invite volunteers to read aloud the stories they wrote. Encourage the class to ask presenters questions about the rivers’ journeys.
- explain the historical importance of rivers as major transportation routes
- describe the relationship between rivers and where people decided to settle, and reasons for it
- Hands-on learning
National Standards, Principles, and Practices
National Geography Standards
What You’ll Need
Materials You Provide
- Index cards
- Transparent tape
The resources are also available at the top of the page.
- Internet Access: Required
- Tech Setup: 1 computer per learner
- Computer lab
- Large-group instruction
Before starting this activity, assemble the Americas Mega Map.
A river is a large natural stream of flowing water. Rivers are found on every continent and on nearly every kind of land. Rivers were among the first highways of the Americas. Many large cities grew up alongside rivers and other waterways, which provided convenient transportation before railroads and roads were built.
Recommended Prior Activities
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry river Noun
large stream of flowing fresh water.
Encyclopedic Entry: river
For Further Exploration