Year 3 History and Geography

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Geography of Western Europe

western europe map

Even though Europe is a small continent, there are many different countries. It can be useful to use the compass points (north, south, east and west) to split Europe into different regions. Do you remember learning Northern Europe in Year 2? It includes the British Isles and the countries of Scandinavia. Can you remember what they are?

There are no exact boundaries for Western Europe. Location matters most, but so do language and culture. We shall describe Western Europe as France, Germany, the 'Low Countries' (that is, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy. Since the boundaries of Western Europe are unclear, sometimes the United Kingdom is also considered to be a Western European country.

Unlike much of Northern Europe, which can be very cold and snowy, most of Western Europe has what is called a temperate climate. This means it is not too hot and not too cold, and that it rains enough for lots of different plants to grow. The climate means that much of the land of Western Europe is perfect for growing food and caring for farm animals. This is called 'agriculture'. France is well known for growing lots of different foods.

Western Europe has both flat land and really big, steep mountains, too. The 'Low Countries' are three small countries that are north-east of France: the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. They are 'low' because they have so few hills or mountains. In Western Europe there is also a huge range of mountains called the Alps. The Alps cover a large area. Some of these huge, snowy mountains are in France, but the Alps are also in countries such as Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.

People often live near water because rivers are important to settlements. There are quite a few large, important rivers in Western Europe, and lots of people live near them. Some rivers in Western Europe are so long they flow through many countries. One of these is the Rhine, which flows through six countries! The Rhine has been an important river in European history as far back as the time of the Romans. Because people have used the river to travel and to trade with people in other places for a long time, there are lots of cities near the Rhine. Where the river runs through Germany, the area nearby has plenty of factories and businesses. In fact, while France is famous for its agriculture, Germany is well known for making and building things. This is called 'industry'.

By now you know that there are lots of different countries and cities in Europe, with people who speak many different languages, but it is still important for everyone to be able to work together. Many of the different countries in Europe decided to make some decisions together. The leaders thought that if the countries of Europe could trade more easily with each other, and exchange the things that each country made well, then they would not fight wars against each other. They came together to form what eventually became the European Union (or the EU for short). There are now 27 countries in it. The motto of the European Union is 'United in Diversity'. This means that, even though all the countries are very different and have their own unique cultures, they can still work together.

This activity is adapted from pages 102 - 111 of What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here. This activity has cross-curricular connections: click below to see the related activities.

history and geography owl
history and geography owl