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Singapore

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Template:Singapore infobox The Republic of Singapore (Simplified Chinese: 新加坡共和国; Pinyin: xīn jiā pō gng h gu, Malay: Republik Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசு), is an island city-state in Southeast Asia, situated on the southern tip of Malay Peninsula, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of the Indonesian islands of Riau. Its coordinates are Template:Coor dm, just 137 km north of the Equator. The name Singapore was derived from Malay word singa (lion), which it itself is derived from the Sanskrit word सिंह siMha of the same meaning and the Sanskrit word पुर pura (city). [1] (http://www.bartleby.com/61/46/S0424600.html)

Established as a trading port by the British in the early 19th century, Singapore became a centre of British influence in Southeast Asia. Upon achieving independence from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore rapidly developed into a successful free-market economy with one of the highest per capita gross domestic products in the world, and is a major finance and transport hub in the region. Singapore has a low crime rate and has been consistently rated by Transparency International as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

Practices such as the ban of imports of chewing gum and fines for littering, spitting and not flushing in public toilets have led some to label Singapore a "nanny state". National service in Singapore is mandatory for all male citizens and male children of permanent residents. Even though it has not been engaged in any military conflict, Singapore maintains a 100,000-strong active force and 350,000-strong reserve force. Although Singapore has relatively warm relations with Malaysia, disputes still exist over issues such as the sale of water and territorial claims over Pedra Branca.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Singapore

The first records of Singapore were in Chinese texts dating back to the 3rd century. The island served as an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally bore the Javanese name Temasek. Temasek rose to become a significant trading city, but subsequently declined in significance. Most of the remnants of old Temasek no longer exist in Singapore other than archaeological evidence.

In the 15th and 16th century, Singapore was a part of the sultanate of Johor. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1617, Singapore was set ablaze by Portuguese troops.

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Statue of Thomas Stamford Raffles by Thomas Woolner, erected at the spot where he first landed at Singapore. He is recogized as the modern founder of Singapore.

In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a British East India Company official, made a treaty with the Sultan of Johore and established Singapore as a trading post and settlement. Singapore was later made a crown colony in 1867 after a series of territorial expansions. It soon grew as an entrepot town due to its strategic location along the busy shipping routes connecting Europe to China.

During World War II, Japanese forces invaded Malaya and the surrounding region. The unprepared British were defeated despite having numerical superiority, surrendering in February 1942 to the Japanese. The Japanese renamed Singapore as Syonan-to ("Light of the South") and held it until the Japanese defeat in September 1945. In 1959, Singapore became a self-governing crown colony with Lee Kuan Yew from the People's Action Party (PAP) as the first Prime Minister of Singapore following the 1959 elections. After a national referendum in 1962, Singapore was admitted into the Federation of Malaysia along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as a state with autonomous powers in September 1963. After heated ideological conflict developed between the state government formed by PAP and the Federal government in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore was expelled from the federation on August 7 1965. She gained official sovereignty two days later on August 9 1965 with Malaysia the first country to recognize it as an independent nation, the date becoming Singapore's National Day.

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Shenton Way around 1970, the period of time where Singapore underwent immense economic development under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew.

After the the separation, the fledgling nation had to struggle for self-sufficiency, and faced problems of included mass unemployment, housing shortages and the lack of land and natural resources. During Lee Kuan Yew's term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration curbed unemployment, raised the standard of living, developed Singapore's economic infrastructure and overcame problems such as lack of housing, social stability and an independent national defence. This elevated the nation first to developing nation and then subsequently to developed status.

On November 26 1990, Goh Chok Tong assumed the office of prime minister. Under his watch the country tackled the 1997 Asian economic crisis, the SARS outbreak in 2003 as well as terrorist threats posed by the Jemaah Islamiah. Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister on August 12 2004 after securing the confidence of a majority in Parliament, which is still dominated by the PAP today.

Politics and government

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The Merlion is one of the most well-known tourist icons of Singapore. Its landmark statue, once at the Merlion Park, was relocated to the front of the Fullerton Hotel in April 2002.
Singapore is a republic with a Westminster system of parliamentary government. The head of state is the president, who has veto powers in a few key decisions—such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of key judiciary positions. The legislative branch of government is the Parliament and the executive branch is the cabinet which is headed by a prime minister, who is the head of government.

Politics in Singapore have been dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP) since its independence in 1965. Critics have accused the PAP of taking harsh actions against opposition parties to discourage and impede their success, such as gerrymandering (redrawing electoral districts to one's own favour) and filing of civil suits against the opposition for libel or slander. In the case involving the leader of the opposition Workers' Party J. B. Jeyaretnam, he lost a series of suits to members of the PAP and he was declared bankrupt in 2001, effectively disqualifying him from participating in future elections. Similar civil suits have been filed against Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party. In 2005, filmmaker Martyn See shot a documentary on Chee called the "Singapore Rebel" and was threatened with a lawsuit for making a "politically partisan" film, which is illegal in Singapore. In universities and polytechnics, student political activism has been repeatedly suppressed. Since most Singaporeans are generally apathetic towards changing the political status quo, the opposition parties are stereotypically associated with the truly political passionate.

Critics claim that Singaporean courts have been favouring the government and the PAP in lawsuits involving them and members of the opposition parties, although there were a few cases in which the opposition won. Western democracies consider the form of government in Singapore to be closer to authoritarianism rather than true democracy, and could be considered an illiberal democracy or procedural democracy.

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An aerial view of Singapore, showing the new Singapore Parliament building, new and old Supreme Court building, Swisstel The Stamford and the Padang.

Despite this, Singapore has what many consider to be a highly successful and transparent market economy. Singapore was originally known as a social democracy, but the PAP has consistently rejected the notion of being socialist. One difference from a social democracy could be the sense that it uses public opinion and feedback to make policies instead of rigorous lawmaking procedures. However, the PAP's policies contain certain aspects of socialism, which includes government owned public housing constituting the majority of real estate and the dominance of government controlled companies in the local economy. The PAP has also consistently rejected Western democratic values in the past, with former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew citing incompatibilities with "Asian values". Most recently, the PAP has relaxed some of its socially conservative policies and encouraged entrepreneurship but the effects of both efforts have not been completely manifested.

Laws in Singapore are generally strict and aimed at instilling a disciplined society with harsh punishments such as caning and execution. There is stringent censorship of the media including magazines, newspapers, movies and TV programmes. Pornography, oral sex, anal sex and homosexual intercourse are illegal in Singapore, the latter three acts being criminalised by section 377 of the Singapore Penal Code. Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning (approximately 30 crimes carry the punishment of mandatory caning) while murder and drug trafficking are punishable by death by hanging. Science fiction writer William Gibson has described Singapore as "Disneyland with the death penalty" [2] (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.04/gibson.html) in Wired magazine. According to an Amnesty International report, 400 people were hanged between 1991 and 2004. The report claims that this is "possibly the highest execution rate in the world" per capita.

In 1994, an American teenager, Michael Fay, generated intense media interest and protests from the United States after he was sentenced to six strokes of the cane for vandalism. The sentencing triggered a formal request from U.S. government not to carry out the sentence. The appeal was denied, but the sentence was commuted to four strokes.

The combination of tough laws, low corruption and high transparency has created a society which enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and this has often been cited by foreign companies as one of the reasons for investing in Singapore.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Singapore

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Singapore is a diamond-shaped island separated from the Peninsular Malaysia by the Tebrau Straits.

Singapore is a diamond-shaped island with surrounding smaller islands. There are two connections from Singapore to the Malaysian state of Johor — a man-made causeway to the north, crossing the Tebrau Straits, and Tuas Second Link (called Linkedua Expressway in Malaysia), a bridge in the western part of Singapore that connects to Johor.

Of Singapore's dozens of smaller islands, Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the larger ones. The highest point of Singapore is Bukit Timah, with a height of 164 m (538 feet).

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Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 52 hectare botanical garden in Singapore that includes the National Orchid Garden which has a collection of more than 3000 species of orchids.

Urban area used to be concentrated on the southern part of Singapore around the mouth of the Singapore River, while the rest of the land was tropical rain forest or used for agriculture. Since the 1960s, the government has constructed new towns in outlying areas, resulting in an entirely built-up and urban landscape with a few exceptions, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. In addition, Singapore has reclaimed land with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area grew from 581.5 km² in the 1960s to 697.2 km² today, and may grow by another 100km² by 2030.

Without natural freshwater rivers and lakes, the primary domestic source of water in Singapore is rainfall, collected in reservoirs or catchment areas. Rainfall supplies approximately 50% of Singapore's water; the remainder is imported from Malaysia. More catchment areas and recycled water (called NEWater) or desalination facilities have been or are being built, reducing reliance on foreign supply.

Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinct seasons, under the Kppen climate classification. Its climate is characterised by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity and abundant rainfall. Temperatures range from 23C to 35C. On average, the relative humidity is around 90 percent in the morning and 60 percent in the afternoon. During prolonged heavy rain, relative humidity often reaches 100 percent.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Singapore

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The central business district is the hub of economic transactions in Singapore, and is also the home of the Singapore Exchange, Asia-Pacific's first demutualised and integrated securities and derivatives exchange.

Even though it lacks natural resources, Singapore enjoys a highly developed free-market economy. It has one of the highest per capita gross domestic products in the world and is considered one of the "East Asian Tigers." The lack of natural resources means the economy depends heavily on exports produced from refining imported goods in a form of extended entrepot trade. This is especially true in electronics and manufacturing.

Singapore was hit hard in 2001 by the global recession and the slump in the technology sector, which caused the GDP that year to contract by 2.2 percent. The Economic Review Committee (ERC), set up in December 2001, made key recommendations in remaking Singapore's economy.

Singapore introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1, 1994, starting at 3 percent. This has substantially increased government revenue as well assisted in maintaining the stability of the government's finances to spend on reforming the economy into more services and value added goods instead of relying on electronics manufacturing. The taxable GST is now at 5 percent, with the last increase in 2004.

The economy has since recovered in response to improvements in the world economy, and grew by 8.4 percent in 2004. In the longer term the government hopes to establish a new growth path that will be less vulnerable to the external business cycle than the current export-led model, but is unlikely to abandon efforts to establish Singapore as Southeast Asia's financial and high-tech hub. The per capita GDP in 2005 is US$27,800. In the fourth quarter of 2004, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.

Tourism

Main article: Tourism in Singapore

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Orchard Road is the primary shopping street of Singapore, frequented by both locals and tourists. It is also the site of several upscale hotels.

Singapore has a well-developed tourism industry, with over 8 million visitors in 2004. As a cosmopolitan city featuring a harmonised diversity of races and cultures, many visitors visit Singapore as a destination in itself, rather than just as a stepping stone or transit stop.

Singapore has become noted among international travellers as an exciting travel destination, making tourism one of the largest industries in Singapore. Its cultural diversity reflects its rich colonial history and Malay, Chinese, Arab and Indian ethnicities. For many years considered to be the business hub of Southeast Asia, Singapore has an expansive shopping precinct located in the Orchard Road district. Filled with several multistorey shopping centres, the area also has many hotels, and is regarded by many as the tourism centre of Singapore.

Other popular tourist attractions include the Singapore Zoo and its Night Safari, which allows people to explore Asian, African and South American habitats at night, without any visible barriers between guests and the wild animals. The Singapore Zoo has embraced the 'open zoo' concept whereby animals are kept in enclosures, separated from visitors by hidden dry or wet moats, instead of caging the animals. Also famous is the Jurong Bird Park, wherein there are specimens of magnificent bird life from around the world, including a flock of one thousand flamingos. The tourist island of Sentosa, located in the south of Singapore, consists of about 20-30 landmarks, such as Fort Siloso, which was built as a fortress to defend against the Japanese during World War II. Guns from the World War II era can be seen at Fort Siloso, from a mini-sized to a 16-pound (7 kg) gun. Recently, the island has built the Carlsberg Sky Tower, which allows visitors to view the whole of Sentosa. Looking forward, Singapore is going to have two integrated resorts with casinos in 2009, one at Marina Bayfront and the other at Sentosa which the government announced during a parliament session on April 18, 2005.

Transport

Main article: Transport in Singapore

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Inside one of the North-East Line trains on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. The trains on the line are fully automated, and are not manned.

Singapore is a major transport hub in Asia and its history has been closely tied to the growth of its transport industry since its infancy. The transport industry contributes over 10% of gross domestic product despite an increasingly diversified economy.

The Port of Singapore, managed by port operators PSA International and Jurong Port, is the world's busiest in terms of shipping tonnage handled. 1.04 billion gross tons were handled in the year 2004, crossing the one billion mark for the first time in Singapore's maritime history. Singapore also emerged as the top port in terms of cargo tonnage handled with 393 million tonnes of cargo in 2004, pipping the port in Rotterdam for the first time. Singapore is ranked second globally in terms of containerised traffic with 21.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units handled in 2004, and retains her position as the world's busiest hub for transhipment traffic. She is also the world's biggest bunkering hub with 23.6 million tonnes of bunkers sold in 2004.

Singapore is a major aviation hub and is an important stopover point for the "Kangaroo route" between Australasia and Europe. Singapore Changi Airport has a network of 77 airlines connecting Singapore to 178 cities in 56 countries. It is one of the top five airports in Asia in terms of passengers handled, with 30 million passengers passing through in 2004. It has been consistently rated as one of the best international airport by numerous international travel magazines [3] (http://www.changiairport.com.sg/changi/level2_with_links.jsp?ASSORTMENT%3C%3East_id=1408474395181062&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302024442&bmUID=1116349929560). National carrier Singapore Airlines has also received several accolades internationally and is reowned for the image of the 'Singapore Girl', where air stewardesses are clad in a traditional sarong kebaya dress while serving passengers. In anticipation of rising demand in both the regular and low-cost sectors, a third passenger terminal and a low-cost terminal are currently under construction and these will increase the airport's total capacity to 66.7 million passengers annually by 2008.

Domestic transport infrastructure is efficient, and includes the heavy rail passenger Mass Rapid Transit system, the Light Rapid Transit system, an extensive expressway and road system and a nationwide system of taxis and buses. Vehicles are subject to toll by an Electronic Road Pricing system during hours of heavy road traffic to regulate road usage. Recently, there has been complaints of rising public transport fares but the government asserts that this is due to the increase in global oil prices. Currently, fares are capped at $1.90 (~US$1.10)per ride.

Singapore's  is one of the largest aviation facilities in Asia, serving 178 cities in 56 countries. A third terminal due for completion in  will allow it to handle up to 66.7 million passengers annually. Also in the pipeline is a new terminal to serve the rapidly growing budget airline industry.
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Singapore's Changi International Airport is one of the largest aviation facilities in Asia, serving 178 cities in 56 countries. A third terminal due for completion in 2008 will allow it to handle up to 66.7 million passengers annually. Also in the pipeline is a new terminal to serve the rapidly growing budget airline industry.

Demographics

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Built in 1843, the Sri Mariamman Temple is the largest Hindu temple in Singapore. It is also one of the many religious buildings marked as national monuments for their historical value.

Template:Main2 Singapore is the second most densely populated independent country in the world. Eighty-four percent of Singaporeans live in public housing provided by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Singapore's population, though small at around four million, is relatively diverse compared to most other countries, although neighbour Malaysia also features a multiracial population. The Chinese, who have constituted the majority of the island population since the colonial days, account for 76.8 percent of Singaporeans. Malays, who are the indigenous native group of the country, constitute 13.9 percent, though this number includes many Malay ethnic groups from other parts of the Malay archipelago including the Javanese, Bugis, Baweans and Minangs. Indians are the third largest ethnic group at 7.9 percent, consisting of several groups—Tamils, who form the largest Indian group, and others such as Malayalees, Punjabis and Bengalis. The rest are made up of smaller groups such as the Arabs and the Eurasians.

Singapore is generally a multi-religious country, mainly due to its strategic location and the variety of religious beliefs that most Singaporeans hold. More than 40 percent of the Singaporeans adhere to Mahayana Buddhism, the main faith of the Chinese population. Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and ancestral worship are merged into one by most Chinese adherents to Buddhism. Most Muslims are Malay and there are some Indian Muslims. Christianity bears a significant minority, mainly consisting of Chinese, at 14% of the population.

The government of Singapore has been careful to maintain ethnic harmony after racial riots erupted in the 1960s. Racial harmony has been emphasized in all aspects of society, including education, military and housing. So far the policy has been largely successful, and there have been few signs of ethnic tension since the early 1970s. Current issues include the ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf in public schools.

The national language of Singapore is Malay for historical reasons, and it is used in the national anthem. The official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. English has been promoted as the country's lingua franca since independence, and it is spoken by the majority of the population. To promote Chinese culture and the use of Mandarin among the Chinese, the government has introduced a Speak Mandarin Campaign (SMC).

Culture

Main article: Culture of Singapore

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A water taxi in Singapore.

As Singapore is a small and relatively modern amalgam of semi-indigenous Malay population with the majority Chinese and the minority Indian and Arab migrants with little intermarriage, there appears little in the way of specifically Singaporean culture. However, there exists a community of Peranakan or "Straits Chinese," of mixed Chinese and Malay descent and a steadily increasing Eurasian community. The major public holidays in Singapore reflect this diversity, including the religious holidays of various denominations.

Singapore has also achieved a significant degree of cultural diffusion with its unique combination of these ethnic groups, and has given Singapore a rich mixture of diversity for its young age. This diffusion can be seen as a reason to view Singapore's culture as significantly rich. One of the prime examples is in Singapore's cuisine, and is often a cultural attraction for tourists.

The English used is primarily British English, with some American English influences. The local colloquial dialect of English is known formally as Singapore Colloquial English (though it is more commonly called "Singlish"), and has many creole-like characteristics, having incorporated much vocabulary and grammar from various Chinese dialects, Malay, and Indian languages. Singlish is basically identical to Manglish (the English dialect of Malaysia), and is the usual language on the streets, but is frowned upon in official contexts, and this matter has been brought up in recent years in the Parliament and the ruling party. English use among the population generally became more widespread after the implementation of English as a first language medium in the Singapore education system.

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Trishaws in Singapore

Singapore also has several ethnic neighborhoods, including a Little India and a Chinatown, which were formed under the Raffles Plan to segregate the new immigrants into specific areas. Although the population is no longer segregated, these ethnic neighbourhoods retain selective elements of their specific culture. The usage of such neighbourhoods is mostly commercial or for a cottage industry specific to the culture of its ethnic neighbourhood, and does not play a big part in housing the population, although it is used for that purpose. Hence, these neighbourhoods have a diverse patronage who probably wish to either eat or buy something specific to that culture.

In other parts of the country, segregation is discouraged and diversity encouraged. This can often be found in the policies of the HDB, which try to make sure there is a mix of all races within each housing district. The effect of this can be observed in all parts of the country; for example a store devoted to selling Malay food might be right next to stores selling Chinese or Indian goods. This, in return, is thought by some to foster social cohesion and national loyalty, crucial for sustaining Singapore's growth.

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A view of Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, Singapore's focal point for a cultural centre at night along the Singapore River

Religious tolerance has been strongly encouraged since the British colonised Singapore; the Sri Mariamman Temple (a south Indian Hindu temple that was declared a national monument in the 1980s), as well as the Masjid Jamae Mosque that served Chulia Muslims from India's Coromandel Coast is situated along South Bridge Road, which is a old major road that runs through Chinatown. Among other religious landmarks is the Church of Gregory the Illuminator, that was built in 1836, making it one of the oldest religious buildings in Singapore. It has been preserved to the present day, and Orthodox services continue to be held in it. Although most religions are tolerated, some unorthodox groups are banned, including the Jehovah's Witnesses, as they oppose Singapore's policy of national service, and the Unification Church.

Male homosexual intercourse is illegal in Singapore. This has been the subject of much debate both inside and outside the country, and there is no current legislative proposal to resolve this. Under the Societies Act the government has not allowed any gay rights group to form and openly address the issue. There has, however, been a rise in the number of gay and gay-friendly bars, clubs and establishments around the island. Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong also stated that open homosexuals can be employed in the civil workforce, although no anti-discrimination laws exist to ensure that this is actually the case.

Since the late 1990s, the government has been striving to promote Singapore as a cultural centre for arts and culture, including theatre and music. This fits in with Singapore's status as a cosmopolitian and multi-racial society, often being called the "gateway between the East and West". The highlight of this plan is the Esplanade - "Theatres on the Bay", a centre for performing arts, opened in 2003. The Esplanade is also informally known as "The Durian", due to its resemblance to the fruit.

To attract more tourists, the government passed a bill on 17 April 2005 to legalize gambling. It has decided to build two "Integrated Resorts" (IRs), each with a casino component built-in, at Marina South and Sentosa respectively. The decisions to legalise gambling and to build the resorts came only after great controversy, with many conservative Singaporeans arguing against them. Bans on bar-top dancing and bungee jumping have also been lifted, although the demand for these activities remain relatively lukewarm.

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Paranomic view of the Singapore River. There are numerous bars, pubs, seafood restaurants and tall commercial buildings along the river.


Countries in Southeast Asia

Brunei | Cambodia | East Timor | Indonesia | Laos | Malaysia | Myanmar | Philippines | Singapore | Thailand | Vietnam

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ca:Singapur da:Singapore de:Singapur eo:Singapuro es:Singapur et:Singapur fi:Singapore fr:Singapour hi:सिंगापुर id:Singapura io:Singapur it:Singapore ja:シンガポール ko:싱가포르 lb:Singapur li:Singapore lt:Singapūras ms:Singapura nds:Singapur nl:Singapore no:Singapore pl:Singapur pt:Singapura ru:Сингапур sk:Singapur sl:Singapur sm:Sigapoa sv:Singapore ta:சிங்கப்பூர் th:ประเทศสิงคโปร์ tl:Singapore tr:Singapur uk:Сингапур zh:新加坡 zh-min-nan:Sin-ka-pho

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