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Map Mysteries

75,000 Ready-To-Go Lesson Plans:
Teaching Earth Science and Geography with USGS Topographic and Thematic Maps

"Map Mysteries" uses topographic and thematic maps as starting points to learn about the cultural and physical geography of the Earth. The USGS has published over 75,000 of these maps (actually, the number is more like 250,000). Think about each of these maps as a ready-to-go lesson plan with mysteries to uncover about that corner of the planet and the people who live there.

To obtain USGS Topographic Maps: Download free, digital topographic maps in a georeferenced pdf format through the USGS Store (Click on "Map Locator & Downloader"). Order paper copies of the maps from the same site. Choose up-to-date, computer-generated "US Topo" maps or hand-generated Historical topographic maps, which were produced until about 1992. The US Topo maps have individual layers that can be turned on and off plus free analytical tools, but the historical maps, which were optimized for readability, might be easier for students to work with.

To obtain USGS Thematic Maps: Go to the USGS Store and click on "Education Products" to browse thematic maps that are popular with educators. Many of the thematic maps in the USGS Store have a link to the map's citation in the USGS Publications Warehouse. Follow that link to download a free PDF file of the map. Some maps in the USGS Store have direct links to a free PDF. Order paper copies of the maps through the USGS Store.

For assistance, call 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747). Go to our Contact USGS page to request information or to initiate a live chat.

Teacher discounts are available for paper maps. Products in pdf format require Adobe Acrobat Reader