Resources for Teachers

Background Information College

Here you can find background information that may be useful in college classrooms.

Biology/Ecosystems|| Geography|| Geology|| Global Change|| Natural Hazards|| Oceans/Coasts|| Water|| Other


Disease Emergence and Resurgence: The Wildlife-Human Connection- Background Information
This online publication focuses on disease emergence in wildlife, the importance of wild animals as sentinels for disease emergence, and critical issues regarding wildlife as sources for diseases that are transmittable to humans.

USGS Global Ecosystems- Background Information
An effort to classify and map global ecosystems in a standardized, robust, and practical manner at scales appropriate for on-the-ground management. Click on the "Products" tab and select "Publications" to browse a series of maps published in 2009-2010.

Global Ecosystems Data Viewer- Background Information
Perform customized viewing, data selection, and download for several ecosystems data layers. Free registration is required.

Terrestrial Ecosystems Map of the Conterminous United States- Background Information
The USGS, with support from NatureServe, has modeled the potential distribution of 419 terrestrial ecosystems for the conterminous United States using a comprehensive biophysical stratification approach that identifies distinct biophysical environments and associates them with known vegetation distributions. Download a PDF of this 2010 publication or go to the Data Viewer to download data.

Delta Research And Global Observation Network (DRAGON)- Background Information
An international partnership for sharing data on the great deltas and rivers of the world and to develop comparative models and visualization tools to facilitate ecological forecasting regarding climate change and development.

National Wetlands Research Center- Background Information
Research on wetland losses, restoration, and management, with an emphasis on Gulf Coast habitats.

Biodiversity and Habitat Markets: Policy, Economic, and Ecological Implications of Market-based Conservation- Background Information
A primer on market-like and market-based mechanisms designed to conserve biodiversity and habitat.

Tidal Marsh Monitoring- Background Information
An online handbook for conducting "on the ground" tidal marsh restoration monitoring. Offers information on monitoring design, methods, SOPs, datasheets, database templates, and a restoration forum.

USGS Chesapeake Bay Activities- Background Information
The mission of USGS Chesapeake Bay studies is to provide integrated science for improved understanding and management of the Bay ecosystem.

San Francisco Bay and Delta- Background Information
The vast San Francisco Bay and Delta region of California has undergone rapid, large-scale land use changes that have resulted in the loss of wetlands, alteration of freshwater inflows, contamination of water, sediments and biota, and declines of fish and wildlife species.

South Florida Integrated Science- Background Information
Information access in support of research, decision making, and resource management for the South Florida ecosystem restoration effort.

Hydrology and Ecology of Freshwater Wetlands in Central Florida -- A Primer- Background Information
Wetlands are a dominant landscape feature in Florida; in 1996, an estimated 11.4 million acres of wetlands occupied 29 percent of the area of the State. Wetlands represent a greater percentage of the land surface in Florida than in any other state in the conterminous United States. Learn about Florida's wetlands in this 138 page Circular, published in 2010.

USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI)- Background Information
ARMI is a Congressionally-mandated national program of amphibian monitoring, research, and conservation. Links to regional Web sites, a searchable publication list, and copyright-free photos are included.   

Amphibian Malformations and Decline: USGS National Wildlife Health Center- Background Information
This site has limited information, but provides quick links to a Field Guide to Malformations of Frogs and Toads plus a 1997 report on Diagnostic Findings Associated with Malformed Frogs in Vermont.

Birds of North America Taxonomic List- Background Information
A table listing birds of North America. The table is sorted taxonomically (by order, family, and genus).

Bird Banding Laboratory of the North American Bird Banding Program- Background Information
Information on bird banding and bird markers.

Whooping Cranes- Background Information
The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center has been breeding whooping cranes for release to the wild since 1967. This site has extensive information and Frequently Asked Questions about whooping cranes plus videos and a list of recent articles. Be sure to click on the site map to see fascinating photos and information about raising individual chicks. An additional 16-minute video discusses health, exercise, diet, and training of these birds that were once on the brink of extinction.


Topographic Map Symbols- Background Information
An explanation of almost every symbol that is likely to be encountered on a topographic map.

Topographic Change- Background Information
A national inventory of significant topographic changes based on seamless elevation data and land cover data. Most topographic changes result from surface mining, road construction, urban development, dam construction, and landfills.

Map Projections: A Working Manual- Background Information
Although it was published in 1987, this is the most frequently downloaded publication in the USGS Publication Warehouse. Chapters cover general concepts of map projections and discuss the appearance, usage, history, and equations for over 20 projections.

Map Projections- Background Information
The online version of a very popular USGS poster that briefly summarizes and compares 18 popular map projection. A paper version of the poster is available for free through the USGS Store (product #16573), which also has a downloadable PDF. Professionals and academics use the poster as a handy reference.

Map Projections- Background Information
Written for educators in 1991. The images are low-resolution by today's standards, but the contents are still good.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)- Background Information
GNIS contains information for almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States and its territories. Query the database to find individual features and their corresponding coordinates. Search results include links to on-line air photos and topographic maps containing the feature.

More than 130 Years of Topographic Mapping- Background Information
This web link lists various maps that themes in Geography can be illustrated using a corn maze. Not every exercise requires actual access to a corn maze. 

Elevations and Distances in the United States- Background Information
Tables of information covering elevations of features and distances between points in the United States. Also locates the geographic center of each state.

Rates, Trend, Causes, and Consequences of Urban Land-Use Change in the United States- Backgroud Information
This 2006 report is a collection of 20 papers on urban land use change and its environmental consequences.

Land Use History of North America- Backgroud Information
Describes the historical and on-going changes in land use and land cover for several regions around the U.S.

Urban Growth in American Cities- Backgroud Information
An online publication that illustrates the spatial history of urban growth in sixteen areas around the U.S. and the corresponding land use change. Images can be downloaded as GIF files.

Urban Dynamics Research Program Analysis of Land Use Change in Urban Environments - Backgroud Information
Describes how the USGS is involved in Urban Change Research. Highlights various projects within the Land Cover Institute's research portfolio.

Analyzing Land Use Change In Urban Environments- Backgroud Information
USGS fact sheet describing land use change research in urban environments. 

Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS)- Backgroud Information and Photos
EROS is the repository and source for USGS satellite imagery, aerial photography, and many digital data products. EROS is recognized for its expertise in developing new ways to analyze, visualize, and utilize remotely sensed land data for studying diverse aspects of Earth’s terrestrial environment.

AmericaView University- Backgroud Information
USGS is a partner in AmericaView, which provides free remote sensing course contents for university-level undergraduate or graduate students.

Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA)- Backgroud Information
LIMA brings the coldest continent on Earth alive in greater detail than ever before through this virtually cloudless, seamless, and high resolution satellite view of Antarctica. Zoom in on stunning detail with this Natural-Color, Pan-Sharpened image. The mosaic and all of the LIMA products can be downloaded at no charge.

A Descriptive Catalog of Selected Aerial Photographs of Geologic Features in the United States- Backgroud Information
This 1968 publication (in PDF format) is not up to modern imagery standards, but it includes a latitude, longitude, and description for each feature that could be used to locate more recent images.

More than 130 Years of Topographic Mapping- Backgroud Information
Highlighting a legacy of more than 130 years of topographic mapping. Learn about how the program got started, its history and its future.

USGS Store- Backgroud Information
A quick and easy way to find and order printed USGS products: paper maps, Earth as Art satellite images, satellite mosaics of all states, books, and other publications. Recreation passes are also sold here. Previews are available for most of the popular products. Click on "Education Products" to browse maps and print publications that are popular with educators. Click on "Map Locator" to download free digital topographic maps.   

Introduction to Geologic Maps- Backgroud Information
Geologic maps describe the rocks and soils at the surface, provide information about what rocks lie at depth, describe the ages of rocks and soils, and show where features such as earthquake faults and landslides lie. This resource page is particularly useful to help students understand geologic maps of areas near where they live or study.

National Geologic Map Database- Backgroud Information
This exhaustive database provides bibliographic access to many thousands of geologic, geophysical, and other kinds of maps available in USGS publications, Web sites, popular science journals, and more.   

The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain- Backgroud Information
The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain is woven from a geologic map and a shaded relief image. This digital combination reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography and time. Regional surface processes as well as continent-scale tectonic events are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time. Download PDF files or purchase a paper copy from the USGS Store.


This Dynamic Earth: the Story of Plate Tectonics- Background Information
"This Dynamic Earth" is one of the most recommended and referenced primers on plate tectonics. Topics include a history of the theory, scientific developments that spurred its development, the mechanics of plate motions, and the relationship of hotspots to plate tectonic theory. A companion best-selling map, "This Dynamic Planet", is also available online or in print.   

This Dynamic Planet- Background Information
Plate tectonics are fully illustrated by this best-selling world map (a companion to "This Dynamic Earth: the Story of Plate Tectonics") showing the locations of plate boundaries, volcanoes, earthquakes, and impact craters. Detailed ocean floor bathymetry and discussions of fundamental components are also featured. A paper version is available for purchase or the map can be downloaded free in PDF format.

The Interior of the Earth- Background Information
A brief, introductory guide to what is known about the interior of our planet.

National Geologic Map Database- Background Information
This exhaustive database provides bibliographic access to many thousands of geologic, geophysical, and other kinds of maps available in USGS publications, Web sites, popular science journals, and more.   

The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain- Background Information
The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain is woven from a geologic map and a shaded relief image. This digital combination reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography and time. Regional surface processes as well as continent-scale tectonic events are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time. Download PDF files or purchase a paper copy from the USGS Store.

USGS Mineral Resources Program- Background Information
The USGS Mineral Resources Program provides current, impartial information on the occurrence, quality, quantity, and availability of mineral resources.  This includes information about mineral commodities, regional mineral resources, crustal imaging, and minerals information.

Mineral Commodity Statistics and Information- Background Information
This Web site assembles statistics and information about the worldwide supply of, demand for, and flow of minerals and materials essential to the U.S. economy, the national security, and protection of the environment.

Historic Events in Minerals and Materials- Background Information
A review of significant changes in industries that consume metals and industrial minerals. This report includes a timeline showing major achievements in mineral production and events that affected the U.S. mineral industry.

From Projectile Points to Microprocessors--The Influence of Some Industrial Minerals- Background Information
A 2007 publication that examines the occurrence and practical uses of nine important industrial minerals - constituting just a few of the more than 50 industrial minerals that shape human culture.

Mineral Deposit Models- Background Information
Publications by the USGS on mineral deposit models converted to digital files that can be downloaded.

Quality Assurance and Quality Control of Geochemical Data: A Primer for the Research Scientist- Background Information
Provides basic information and guidance about developing QA/QC protocols for geochemical studies.

Global Change

USGS Climate and Land Use Change- Background Information
Extensive list of links to information on USGS climate change activities, publications, news, FAQs, Podcasts, and more.

Gas Hydrates and Climate Warming- Backgroud Information
A brief primer on methane hydrates and the relationship between gas hydrates and climate change. Also watch a 7 minute video about gas hydrates.

USA National Phenology Network- Backgroud Information
A partnership that brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators, and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States. The Web site provides training and resource materials plus opportunities to contribute as an individual or group.

USGS News and Information on El Niño- Backgroud Information
The term El Niño refers to a warm ocean current that typically appears around December and lasts for several months, but may persist into May or June. This Web site gives a general overview of the science of El Niño, and provides links to resources that discuss the impact of El Niño on floods, landslides, coastal hazards, and climate along with other information.

Investigating Climate Change of Western North America- Backgroud Information
A USGS fact sheet that discusses how the California Current in the Pacific Ocean drives the climate of the western United States.

USGS Geologic Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Website- Backgroud Information
Overview, research, data, and related links.

Geologic Carbon Sequestration- Backgroud Information
Looking for a simple explanation of geologic carbon sequestration? This two-page fact sheet discusses the major concepts and provides an excellent diagram.

Carbon Sequestration to Mitigate Climate Change- Backgroud Information
Carbon sequestration is a process by which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere or diverted from emission sources and stored in the ocean, vegetation, soils, and geologic formations. Learn the basics in this four-page fact sheet.

Natural Hazards

Natural Hazards Gateway- Backgroud Information
Provides many links and resources to USGS information related to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes, and wildfires.   

USGS Emergency Operations Portal and the Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS)- Backgroud Information and Photos
Explore critical pre- and post-disaster images and datasets online for immediate viewing and downloading. The USGS provides these images for use in disaster preparations, rescue and relief operations, damage assessments, and reconstruction efforts. For a quick introduction to HDDS, read a one-page fact sheet.

USGS Earthquake Hazards Program- Backgroud Information
The best starting point for browsing information on earthquake data, hazards, preparedness, monitoring, and research. Click on the "Learn" tab to access extensive educational materials and FAQs. The regional office links near the bottom of the page lead to site-specific information. The links in the blue section at the bottom of the page are an excellent starting point for advanced features like analysis tools and software.   

Earthquake Catalog (ANSS Comprehensive Catalog)- Backgroud Information
Searchable database of earthquake source parameters and other products produced by contributing seismic networks.. Data is available in multiple formats. The oldest data is from 1900.

Quaternary Fault and Fold Database of the United States- Backgroud Information
This Web site contains information on faults and associated folds in the United States that are believed to be sources of M>6 earthquakes during the Quaternary (the past 1,600,000 years). Maps of these geologic structures are linked to detailed descriptions and references.  

Google Earth/KML Files- Backgroud Information
KML files for Quaternary faults in the U.S., ShakeMaps, and real time earthquakes. Additional files provide detailed looks at specific faults in California.

Earthquake Notification Service (ENS)- Backgroud Information
A free service that sends automated notification e-mails when earthquakes happen in your area. Customize ENS to only deliver messages for certain areas, at specified times, and to multiple addresses. ENS can even send text notifications to your cell phone.

PAGER - Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response- Backgroud Information
The PAGER system provides estimates of the number of people and the names of cities exposed to severe shaking following significant earthquakes worldwide.

The Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of March 27, 1964- Backgroud Information
Explore numerous resources created for the 50th anniversary of the second largest earthquake ever recorded and the tsunami that it created. Watch videos, animations, archival film, and a public lecture; read short fact sheets as well as historic publications; and delve into historical photographs. An interactive "story map" of 1964 Anchorage is an especially good way to engage students of any age.

The San Andreas Fault System, California- Backgroud Information
This classic 1990 compilation of scientific papers on the San Andreas fault, is a technical and exhaustive resource of information about the fault and is an essential companion to all newly published research about the fault system. The book is available for download or to purchase.

The San Andreas Fault In The San Francisco Bay Area, California: A Geology Field Trip Guidebook To Selected Stops On Public Lands- Backgroud Information
A field guide with descriptions of places the public can go to view the San Andreas Fault. Introductory materials include an overview of the San Andreas Fault System, geology, landscape features, and plant communities that reveal information about the underlying geology.

The Hayward Fault- Backgroud Information
Northern California's Hayward fault is a tectonic time bomb, due anytime for another magnitude 6.8 to 7.0 earthquake. Learn about the fault, and explore 

Where's the Hayward Fault? A Green Guide to the Fault.The ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario- Backgroud Information
The question is not if but when southern California will be hit by a major earthquake. This 16-page Circular published in 2008 identifies the physical, social, and economic consequences of a theoretical magnitude 7.8 earthquake in southern California.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone- Backgroud Information
Three large earthquakes of magnitude 7.5-7.7 shook the central U.S. in 1811-1812. Located at the junction of Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, those quakes are a powerful reminder that risk of a similar event exists today. Several classroom-friendly resources were developed for the bicentennial of these earthquakes.

USGS Flood Information- Backgroud Information
Gateway to USGS research on floods. Includes highlighted flood resources and recent USGS news related to floods. This is a good jumping-off point for general flood science.

Large Floods in the United States : Where they Happen and Why- Backgroud Information
 A 13-page on-line publication that describes the geographic and climatic factors that influence the occurrence and impacts of large floods in the United States.

FAQs about Floods- Backgroud Information
Frequently Asked Questions about floods.

Tsunamis & Earthquakes- Backgroud Information
An exhaustive list of USGS tsunami links including animations of actual and hypothetical tsunamis.

Surviving a Tsunami-Lessons from Chile, Hawaii, and Japan- Backgroud Information
This on-line 1999 publication describes the causes and impacts of large tsunamis, with examples from around the Pacific Rim.

Can It Happen Here?- Backgroud Information
Could a tsunami such as the one that affected the Indian Ocean on December, 26, 2004 happen in the United States? This site discusses likely tsunami scenarios for the entire U.S. coastline.

The Orphan Tsunami of 1700 - Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America- Backgroud Information
In 1700, a mysterious tsunami flooded fields and washed away houses in Japan. Yet no one in Japan felt an earthquake. Follow along with scientists as they discover clues suggesting that the tsunami originated from a large earthquake in the Cascadia region of North America.

The Landslide Handbook—A Guide to Understanding Landslides- Backgroud Information
What is a landslide? Where do they occur? What causes them? How are they monitored? How can they be prevented? What safety measures can you follow if you live near steep hills? All these questions are answered in this 129-page publication. Written for a general audience, it is heavily illustrated with diagrams and photographs taken at location around the globe.

National Landslide Overview Map of the United States- Backgroud Information
An interactive map showing landslide and flood hazard areas of the United States.

Riding the Storm- Backgroud Information
A catastrophic 1982 rainstorm triggered 18,000 landslides in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this online video, learn what USGS scientists have discovered in the last two decades about landslide dynamics and which slopes are most susceptible to sliding.

Volcano Hazards Program- Backgroud Information
The best starting point for current information about volcano activity, volcano hazards, and learning materials. For historical information about individual volcanoes, visit the websites for our regional USGS Volcano Observatories:

Fire and Mud: Eruptions and Lahars of Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines- Backgroud Information
This history of the devastating 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo highlights the new science that was learned at the time and the challenges that lie ahead to prevent and/or mitigate another disaster.

Alaska Volcanoes Guidebook for Teachers- Backgroud Information

GeoMAC Wildland Fire Support- Backgroud Information
The Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group (GeoMAC) is an internet-based mapping application designed for fire managers (and the public) to access online maps of current fire locations and perimeters in the conterminous 48 States and Alaska.


USGS Coastal & Marine Geology Program- Background Information
Provides current information on a variety of research topics including tsunamis generated by submarine earthquakes and landslides, El Niño, sea level change, coastal erosion, corals, pollution, and much more. The Web site has links to CMGP field centers in Santa Cruz/Menlo Park, California, St. Petersburg, Florida, and Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Maps of America's Submerged Lands- Background Information
A portal to published USGS maps, reports, and digital data that depict the bathymetry, surficial geology, and/or subsurface structure of selected submerged U.S. areas. Some lakes are included. NOAA is also a good source for bathymetric data.

Coastal Landforms and Processes at the Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts: A Primer- Background Information
[Although this targets Cape Cod, many of the concepts can be applied to coastal processes in other locations.] Written as an educational guide for the general public. Covers basic coastal processes; landform changes, sea-level change, wind and weather, waves, and tides. Many illustrations.

Coasts in Crisis - Background Information
This 1990 publication describes types of coasts (rocky shores, sandy beaches, coastal wetlands, and coral reefs). It also provides discussion about processes that affect beaches and coastlines including waves, tides, weather, water-level changes, coastal vegetation, and human impacts of beach sediments and processes.

Sound Waves: Coastal and Marine Research News- Background Information
Explore non-technical articles about interesting discoveries and research in coastal and marine science. Sound Waves is a monthly newsletter with a rich archive of stories collected since 1999. Sign up to receive monthly email updates!

Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms- Background Information
Research focusing on understanding the magnitude and variability of the impacts of hurricanes and extreme storms on the sandy beaches of the United States.

National Assessment of Shoreline Change Project- Background Information
Beach erosion is a chronic problem along most open-ocean shores of the United States. The USGS is conducting an analysis of historical shoreline changes along open-ocean sandy shores of the conterminous U.S. and parts of Alaska and Hawaii.

USGS Pacific Coral Reefs Web Site- Background Information
Explore the fascinating undersea world of coral reefs, primarily in Hawaii and Guam. Learn how the USGS maps, monitors, and models coral reefs so the Nation can better understand, protect, and preserve them.


Water Resources of the United States- Backgroud Information
The main portal to USGS Water Resources Program provides links to real-time data for surface water, groundwater, and water quality information for all states. To get a broad spectrum of information about specific locations or areas, use the "Water Science by State" function near the bottom of the page. Be sure to also visit the Water Education page with its exhaustive list of resources.

Water Resources Data- Backgroud Information
A comprehensive source of real-time water data for the nation (surface water, groundwater, and water quality) collected from over 8,000 on-line stations throughout the U.S. Maps and searchable data by county and watershed.

Science in Your Watershed- Backgroud Information
A good starting point for comprehensive water information about specific watersheds.

How does a U.S. Geological Survey Streamgage Work?- Backgroud Information
In order to understand the health of our nation's rivers and streams, USGS scientists monitor the information provided from more than 9,000 streamgages nationwide. Learn how a streamgage works in this two-page fact sheet.

Water Use in the United States- Backgroud Information
The USGS has been compiling and publishing water use data for the United States every five years since 1950. Start at this website for quick overviews, or delve deeper into the reportsDownload data by county, state, or as national totals.

USGS Groundwater Information Pages- Backgroud Information
The best starting point for groundwater information and basics. Follow links for data, groundwater/surface-water interactions, karst, artificial recharge, land subsidence, regional ground water studies, modeling software, and publications.

Aquifer Basics- Backgroud Information
An underground layer of permeable rock, sediment, or soil that yields water is called an aquifer. This site describes different kinds of aquifers and where they are located.

Basic Ground-water Hydrology- Backgroud Information
Written in 1983, this 84-page publication was intended to serve as a textbook for public decision-makers in need of an introduction to groundwater basics. Copious diagrams are included.

Ground Water Atlas of the United States- Backgroud Information and Maps
Learn about the ground-water resources of regional areas that collectively cover the U.S. and its territories. Text and maps are used to describe the climate, physiography, geology, land use, major aquifers, and ground-water withdrawals for each region.

Ground Water and Surface Water - A Single Resource- Backgroud Information
This publication includes a chapter on the hydrologic cycle, and illustrates the interactions of groundwater and surface water. The report discusses issues related to water supply, water quality, and degradation of aquatic environments.

Sustainability of Ground-Water Resources- Backgroud Information
The availability of groundwater varies widely and only a part of the ground water can be recovered by wells in an economic manner without adverse consequences. Learn more in this 1995 publication. 76 pages.

Ground-Water-Level Monitoring and the Importance of Long-Term Water-Level Data - Backgroud Information
Learn about water data required to address the effects of aquifer development.

Groundwater Availability in the United States- Backgroud Information
This report examines what is known about the Nation's groundwater availability, including a description of major aquifers, water use, and changes in groundwater levels over time.

USGS Flood Information- Backgroud Information
Gateway to USGS research on floods. Includes highlighted flood resources and recent USGS news related to floods. This is a good jumping-off point for general flood science.

Large Floods in the United States : Where they Happen and Why- Backgroud Information
 A 13-page on-line publication that describes the geographic and climatic factors that influence the occurrence and impacts of large floods in the United States.

FAQs about Floods- Backgroud Information
Frequently Asked Questions about floods.


Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature- Background Information
Maintained by the USGS in cooperation with NASA and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Download shapefiles or KML files of all named features for each planet and moon.

USGS Astrogeology Science Center- Background Information
Looking for information on the moon, Mars, or impact craters? The Flagstaff Science Center is home to USGS astrogeology research. Take a special look at the Education and Outreach portion of the site for information, lesson plans, and activities that are "out of this world!"