Resources for Teachers

Background Information K-2

Here you can find background information that may be useful in classrooms K-2.

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

Biology/Ecosystems

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.

Polar Bears- - Background Information and Activites
Track polar bears by satellite and learn about their habitat.

Sea Otters- Background Information and Video
Learn about sea otter basics and follow links to USGS podcasts, a film, a fact sheet, and other information about sea otters.

Manatees- Background Information and Photos
Read an information sheets about manatees, access photographs, and learn about USGS research on manatees.

Geography

Helping Your Child Learn Geography- Background Information and Activites
A 32-page booklet, published in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the National Geographic Society, that is designed to help adults stir children's curiosity about geography. Includes many suggestions for simple activities. K-4.  

Floods and Flood Plains- Background Information
This easy-to-understand fact sheet describes why floods occur and discusses the basics about flood-plain designation.  

The Lewis and Clark Expedition and the USGS- Background Information
Links to USGS publications and other resources related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Includes resources specifically targeted to teachers and students.    

EROS Satellite Image Resources for the Classroom- Background Information
USGS Fact with a handy list of educational resources available through our Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS), which manages all USGS satellite imagery.

Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change- Background Information
Earthshots is an e-book of before-and-after Landsat images (1972-present), showing recent environmental events and introducing the concept of remote sensing. Each set of images includes a detailed description, photographs and maps, a list of references, and a question/answer. Images are best used on-line.

Topographic Map Resources for Teachers- Background Information
An overall summary of useful USGS resources for working with topographic maps: where to get them; how to interpret them; how to use them; explanations of coordinates, datums, and projections; and lessons for the classroom.

Geology

Geologic Time- Background Information
Learn about the age of the Earth and how scientists express these very old ages using relative and radiometric time scales.

Fossils, Rocks, and Time- Background Information
A general overview of geologic time and the use of fossils to determine the age of layers in the earth.

Dinosaurs: Fact and Fiction- Background Information
This pamphlet contains answers to some frequently asked questions about dinosaurs, with current ideas and evidence to correct some long-lived popular misconceptions. Although much has been discovered recently about dinosaurs, there is still a great deal more to learn about our planet and its ancient inhabitants.

The Geologic Story of the Ocoee River- Background Information
Use the rocks along the Ocoee River in eastern Tennessee to reconstruct a 750 million year history of the area to the present day.

A Brief Introduction to Geomagnetism- Background Information
The USGS uses ground-based observatories to provide continuous records of the Earth's magnetic field variations. This simplified description uses images and a time-lapse animation to explain phenomena created by the magnetic field that can be easily monitored and studied.

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: A World Map of Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plate Tectonics- Background Information
Plate tectonics are fully illustrated on 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.  

Some Unanswered Questions: What Drives The Plates?- Background Information
This page from the This Dynamic Planet Web site addresses the processes associated with heat flow and convection in the earth.The Interior of the Earth An introductory guide to what is known about the interior of our planet. 

Rocks and Minerals- Background Information
Introductory information about rocks and minerals with a glossary of commonly-used geology terms.

Rocks and Geology of the San Francisco Bay Region- Background Information
Although this publication is site-specific, it has a nice introductory guide with illustrated descriptions of 46 varieties of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Discussions about regional geology, the rock cycle, and mineral resources are included.

Mineral Use in the Workplace- Background Information
Find more examples of common uses for minerals.

Building Stones of Our Nation's Capital- Background Information
Descriptions and examples of the different stones used in the buildings and monuments in the Washington D.C. area, and a discussion of how Washington D.C.'s landmarks have been impacted by acid rain. An abbreviated and updated version of this publication is available as a 2-page fact sheet.

Minerals in Sports- Background Information
Learn about the amazing materials that go into sports equipment, and the minerals that these materials are derived from!

Gold—Why is gold such an important mineral?- Background Information
This 23-page booklet gives a brief history of gold mining and the "gold fever" that has endured for centuries of civilizations.

Mineral Commodity Fact Sheets- Background Information
Two-page, easily-understood fact sheets about important mineral commodities. Learn where each mineral comes from, how it's used, and why it's important

Mineral Resource of the Month- Background Information
How is a specific mineral used in the United States? How much of that mineral is produced? These questions are answered in this series of two-page articles written for over sixty different minerals.

Do We Take Minerals for Granted?- Background Information
Did you know that the average automobile contains 42 lbs of copper? Use this site to learn about the everyday use of minerals, minerals and the environment, mineral supplies, and much more. An additional report on Geology and Nonfuel Mineral deposits of the United States is an excellent source of information, page size maps, and illustrations of the geologic processes.

What's the Difference between Weathering and Erosion?- Background Information
The difference between weathering and erosion is very briefly explained.

Global Change

Deserts—Geology and Resources- Background Information
This general interest publication describes how deserts form, types of deserts, and landscape features typically associated with deserts. Learn about desertification as an indicator of climate change.

The Great Ice Age- Background Information
There is evidence all around about The Great Ice Age and its impact on North America. Learn about the Earth's recent cold past and how to recognize the clues left behind.

Glimpses of the Ice Age from I-81- Background Information
This two-page pamphlet describes Ice Age block fields along I-81 in Virginia. Learn where they come from and decide if block fields might exist in your part of the country.

Natural Hazards

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

Visual Glossary of Earthquake Terms- Background Information
Not only are earthquake terms explained, but photographs and other images are provided with each entry.

The Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of March 27, 1964- Background 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 and summaries; and delve into historical photographs. An interactive "story map" of 1964 Anchorage is an especially good way to engage students.

Earthquake Topics- Background Information
A list of USGS Earthquake websites that teachers and students will find particularly useful. Resources can be browsed by grade level.

Earthquakes- Background Information
A 20-page online booklet that explains the nature and causes of earthquakes. Describes techniques used to detect, record, measure, and predict seismic disturbances.

Tsunamis and Earthquakes- Background Information
An extensive list of links with information about tsunamis, including animations of several tsunamis.

Life of a Tsunami- Background Information
A very basic explanation of how earthquakes can trigger a tsunami. Includes diagrams.

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

Could It Happen Here? Tsuanmis That Have Struck U.S. Coastlines - Background Information
A brief review of significant tsunamis that have struck coastlines of the United States and its territories.

FAQs About Tsunamis- Background Information
Frequently Asked Questions about tsunamis.

Landslide Hazards- Background Information
A two-page fact sheet with basic information about landslide hazards and safety issues related to wet weather conditions in landslide-prone areas.

Landslide Types and Processes- Background Information
A basic overview of the different types of landslides. This is a very abridged version of the 129-page USGS Landslide Handbook, which is heavily illustrated.

Riding the Storm- Background Information
A catastrophic 1982 rainstorm triggered 18,000 landslides in the San Francisco Bay Area, claiming 25 lives and causing $66 million in property damage. Learn what USGS scientists have discovered in the last two decades about landslide dynamics and which slopes are most susceptible to sliding in this award-winning online documentary.

The Mountain That Moved- Background Information
Some of the largest prehistoric landslides in the world are located in Montgomery and Craig Counties, VA; one is nearly three miles long! Learn how these giant landslides were discovered and what they tell us about current landslide potential.

Cascade Volcano Resources for Educators- Background Information
A list of resources that are mostly specific to the Cascades, but could be applied to other volcanic areas.

Map of Current Volcano Activity- Background Information
The newly revised USGS Volcano Hazards Web site now includes a real-time status map of volcanoes, Quick Links to popular volcano information, and an expanded 

Volcanoes (Booklet)- Background Information
A 45-page online booklet that summarizes basic information about volcanoes – their types, different kinds of eruptions, related features, volcano research, and more.

What are Volcano Hazards?- Background Information
More than 50 volcanoes in the United States have erupted over the last 200 years. This brief fact sheet explains the hazards that result from these eruptions and how life and property hundreds of miles away from an eruption can be affected.

Regional Volcano Observatories- Background Information
News and consolidated information about volcanic activity in several regions around the U.S.

Mount St. Helens Eruption - 30th Anniversary- Background Information
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens Volcano exploded violently, causing the worst volcanic disaster in the history of the U.S. Explore materials about the eruption, including a poster: 30 Cool Facts about Mount St. Helens (free through the USGS Store). Watch a fascinating video in which USGS scientists recount their experiences during the eruption, and see how the eruption has triggered a growth in volcano science and volcano monitoring. View a 3-D Animation of Mount St. Helensfollowing the 1980 eruption.

Eruptions of Hawaii's Volcanoes--Past, Present, and Future- Background Information
Updated (2010), online version of a 63-page booklet written for the general public. Focuses on the eruptive history, style, and products of Hawaii's Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Heavily illustrated with photographs and diagrams.

Volcanic and Seismic Hazards on the Island of Hawaii- Background Information and Photos
A general interest publication that provides an excellent description, with photographs, of the hazards associated with living in an active volcanic region and the topics that potential homeowners and land-use planners must consider.

Floods and Floodplains- Background Information
This easy-to-understand fact sheet describes why floods occur and discusses the basics about flood-plain designation.

Large Floods in the United States: Where they Happen and Why- Background 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.

Significant Floods in the United States During the 20th Century- Background Information
A short description of the types of floods, how they are measured, and the 32 most significant floods of the last century.   

FAQs About Floods- Background Information
Frequently Asked Questions about floods.

The 100-Year Flood- Background Information 
What is a 100-year flood and why don't these floods happen every 100 years? This simple fact sheet describes the statistics behind the designation and explains why regular measurements are essential for understanding them.

Oceans/Coasts

Chesapeake Bay Bolide- Background Information
Explore the extraordinary consequences of a large extraterrestrial body colliding with the Earth in this new research on the Chesapeake Bay bolide. Events like these may have contributed to the demise of dinosaurs.

The Fragile Fringe: A Guide for Teaching about Coastal Wetlands- Background Information and Activities
Includes background information, suggested activities, glossary, references, and reading list. Activities can be demonstrated by the teacher or performed by students. Emphasis is on Gulf Coast wetlands.  

Coasts in Crisis- Background Information
This website 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. 

Water

Education - Learn About Water- Background Information
Start your search here for a wealth of water science resources that are appropriate for use in K-college classrooms.

Science in Your Watershed- Background Information
Provides information about watersheds and a map locator for watersheds across the country.   

What is Ground Water?- Background Information
A very simple explanation of groundwater and aquifers. Diagrams are included.

Ground Water- Background Information
A short booklet that describes how groundwater occurs and how its quality is assessed. Contains a good glossary.

Note: Older USGS publications retain the pre-2009 spelling of "ground water" as two words.

Floods and Floodplains- Background Information
This easy-to-understand fact sheet describes why floods occur and discusses the basics about flood-plain designation.

Large Floods in the United States: Where they Happen and Why- Background 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.

Significant Floods in the United States During the 20th Century- Background Information
A short description of the types of floods, how they are measured, and the 32 most significant floods of the last century.   

FAQs About Floods- Background Information
Frequently Asked Questions about floods.

The 100-Year Flood- Background Information 
What is a 100-year flood and why don't these floods happen every 100 years? This simple fact sheet describes the statistics behind the designation and explains why regular measurements are essential for understanding them.

Other