Resources for Teachers

College: Geography

Geologic Maps|| Land Use Change|| Maps and Geospatial Data|| Purchase USGS Paper Maps and Earth As Art Images|| Satellite Imagery and Remote Sensing|| Topographic Maps|| 

Maps and Geospatial Data

USGS Geospatial Data and Mapping Websites- Background Information
The most commonly used USGS sources for geospatial data. Some (but not all!) of this is targeted to GIS (Geographic Information System) users.

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.

27 Ideas for Teaching with Topographic Maps- Activities
Classroom activities that teach about maps and cartography. Some of the activities can be completed using GIS software.

Map Mysteries- Lesson
Sample questions to use with USGS topographic and thematic maps as starting points to uncover mysteries about the cultural and physical geography of the Earth.

The National Map- Maps
Download free, seamless orthoimagery, elevation, geographic names, hydrography, boundaries, transportation, structures, and land cover for the entire U.S. Offers interoperability with ArcGIS and viewers like Google Earth, popular GIS tools, and other advanced features. New users might benefit from reading a fact sheet before starting.   

USGS Education Map Catalog- Maps
Go to the USGS Store and click on "Education Products" to browse and purchase USGS maps that are popular with educators. 

 Free Digital USGS Topographic Map Quadrangles- Maps
Go to the USGS Store and click on "Map Locator and Downloader" to download free USGS topographic map quadrangles in georeferenced PDF (GeoPDF) format. Both historical topographic maps and US Topo maps are available. Other file formats for topographic maps are available.

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

How to Use a Compass with a USGS Topographic Map- Background Information
Learn to navigate using a topographic map and a compass.

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.

Satellite Image of Your State- Photos
Print a poster size satellite image of your selected U.S. State.

Urban Growth in American Cities- Photos
Explore how USGS uses image pairs to examine landscape change over time. Use land cover data derived from remote sensing data to view our dynamic changing land surface. 

US, ROUTES PRINCIPAL EXPLORERS 1501-1844- Map
What routes did the early explorers take across the contiguous United States? This map of early exploration follows the routes these pioneers took across the country's landscape. 

Printable Outline Maps of States (plus reference maps and more!)- Map
Download hundreds of reference maps for individual states and for all of the United States. These are specifically designed to print on 8.5"x11" paper for classroom use. Includes unlabeled outline maps of the U.S. Formerly available on the National Atlas website.

AmericaView- Lessons and Photos
USGS is a partner in AmericaView, which has lesson plans and other education resources for working with satellite imagery. Mostly targeted to grades 6-12. Includes links to various lesson plans, games, tutorials, and other educational resources. 

Education Map Catalog- Maps
Find useful maps for your classroom! Browse our most popular educational maps.
Printable Outline Maps of States (plus reference maps and more!)
Download hundreds of reference maps for individual states and for all of the United States. These are specifically designed to print on 8.5"x11" paper for classroom use. Includes unlabeled outline maps of the U.S. Formerly available on the National Atlas website.

Map-It: Form-based Simple Map Generator- Activity
Input longitude/latitude pairs to see map plots on a Mercator projection map along with land/sea and political boundaries. The map bounds will be about 10% larger than the bounds of the entered data points. This interactive map building site provides a quick glimpse into your area of interest. 

Land Use Change

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. 

Satellite Imagery and Remote Sensing

Satellite Image of Your State- Photos
Print a poster size satellite image of your selected U.S. State.

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.

AmericaView- Lessons
USGS is a partner in AmericaView, which has lesson plans and other education resources for working with satellite imagery. Mostly targeted to grades 6-12. Includes links to various lesson plans, games, tutorials, and other educational resources. 

Earth Explorer - Free USGS Remote Sensing Data- Photos
Download digital USGS data including satellite imagery, digital aerial photos, and other data. All products are free except for high resolution scans of aerial photography.

Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis) - Free USGS Remote Sensing Data- Photos
Download free satellite images as well as aerial photography. GloVis is more user-friendly than EarthExplorer but the search options are not as robust.    

Satellite Image Gallery- Photos
A special collection of satellite images that record beautiful sights and scenes that stir the imagination. Includes the spectacular 'Earth as Art' collections and satellite mosaics of each state. All images can be downloaded for free. Paper copies of all these images can also be purchased through the USGS Store.

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.

EarthNow!- Photos
Currently only works in Internet Explorer. A mesmerizing, near-real time viewer that displays data received from the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites as they pass over the United States.

Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change- Photos
Earthshots is a collection of before-and-after Landsat images (1972-present), showing recent environmental events and introducing the concept of remote sensing. Some changes are due to natural causes and some are due to human causes. 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.   

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.

Topographic Maps

Constructing a 3D Topographic Map- Activity
This exercise uses clear plastic take-out lids, each marked with a different elevation line, and stacked to produce a 3D topographic map. It includes a base map of Angel Island (San Francisco Bay) but can be adapted to any local topographic feature.

Free USGS topographic map quadrangles- Maps
Download free USGS topographic map quadrangles in georeferenced PDF (GeoPDF) format by clicking on "Map Locator" on the USGS Store Web site. These files were created using high-resolution scans and average 10-17 megabytes in size. You can search by location, theme, name, and other means to locate the area of interest. 

Dynamic Topographic Maps Illustrating Physiographic Features- Activity
Fully interactive map exercise to view and understand various landscape features across the United States. Click on various locations and view topographic maps, aerial imagery, and shaded relief maps at various time periods, while also zooming to specific features such as faults, buttes, glacial landforms, glaciers, rockfalls, and volcanic cones. This exercise will help students read and interpret landforms from topographic maps. 

US Topo: Maps for America- Maps
This site contains information on US Topo, the next generation of topographic maps which integrate historical topographic maps with more frequent GIS updates. US Topo maps are available for any new topographic map produced after 2009 and directions on how to access are available here: https://www.usgs.gov/media/videos/accessing-us-topo-through-usgs-store 

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.

Purchase USGS Paper Maps and Earth As Art Images

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.   

Geologic 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.   

Tapestry of Time and Terrain- Map
Shaded relief and geology are combined on this map of the 48 conterminous states. It's a useful resource for discussing physiographic provinces and for viewing the location of rocks deposited during different geologic time periods. Download a free PDF or purchase a paper copy through the USGS Store.     

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.

Geology of the Southern Appalachian Mountains- Map
Created for use in high school and college classrooms, this double-sided USGS map consists of a geologic map, photographs of geologic features, diagrams of plate movement, and more. The map is a companion to the DVD and Teachers Guide The Southern Appalachians, a Changing World and the brochure Birth of the Mountains.