Resources for Teachers

Grade 3-5: Geology

General Geology|| Caves and Caverns|| Fossils and Earth History|| Geologic Maps|| Geomagnetism|| Plate Tectonics|| Rocks and Minerals|| Weathering and Erosion

General Geology

3D Paper Models- Activity
3-D paper models (with accompanying Educator Guides) are a fun and interactive way to teach geologic concepts. Although these models were created in the 1990s and have a somewhat low resolution, they’re still good! Animations mentioned in the Educator Guides are no longer available

3D Photographs of Geology in National Parks- Photos
Photographic tours of National Parks (primarily in the western U.S.) in both 3D and standard photographs.

Fossils and Earth History

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.

The Geologic Time Spiral - A Path to the Past- Posters
The centerfold illustration from the popular USGS pamphlet "Geologic Time" is now available as a downloadable poster in both page-size and poster-size resolutions. This diagram is a wonderful representation of the age of the Earth from its creation, through the different geologic eras, and up to the present. Perfect for classroom walls!

Mud Fossils (includes guides and lesson plan)- Lessons and Activties 
This Web site is a teaching kit for lower elementary grades (K-3) that includes lesson plans, activities, and other resources for teaching about fossils.   

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.

Geology of the Southern Appalachians- Map
This double-sided map was published in 2008 for classroom and public use. It consists of a geologic map draped over a shaded-relief background, photographs of interesting geologic features, diagrams of tectonic plate movement, and more. A 23-page booklet, Birth of the Mountains: The Geologic Story of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, is a companion product. A Teacher's Guide(designed to go with a film that's no longer available) has 17 suggested activities.

Fossil Lesson Plan: Crinoids- Lesson Plan
W What are fossils? What are crinoids? Make your own easy model of these marine organisms to learn how they live and how we often see them in the geologic record as fossils!

Geologic Maps

Tapestry of Time and Terrain- Map
Shaded relief and geology are combined on this map of the 48 conterminous states. It is a useful resource for discussing physiographic provinces and for viewing the location of rocks deposited during different geologic time periods. Download a PDF version or purchase a paper wall-size version through the USGS Store. This is one of the most eye-catching maps produced by the USGS.

Geologic Map of North America- Maps
Click on "Map Images" (icon that looks like a framed picture) to download a map and explanation sheet for the Geologic Map of North American at different resolutions.


A Brief Introduction to Geomagnetism- Background Information and Photos
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.

Journey Along a Field Line- Activity
A sixteen-page comic book about the Earth's magnetic field. Travel down through the interior of the earth then back up into the ionosphere to learn how the magnetic field works.

Plate Tectonics

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.   Wegener's Puzzling Evidence Exercise
Students use fossil evidence and other clues to piece together the continents before they drifted apart.

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- Background Information
An introductory guide to what is known about the interior of our planet.

Rocks and Minerals

Schoolyard Geology- Activities
Structured activities use man-made features that are found in a typical schoolyard to demonstrate geologic principles.

The Life Cycle of a Mineral Deposit- Background Information
A teacher's guide for hands-on mineral education activities. Designed to meet the National Science Standards, this product includes 10 activity-based learning exercises that educate students on basic geologic concepts; the processes of finding, identifying, and extracting the resources from a mineral deposit; and the uses of minerals. Geared for grades 5-8, this publication defines what a mineral deposit is and how it is identified and measured, how the mineral resources are extracted, and how the mining site is reclaimed; how minerals and mineral resources are processed; and how we use mineral resources in our every day lives.   

Collecting Rocks- Activity
Learn about different types of rocks and how to identify and collect them.

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.

Minerals in our Environment- Poster
A color poster (approximate dimensions 36 x 60 inches) showing how we use minerals in our everyday life. Download the PDF file and print at full size or page size. A Spanish-language version of this poster is also available.

Mineral Resources: Out of the Ground . . . Into our Daily Lives- Poster
A 29 inch x 41 inch poster showing the common usage of mineral resources in our homes, offices, and equipment we use daily. Download a PDF or postscript file to print at full size or page size.

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.

Weathering and Erosion

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

Erosion- Activity
Students use soil and water to demonstrate the effect of rainfall on soil erosion (see back side of poster).

Weathering and Erosion in Desert Environments- Activity
Explains how desert climates impact weathering and erosion processes in the Mojave Desert (this activity is on the back side of the poster).

Caverns and Caves

Paper Model of Karst Topography- Activity
Cut out and glue together a three-dimensional model illustrating karst topography.

Karst in the United States- Maps
A report with 2014 digital maps delineating areas of the U.S. having karst or the potential for development of karst. Open the Report file and click on Figure 1 to open a separate, high-resolution file of the map (26 Mb; download the file for faster viewing and printing), or view the KML file in appropriate software.