Resources for Teachers

Lesson Plans & Activities 9-12

Here you can find lesson plans and activities that may be useful in classrooms 9-12.

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

Biology/Ecosystems

USGS Kids- Activities
Activities, games, coloring pages, projects, and stories that teach younger children about animals, climate change, bee population declines, wild birds, and more.

Wildlife and Contaminants- Lessons
A series of lessons targeted to high school students that introduces the topic of ecotoxicology and guides students through the scientific process of gathering raw data and drawing conclusions about the impact of contaminants on wildlife.   

Become a Phenology Observer- Activity
The National Phenology Network (sponsored by the USGS) is looking for volunteers to help monitor plant and animal species found across the United States. Learn how to monitor plant and animal phenology and sign up to contribute new observations to the national phenology database. Make this a classroom project!

Lessons on the Lake: An Educator's Guide to the Pontchartrain Basin- Lessons
Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain Basin is home to 1.5 million people and an estuary ecosystem with enormous biodiversity. Activities in the educator's guide help students in grades 5-12 gain an understanding and appreciation of the Basin and teaches them the skills to identify environmental concerns, make changes, and solve problems.

Land and People- Activity
Students look at interactions between people and the environment in three regions of the United States: Cape Cod, Los Angeles, and the Everglades. Targeted to grades 7-12.

Interactive San Francisco Bay Data- Activity
Look at plots of data collected from the water of San Francisco Bay, then generate your own plots using real data. How does a change in light penetration compare to water temperature? Does a change in salinity correspond with a change in chlorophyll?

Geography

Topographic Map Resources for Teachers - Lessons and Activities
This directory level site includes links to various resources on topographic maps, how to obtain them, read them, their history, and map projections and includes links to various teaching activities and modules. It is the one-stop shop for learning about, using, and teaching topographic map concepts.

Introduction to Soils - Lessons
A series of lessons teaching high school students about soils and linking them to climate, vegetation, and geology.

Exploring Maps- Lesson
Exploring Maps is an interdisciplinary set of materials on mapping for grades 7-12.  Students will learn basic mapmaking and map-reading skills and will see how maps can answer fundamental geographic questions.  The map images and activities in this packet can be used in various courses, including geography, history, math, art, English, and the sciences.   

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.

27 Ideas for Teaching with Topographic Maps- Activity
Contains 27 ideas for teaching with the approximately 57,000 topographic maps that the USGS offers.

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.

Corn Maze Geography- Activity
Visit a corn maze and use these activities to learn about maps and geography.

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

Map-It: Form-based Simple Map Generator- Activity
Enter the longitude and latitude of points to plot on a simple map. Download a postscript version of the resulting map.   Satellite Imagery

Tracking Change over Time- Activity
Enhance students' learning of geography, map reading, earth science, and problem solving through landscape changes recorded by satellites in space.

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.

AmericaView- Lesson
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.

Geology

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.

Antarctic Ice Sheet- Lessons and Activities
This report illustrates, through a paper model, why there are changes on the ice sheet that covers the Antarctica continent. By studying the paper model, students will better understand the evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet. Animations mentioned in the Educator Guides are no longer available.

Chicxulub Impact Event- Lessons and Activities
This report illustrates, by means of two paper models, how dinosaurs may have become extinct as a result of an asteroid impact. By studying the paper models, students will better understand the mass extinctions that have been part of the Earth's history. Animations mentioned in the Educator Guides are no longer available.

Crinoids- Lessons and Activities
This report illustrates, through the use of a paper model, how crinoids lived and became fossilized. By studying the paper model, students will better understand the flower-like animal that is referred to as a "sea lily" and its ocean-floor environment. Animations mentioned in the Educator Guides are no longer available.

How to Construct Four Paper Models that Describe Island Coral Reefs- Activity
This report contains instructions and patterns for preparing a set of four, three-dimensional paper models that schematically illustrate the development of island coral.

Make Your Own Paper Fossils- Lessons and Activities
This report illustrates, by means of paper models, how two organisms, a trilobite and a nautiloid, became fossils. The report is intended to help students and others visualize the size and shape of a trilobite and a nautiloid, the environment in which they lived, and the circumstances of their fossilization and subsequent discovery. Animations mentioned in the Educator Guides are no longer available.

Introduction to Soils - Lessons
A series of lessons teaching high school students about soils and linking them to climate, vegetation, and geology.

Make Your Own Paper Model of a Volcano- Lessons and Activities

This report contains instructions and a pattern for making a three-dimensional paper model of a volcano. This model is intended to help students and others to visualize a stratovolcano (inside and out) and to learn some of the terms used by geologists in describing it.

Paper Model Showing Motion on the San Andreas Fault- Activity
This report contains instructions and patterns for preparing a three-dimensional model that schematically illustrates the fault motion that occurred during the Loma Prieta earthquake of October 17, 1989, in California. The model is intended to help students and others visualize the process of fault slip during earthquakes.

Sand Dunes- Lessons and Activities
This report illustrates, through computer animations and paper models, why sand dunes can develop different forms. By studying the animations and the paper models, students will better understand the evolution of sand dunes.

How to construct 7 paper models that describe faulting of the Earth- Activity
This report contains instructions and patterns for preparing seven three-dimensional paper models that schematically illustrate common earth faults and associated landforms.

2 Paper Models Showing the Effects of Glacial Ice on a Mountain Valley- Activity
This report contains instructions and templates for preparing three-dimensional paper models of two features a mountain valley partly filled by a glacier and the same valley after the glacier has melted. Included are brief descriptions of how such glaciers form, how they erode the landscape, and what kinds of physiographic features they produce.

Earthquake Effects- Lessons and Activities
The report is intended to help students and others visualize what causes earthquake shaking and some of the possible results of the shaking. Animations mentioned in the Educator Guides are no longer available.

Landslide Effects- Lessons and Activities
This report illustrates how four different types of landslides (slide, slump, flow, and rockfall) occur and what type of damage may result. The report is intended to help students and others visualize what causes landslides and some of the possible result of the landslides. Animations mentioned in the Educator Guides are no longer available.

Plate Tectonics Tennis Ball Globe- Activity
Create a mini globe that shows the major plate boundaries of the world (scroll to page 15).

This Dynamic Planet Teaching Companion Packet- Lessons and Activities
This Teaching Companion is intended to assist teachers to teach plate tectonics, primarily for grades 6–14.

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

The Lifecycle of a Mineral Deposit- Activities
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 fifth through eighth grade science teachers.  

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

What's in My Soil?- Activity
Students separate, examine and identify the major components of soil to better understand how these components give soil its unique physical characteristics.

Introduction to Soils- Lesson
This complete lesson plan teaches students how soils develop and provides links between soils, climate, vegetation, and geology. Includes materials for both teachers and students (handout, puzzle, field and lab sheets).

Graded Bedding- Activity
Students are introduced to the concept of graded bedding, in which particles are sorted by size as they settle out of suspension. Students will discover that water is a good medium to separate and sort particles, and that particles have different behaviors in water and air.

Geologic Age- Activity
Students investigate radioactivity as a tool for measuring geologic time.

Global Change

Greenhouse Gases- Activity
Students observe and contrast thermal properties of three major greenhouse changes over time for dry air, water-saturated air, carbon dioxide, and methane.

Introduction to Soils - Lessons
A series of lessons teaching high school students about soils and linking them to climate, vegetation, and geology.

Evaluating Glacier and Landscape Change- Lesson
In this lesson students interpret USGS data in multiple formats and draw conclusions based on the data presented. 

Natural Hazards

Tabletop Earthquakes- Activity
Construct a simple earthquake machine to demonstrate the principles of seismology. Includes supporting instructional material. 

Size and Occurrence of Floods- Activity
Students use macaroni or beans to calculate the statistics of floor recurrence (see back side of poster).

Living with a Volcano in your Backyard- Activities
A three-unit guide that provides science content and inquiry-based activities about volcanoes of the Cascade Range for middle-school students, with an emphasis on Mount Ranier. Includes more than 30 activities, a field guide, glossary, and supplementary information.

Predict an Eruption!- Activities
This highly interactive site uses animations, illustrations, activities, and quizzes to show how eruptions at Mount St. Helens were accurately predicted by USGS scientists, then allows students to predict an actual eruption using real data.

Oceans/Coasts

The Fragile Fringe: A Guide for Teaching about Coastal Wetlands- Background Information and Activities
Material to use for developing a comprehensive study of coastal wetlands.  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.   

Water

Hands-on Experiments to Test for Acid Mine Drainage- Activities
Fourteen very basic exercises use home-made litmus paper and household items to test creek water for acid mine drainage and to look at plants, bacteria, and insects living in the water.

Ask a River to Text You with a WaterAlert- Activity
Incorporate real-time data in the classroom by receiving instant, customized updates about water conditions at a specific river through WaterAlert.

Outreach Notebook for Groundwater- Lessons
Five groundwater-related lesson plans for grades 6-8, complete with forms, diagrams, and supporting information. Although these were designed to be taught by an instructor and a water professional working together, a thoughtful educator could easily handle the lessons on their own.

Size and Occurrence of Floods- Activity
Students use macaroni or beans to calculate the statistics of floor recurrence (see back side of poster).

Other

Introduction to Soils - Lessons
A series of lessons teaching high school students about soils and linking them to climate, vegetation, and geology.