Resources for Teachers

Lesson Plans & Activities College

Here you can find lesson plans and activities that may be useful in college classrooms.

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


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.


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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 


Short Course Introduction to Quantitative Mineral-resource Assessments- Lesson
A short course developed to assist policymakers in evaluating the consequences of alternative courses of action with respect to land use and mineral-resource development.

Schoolyard Geology- Activities
Stuck in the city? Can't afford to take a field trip? These structured activities use man-made features to demonstrate geologic principles.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Natural Hazards



Surface-Water Training- Lessons
Take free, online courses that cover topics such as measuring stream discharge, discharge-stage relations, safety, sediment sampling, and more. Although designed for USGS employees who are required to use standardized methods, these courses are very useful for students who need to learn proper and consistent techniques for data collection.


Map-a-Planet- Activity
Explore global imagery of the planets and satellites from a variety of missions in an easy-to-use Web interface. Customize and download your own free image maps of the Moon, Mars, Venus, and other planets and moons. Select global mosaic products and have them map projected, clipped to extents, run algebra functions against the image bands and download the final image in your choice of file formats.

USGS Planetary GIS Web Server (PIGWAD)- Activity
A user-friendly interface that supports GIS tools for analyses of planetary data. PIGWAD includes planetary GIS databases consisting of digital geologic maps, feature maps, topography, and remote-sensing data. All downloads are free. Also links to the Global GIS database for Earth.

Planetary Image Locator Tool (PILOT)- Activity
A web-based tool for access to NASA spacecraft images of the Moon and Mars. PILOT allows users to perform detailed searches to explore data sets archived from NASA space missions.