Resources for Teachers

Lessons Plans & Activities 3-5

Here you can find lesson plans and activities that may be useful in classrooms 3-5.

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

Biology/Ecosystems

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

Become a Phenology Observer- Lesson
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 and Activities
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.

Wise Wetland Ways- Activities
Teachers use wetland "artifacts" to discuss how people benefit from wetlands (on back side of poster).

Frog Call Quiz- Activity
Learn the breeding calls of frogs and toads in the eastern United States and Canada.

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

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!

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.

Helping Your Child Learn Geography- Background Information and Activities
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.     

Map Adventures- Lessons and Activities
This on-line teacher packet for grades K-3 teaches basic concepts for visualizing objects from different perspectives and how to understand and use maps. The kit includes seven lesson plans, activity sheets, and a printable poster.   

What Do Maps Show? -Lesson
This on-line teacher packet for upper elementary and junior high school students has four lessons on reading and using maps. The packet includes a teacher's guide, four printable activity sheets, and three maps in PDF format that can be downloaded and printed on 8.5" x 11" paper.

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.   

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- Activities
Contains 27 ideas for teaching with the approximately 57,000 topographic maps that the USGS offers.   

Map Mysteries- Activities
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- Activities
Visit a corn maze and use these activities to learn about maps and geography.

Topographic Salad-Tray Model-Lesson
This basic activity-oriented lesson helps students understand a topographic map by creating a three-dimensional model from contours on a topographic map.   

Finding Your Way with a Map and Compass- Activity
A brief description of how to navigate using a compass and topographic maps.  

Topographic Maps Illustrating Physiographic Features- Activity
Topographic maps can be used to study a wide range of physical features in the United States. This helps students learn about the geologic evolution of the Nation's natural landscapes and shows how topographic maps reveal more about the land surface than just its shape and elevation. Roam your cursor across maps and images on this online viewer to learn about selected features of the American landscape.   

What Do Maps Show?- Lessons
This on-line teacher packet for upper elementary and junior high school students has four lessons on reading and using maps. The packet includes a teacher's guide, four printable activity sheets, and three maps in PDF format that can be downloaded and printed on 8.5" x 11" paper.   

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

Lifecycle of a Mineral Deposit- Lessons and Activities
This teacher’s guide includes are 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. The guide is intended for grades 5 through 8 science teachers and students.

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.

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

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

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).

Exploring Caves- Lessons
Exploring Caves is an interdisciplinary set of materials on caves for grades K-3. Using earth science, hydrology, mapping, biology, and anthropology, the unit provides teachers with detailed lesson plans to explore these rich environments with very young students.

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

Global Change

Global Change- Activities
Includes introduction, activities, and teaching guide for topics relating to global change, time, and earth systems. Targeted to grades 4-6. 

Natural Hazards

Earthquake ABC- Activity
An ABC book created by children who witnessed an earthquake. It incorporates science, feelings, and preparedness related to this unpredictable and frightening hazard. Parent and teacher guides are included.

Earthquakes - For Kids- Activities
This Web site is rich with facts, information, coloring pages, and activities related to earthquakes. Includes links to teacher resources and much more...   

Bigger Faults Make Bigger Earthquakes- Activity
Use string or rope to demonstrate relationships between the length of a fault and the earthquakes that occur along it.

Living with a Volcano in your Backyard- Activities
Activities address volcanic processes and hazards, community safety, and the impact of volcanoes on our culture and history. These are structured around (but are not limited to!) the Cascade Range volcanoes.

Oceans/Coasts

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.   

Coastal Erosion- Activites
Moist sand and water are used to demonstrate how different waves affect the movement of sand along the coast (see back side of poster).

Water

USGS Water Science School- Activities
A fantastic resource for K-8 water science. Offers information on many aspects of water, along with pictures, data, maps, and an interactive center where students can give their opinions and test their water knowledge. 

Streamer- Activity
Have you ever dropped a stick in a river and wondered where it might go if it floated all the way downstream? Explore America's larger streams by tracing them upstream to their source or downstream to where they empty. Learn about your stream traces and the places they pass through in a detailed report.  

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.

Water Education Posters- Lessons and Activities
Water-resources topics of all completed posters are drawn in a cartoon format by the same cartoonist. Posters are available in color or B&W. The back sides of the color poster PDF files contain educational activities: one version for children in grades 3-5 and the other with activities for children in grades 6-8. The B&W posters are intended for coloring by children in grades K-5.

Wise Wetland Ways- Activities
Teachers use wetland "artifacts" to discuss how people benefit from wetlands (on back side of poster). 

Other

Regional Planetary Image Facility- Activites, Videos and Photos
Don't let the name of the website scare you off. The USGS was heavily involved in the Apollo missions; those activities are archived here in the form of fun videosphotos, and online exhibits, along with materials from more recent spacecraft missions.

Construct 3-D Globes- Activity
Download, print, and make your own paper globes of planets and moons.