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Featured Topics Archive

Upcoming Public Lecture: ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System
Picture of shake alert poster Tune in Thursday, January 25, 2018 to view the upcoming USGS public lecture, ShakeAlert: The Path to West Coast Earthquake Early Warning... how a few seconds can save lives and property! Learn about the ShakeAlert early warning system, which uses the latest technology to characterize an earthquake quickly and deliver alerts to areas before strong shaking begins. The lecture will be livestreamed at both noon and 7pm pacific time, so students can watch it live from the classroom or home.

Sea Otters
Picture of sea otters In the latest USGS public lecture, Sea Otters: Confessions of a Keystone Carnivore, a USGS research wildlife biologist discusses the importance of sea otters! View this entertaining and educational lecture to learn all about sea otter behavior, why are they are a keystone predator, and their effects on ecosystem dynamics.

Field Photo Map
Image of interactive U.S. Land Cover Field Photo Map Explore the North American landscape with an interactive map! The Land Cover Trends Field Photo Map is easy to use and would be a fun and engaging exercise to include in any classroom activity.

Corn Maze Geography
Photo of student using a GPS recieve Do you have a corn maze in your area? Corn mazes are a fun and easy way to teach about mapping concepts and techniques! Our Corn Maze Geography page (all grades) has ten lesson suggestions and shows how they meet National Geography Content Standards.

Explore our Topographic Map Resources for Teachers to find more ideas for teaching about topographic maps.

The Great ShakeOut
Great Shake Out Poster of What to do during an Earthquake Is your class ready to ShakeOut? The Great ShakeOut is scheduled for Thursday, October 19! Visit the ShakeOut Website to find your region and register to participate in the drill. You'll also find many resources on earthquake safety and preparedness.

Field Trip Guides to Selected Volcanoes
map of western united states volcano sites Interested in a volcano site field trip? A new collection of USGS Field Trip Guides to Selected Volcanoes and Volcanic Landscapes of the Western United States is now available! Explore several different possible field trips to enhance learning about volcanology with your students. Each guide book contains maps and detailed site information.

Geology of National Parks
photograph of ancient sand dune deposit in Zion National Park View amazing geologic features of our national parks from the comfort of your home! Take a virtual trip to over 60 national parks, reserves, monuments, and recreation areas with the USGS Geology of National Parks website. Explore these features via regular or 3D photographs, and continue your journey with lists of selected resources.

USGS Topographic Maps
thumbnail of illustration of Zot the frog Make learning fun this summer! Find activities for kids to do at home while school is out. Check out the USGS Kids Website where you can print coloring pages, play different word games, solve puzzles, and other indoor and outdoor projects.

USGS Topographic Maps
thumbnail of usgs fact sheet 2017-3045 US Topo-Topographic Maps for the Nation Taking your kids hiking this summer? Do they know how to read a topographic map? Two new fact sheets are now available to make it easy. View the new US Topographic Maps for the Nation, and this one on Scanning and Georeferencing Historical USGS Quadrangles to learn more about how to read topographic maps and their many uses!

Additional information about working with U.S. Topographic Maps can be found at our Topographic Map Resources for Teachers page.

Careers in Volcanology
thumbnail of usgs volcanologist near lava flow Watch this vimeo featuring a USGS volcanologist to learn about developing a career in volcanology! The vimeo is part of a series on technical careers aimed at high school students.

Natural Hazards Quiz
thumbnail of 2005 landslide in Conchita, California Take this new quiz to find out how much you know about natural hazards. Challenge your students to take the quiz as well and test their natural hazards knowledge!

Additional resources on natural hazards can be found at our Natural Hazards Gateway.

thumbnail of publication cover showing a photograph of a rock thin section Explore K-12 classroom activities for learning about minerals in The Life Cycle of a Mineral Deposit--A Teacher's Guide for Hands-On Mineral Education Activities. These include Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining, Make Your Own Toothpaste, and Peanut Butter and Jelly Geology.

Additional classroom resources are on our Do We Take Minerals For Granted? website, our Mineral Commodity Fact Sheets, and in A World of Minerals in Your Mobile Device.

Rock Stories
photo of a rock with grains smaller than a penny, and a rock with grains larger than a quarter Wish you could take more class field trips? You can! Your own schoolyard is filled with great geologic features!

In this ready-to-use lesson, students learn that a rock's properties tell stories about where it came from and where it has been. The lesson illustrates how to make geologic observations and gives background about the important properties of rocks to observe. Students then use those observation skills to describe rocks they find on their own Schoolyard.

Unusual Tsunamis
cartoon of a person racing away from a large wave Not all tsunamis are generated by earthquakes. They can be caused by volcanoes, landslides, and even atmospheric disturbance.

Learn about the basics of tsunamis and their non-seismic sources in a new, archived lecture that's targeted to the general public, Unusual Sources of Tsunamis: From Krakatoa to Monterey Bay.

Find more information about tsunamis at:

Geologic Time
thumbnail of a cartoon spiral representing the Earth's geologic history What is geologic time? Explore a wealth of information in our classroom-friendly publications and Web pages:

Water Education Posters and Activities
photograph of two colorful rocks Introduce students to nine different water concepts through our series of Water Education Posters. The front side of each poster has a complex and eye-catching cartoon, while the back side has supplemental text and 2-3 classroom activities.

Posters are available in both grade school and middle school versions with targeted activities. Some posters include a Spanish-language version.

Printed copies of these posters are no longer available from the USGS, but the files are easily downloaded in PDF or JPG formats.

Find many resources on our Education--Learn About Water website.

Why are Minerals Important?
photograph of two colorful rocksUSGS Mineral Commodity Fact Sheets are an easy and accessible way to learn about the importance of minerals in our daily lives. Be sure to explore our two newest additions: You'll also find ten learning exercises in The Life Cycle of a Mineral Deposit--A Teacher's Gude for Hands-On Mineral Education Activities.

It is, in fact, an FAQ
photograph of scientist wearing a helmet and gas maskUSGS FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) are a great source of easily-digested information about our science. Have your students investigate some of their questions, like:

Map Adventures
cartoon map showing map legend and compass pointsDo you teach about maps? Our many resources include three teacher packets complete with lesson plans, teacher resources, and activities: This is also a good time of year to try out our Corn Maze Geography activities.

More classroom materials for learning about maps are available on our pages for Primary, Secondary, and Undergraduate grades.

Is Your Class Ready to ShakeOut?
thumbnail of cartoon showing a figure that drops, covers, and holds on October 20 is the day that schools across the country will participate in the Great Shakeout earthquake drills. Is yours one of them?

Damaging earthquakes can potentially occur in many parts of the United States. Are you prepared to survive and recover quickly? Do your students know what to do during an earthquake, whether they're at school or at home?

The ShakeOut website includes state-specific resources and educational materials. Be sure to check out the videos and "Drill Broadcast" recordings.

A World of Minerals in Your Mobile Device!
thumbnail of publication page showing text and photos of students doing fieldwork More than half of all components in a mobile device—including its electronics, display, battery, speakers, and more—are made from mined and semiprocessed materials (mineral commodities). Our new fact sheet, A World of Minerals in Your Mobile Device, engages students by showing them which minerals are used in different parts of a mobile device and where those minerals come from.

Find more classroom-friendly information about minerals by exploring our Mineral Facts and FAQs and our collection of Mineral Commodity Fact Sheets.

USGS Internships
thumbnail of publication page showing text and photos of students doing fieldwork There are numerous opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as recent graduates, to participate in USGS science. Check out our brand new General Information Product: Student and Recent Graduate Employment Opportunities.

Explore additional information on our Student and Career Opportunities website, including our new General Information Product about Grant Opportunities for Academic Research and Training.

California-It's Not Just Earthquake Country!
photo of Mount Shasta in the distance with fields in front of it Did you know that volcanic eruptions occur in California about as frequently as large earthquakes? Learn more in a new, online public lecture about the USGS California Volcano Observatory, which studies and monitors over eight different volcanic areas in California that might potentially erupt (like Lassen Peak in 1914).

Teaching about Maps photo of an enormous ash cloud Maps and map products are an integral part of natural science. The USGS has map teaching resources for all grade levels. Our online teacher packets Map Adventures (grades K-3), What Do Maps Show? (grades 5-8) and Exploring Maps (grades 7-12) include lesson plans, activities, posters, and a teaching guide.

Explore our list of Topographic Map Resources for Teachers to find additional materials.

Mount Pinatubo 25 Years Ago
photo of an enormous ash cloudThe June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Phillippines was the largest volcanic eruption of the last 100 years. USGS scientists collaborated with Filipino scientists to successfully forecast the timing of the eruption. Read about the sequence of events and explore additional resources.

An excellent NOVA production, (In the Path of a Killer Volcano) is available on YouTube. It follows USGS scientists before, during, and after the eruption, and is sure to inspire future volcanologists.

Predicting Volcanic Eruptions
photo of hot red lava spurting into the air Use our interactive Predicting Volcanic Eruptions website to explore how USGS scientists monitor active volcanoes. Then use monitoring data to determine if an eruption might be about to occur.

See what other volcano teaching resources are available. Our Alaska Volcanoes Guidebook for Teachers has many activities that can be applied to volcanoes in other parts of the world.

Views of the News
one satellite image showing no flooding and a second image showing flooded areas See what's happening around the world--from space! Our Views of the News and Image of the Week sites use before and after satellite images to show the impacts of large-scale events like floods.

Try our activity for using macaroni or beans to estimate the size and occurrence of floods. The activity is on the back side of our Watersheds poster. Additional activities are on the back of our other Water Education posters.

Hawai'i Volcanoes
photograph of hot lava fountaining May is Volcano Awareness Month, so our video of a new breakout on Hawai'i's Kilauea Volcano is perfectly timed.

Discover many more photographs and videos (all copyright-free) on our Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website (images with a USGS logo in the corner link to videos) and through our Find An Image! page.

Native Bees
photograph of a bee Did you know that the honey bee is not native to North America? Learn about the importance of native bees and biodiverse ecosystems in a new, archived public lecture, Untapped Capacity: Our 4,000 Species of Native Bees.

Download spectacular, copyright-free photographs of bees and other insects and follow our USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory on Instagram.

Earth as Art
thumbnail showing colorful striations in the Earth's surface caused by wind Have you explored the new Earth as Art 4 collection? These spectacular satellite images were specially selected for their artistic appearance. Download free, high-resolution images (jpg or tif) and learn how satellite images like these are used by USGS scientists.

Our Tracking Change over Time lesson plans (grades 5-8), show students how to compare satellite images over time to study the changing Earth. They can even use the included Multispec software to create their own Earth as Art images.

The Gold Rush and the 1906 Earthquake
photograph from 1906 showing lines of broken bricks in the street How did the California Gold Rush and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake help lead to our understanding of plate tectonics and modern seismic science? All is explained in a new, archived public lecture, The Gold Rush and the 1906 Earthquake.

This is an especially good lecture for classroom use, with simple descriptions and demonstrations of concepts.

Find educational materials for earthquakes at our Earthquake Hazards Program Learning site.

Animal Tracks
Cartoon of man looking at tracks in the sand What animals live around your school? Learn how to use readily-available materials to make plaster casts of animal tracks for study.

Explore more biology-related projects, games, stories, and activities on the USGS Kids website.

Magical Manatees
Shake map with different colors showing the degree shaking from 2015 earthquake Watch a new 4 minute video about manatees and explore information about these beautiful animals on the USGS Magical Manatees website.

Find many more classroom-friendly videos on our Educational Videos and Animations website.

The 2015 Nepal Earthquake
Shake map with different colors showing the degree shaking from 2015 earthquake Scientists have long known that large earthquakes will occur along the Himalayan front, so the M7.8 earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015 was no surprise. But although damage from the earthquake was severe, it wasn't as catastrophic as expected.

Find out what happened in a new, online Public Lecture: The April 25, 2015 Gorkha, Nepal Earthquake - An Expected Event that Defied Expectations. This lecture is targeted to the general public, and is appropriate for high school and college level students.

Learn more at the USGS Event Page for the Nepal earthquake.

Let Our Science Come to You!
Photo of a manatee facing the camera Have you explored USGS Social Media and Data Feed options lately? There are many different ways for teachers and students to keep up with the latest science.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the website to register for automated volcano and earthquake feeds, like the Earthquake Notification Service, which can be customized for specific locations and earthquake sizes.

Public domain photos are posted daily on several USGS social media sites.

Land Cover Photos
Map of the USA with thumbnails of photos superimposed Easily navigate to and download thousands of photos of the American landscape that are part of our newly released Land Cover Trends Field Photo Map.

Photos range from medium to high resolution. Find images by navigating directly to them, or search by keyword. The possibilities for classroom use are endless. Have your students search on "mine" and compare the appearances of mines (both on ground and aerially) in different parts of the country.

The Chesapeake Bay Impact Structure
Image of a fiery, smoking meteor in the sky About 35 million years ago, a 2-mile-wide meteorite smashed into Earth in what is now the lower Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. Glassy particles of solidified melt rock rained down as far away as Texas and the Caribbean, and large tsunamis affected most of the North Atlantic basin. This is among the 20 largest known impact structures on Earth. Learn more in a new 2-page USGS Fact Sheet.

Our most popular classroom map, This Dynamic Planet, includes impact craters along with volcanoes, earthquakes, and tectonic plates. A global Earth Impact Database is maintained by the Canadian Planetary and Space Science Centre

Take Your Class to the Moon!
Image of the moon showing detailed topography Ever wonder what it would be like to wander around the Moon? Your students can now journey there without leaving their desks, using a gorgeous pair of new lunar maps -– the Image Mosaic and Topographic Maps of the Moon.

These maps were designed to help both the public and scientists understand the overall appearance and topography of the Moon. Locate features of interest, including Apollo landing sites and specific impact craters.

Explore more USGS astrogeology resources including online lectures, videos, and photographs.

Citizen Science
Photo of young man looking in the distance with binoculars How can classrooms and individual students contribute to USGS science? Explore an updated list of Citizen Science opportunities that educate and engage the public while helping the USGS tackle real-world problems.

Where is Earth's Water?
Illustration of the Earth with a small blue sphere 860 miles in diameter representing the amount of water in and on the Earth Where is Earth's water? Explore the answer to this and many more water-related questions on the USGS Water Science School website.

Learn about water basics, surface water, groundwater, and the water cycle.

Have your students take the surveys in the Activity Center and discuss how students in different locations might respond to the questions.

Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes
Graph showing dramatic increase in the number of central U.S. earthquakes since 2010 How is human activity impacting the number of earthquakes that are occurring in parts of the central United States, like Oklahoma and Kansas? Get the latest information in a new, archived public lecture about induced seismicity.

Explore additional resources on our Induced Earthquakes website.

Be sure to try our tools for making Custom Hazard Maps and Custom Earthquake Probability Maps for the area around your school (though they don't, at this time, incorporate induced seismicity).

The Giant Cascadia Earthquake of 1700

Thumbnail image of fact sheet Japanese history records a mysterious tsunami in 1700 that was unaccompanied by the usual earthquake. Modern USGS research has traced the source of that tsunami to a large seismic event on the Cascadia Subduction Zone of Washington and Oregon. Watch our videotaped public lecture to find out how sleuthing into the past helps us learn about geologic hazards of the present.

Get the full story in our publication The Orphan Tsunami of 1700--Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America.

Teacher Resources for Water Science
Thumbnail image of fact sheetDo you teach about water concepts? Find classroom activities, information, and tools on our Teacher Resources for Water Science website.

Additional classroom materials are in the Water sections of our Primary (grades K-6), Secondary (grades 7-12), and Undergraduate Resource pages.

Satellite Image Resources for the Classroom
Thumbnail image of fact sheetEnhance students’ learning of geography, map reading, earth science, and problem solving by observing landscape changes with the aid of satellite images.

Explore multiple tools for bringing satellite imagery into the classroom with the in our new Fact Sheet. These resources meet standards related to Earth and Human Activity.

Forecasting California Earthquakes
photo of a car crushed beneath a building USGS scientists cannot currently predict the precise time, location, and size of future earthquakes, but they are developing sophisticated forecasting models. Learn more in a new public lecture, "Breaking Badly: Forecasting California Earthquakes".

Forecast earthquakes for your own location: have your students try out the USGS Earthquake Probability Mapping website by entering a zip code to generate earthquake probability maps for different magnitudes and time periods.

Also explore the most recent forecasts for earthquakes in California.

Thumbnail of publication cover showing people standing in knee-deep water There are reasons why large floods occur in the same areas over and over. Learn why in Large Floods in the United States: Where They Happen and Why. Written for the general public and heavily illustrated, this 19-page online publication is easy for students to browse and understand.

Find more resources on our Flood Information website, and in our fact sheet on Significant Floods in the United States During the 20th Century

Nepal Earthquake

thumbnail image of a poster with section describing different aspects of the Nepal earthquake Looking for a simple explanation of why earthquakes occur in Nepal?

Start with our summary poster for the April 25 magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Our classroom-friendly website on plate tectonics (This Dynamic Earth) has a special page about The Himalayas: Two Continents Collide. For a good visual reference, download a free PDF of our companion map, This Dynamic Planet.

USGS Internships
Photo of a young woman holding a lab vial Are your students looking for summer or school-year internships? The USGS has fantasic opportunities in both science research and administration. Explore the different options on our Careers and Student Opportunites website.

The federal government's Pathways Program is an espcially good option, with some internships that offer conversion to full-time positions.

Watch USGS interns and former interns (who are now full-time employees) describe their experience.

We are the USGS
Photograph of woman's head and shoulders Watch brief (less than 3 minutes) interviews with USGS scientists to learn how they were inspired to follow their interests.

Find more information at our Careers and Student Opportunities website.

Schoolyard Geology
Photograph of a street with a sewer line, stop sign, and asphalt layers superimposed on each other Want to take a geology field trip without leaving your school? Many geologic principles can be explained using features that are found in a typical schoolyard. Our Schoolyard Geology website has examples of what to look for, plus lessons for mapping your schoolyard and for describing rocks that you find there! It also has a fun GeoSleuth Murder Mystery!

Ten Years After the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
Cartoon of tsunami hazard sign showing a man running uphill from waves How does the geologic record foretell of future tsunamis? What improvements have been made in tsunami warnings since the 2004 Indian Ocean devastation? Get the answers in a new, online public lecture about the state of tsunami research.

Find more tsunami information and classroom materials at our Tsunamis and Earthquakes website and at our Could it Happen Here? website.

Ground Shaking in Earthquakes
Image of the San Francisco Bay Area showing different colors for different degrees of ground motion during an earthquake Watch a new online public lecture about ground shaking in an earthquake: what controls it, technological advances that have been made in recording instruments, and real-time products that we use to study ground motion. Basic earthquake concepts are explained with animations and diagrams. This is a great resource for high school and college classrooms.

Exploring Planets Photograph of craters on MarsUSGS Planetary Geologist Michael Carr tells stories about floods on Mars, shifting ice floes on Europa, rivers of methane on Titan, and volcanoes on Io in this new online public lecture.

Learn more about the geology of our planets by browsing the USGS Astrogeology Science Center solar system website.

USGS on the Moon Photograph of two men riding in a model moon roverA new 4-minute video shows how USGS geologists contributed to the first moon landing 45 years ago. Learn more and find additional videos at the website for the USGS Astrogeology Science Center

Downloadable planetary globe models are a great way to stimulate interest in planetary science.

USGS Career Cards Photograph of a man kneeling beside a giant tortoise
What are some of the career tracks available at the USGS? Explore a series of informative cards that describe the job duties and qualifications for some of our scientific and technical positions.

Additional information is on our Careers and Student Opportunities website.

Geology of National Parksphotograph of very large stalagmites (tower-shaped rock formations) in the Big Room of Carlsbad Caverns
Are you planning a trip to a national park this summer? Or you'd like to go, but just can't get there? Take a virtual trip of the geology in over 60 national parks, reserves, monuments, and recreation areas with the USGS Geology of National Parks website. Explore these features via regular or 3D photographs, and continue your journey with lists of selected resources.

Tracking Change Over Time: River Flooding satellite image showing a water-swollen river
Explore a new lesson plan that uses satellite imagery to reveal flood-related changes in the landscape. Designed for grades 5-8, this can be used as a student self-guided tutorial or as a teacher-led class lesson. Enhance students' learning of geography, map reading, earth science, and problem solving by seeing landscape changes from space.

Catastrophic Earthquakes in a Crowded World Photo of a partially destroyed house
Why have there been so many catastrophic earthquakes during the beginning of the 21st century? What are the global death tolls from earthquakes and how might those numbers change in the future? How is the modern megacity vulnerable to natural hazards? Learn all the answers in a new, online, public lecture from USGS geologist Tom Holzer.

The Landslide Handbook - A Guide to Understanding Landslides Thumbnail of landslide debris
Use this online publication (targeted to the general public) to learn the basics about landslides. The handbook is heavily illustrated with photographs and diagrams and includes an extensive glossary. Find more resources at our Landslide Hazards website.

Online Lecture: The 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake photo of railroad rails torn from their ties and bent into an s shape
March 27 marks the the 50th anniversary of the magnitude 9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami. Watch a new, online public lecture about the major effects of the earthquake, which provided a key that helped unlock one of the critical mysteries of plate tectonics. A new fact sheet about the earthquake and a 11-minute video are excellent supplements. More resources, including photographs and additional videos, are on our website for the earthquake.

The Yellowstone Volcano: Past, Present, and Future photograph of water and steam from Old Faithful Geyser erupting into the air
What do we know about the Yellowstone Volcano? What are the hazards and their probabilities of occurring? How do we monitor Yellowstone? Learn the answers in a new online public lecture from the USGS Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

Geomagnetic Storms Cartoon of the sun and the magnetic field of Earth
Learn about the consequences and hazards of geomagnetic storms in a new 7-minute video podcast. How does space weather impact the Earth's surface, and what role does it play in oil and gas drilling? Explore additional information about the Earth's magnetic field and magnetic data. You can also download a magnetic anomaly map for North America.

Holiday Activities for Children Cartoon of 5 paper puzzle pieces, each picturing a continent
Looking for educational activities that kids can enjoy at home over the holidays? We've got plenty to choose from. Some require a certain degree of adult participation. Check out our Mineral Activities (goes well with holiday baking), Topographic Salad Tray Model, Earthshots, Wegener's Puzzling Evidence, and Tennis Ball Globe.

We also have games, puzzles, and online quizzes that children can pursue on their own. Try USGS Kids (ecosystems), Water Science for Schools, and Earthquakes for Kids.

Landsat Images of the Week
Two satellite images, one showing a fire
Show your students how the Earth's land surface changes over time with our satellite Images of the Week.

Each week, a recent satellite image is posted along with one (or more) older images showing change over time. A detailed explanation of the images is included, along with a link for downloading them (free registration on Earth Explorer is required). Find more classroom-friendly satellite images of environmental change at our Earthshots website.

Corn Maze Geography
Photo of student using a GPS reciever
Do you have a corn maze in your area? Corn mazes are a fun and easy way to teach about mapping concepts and techniques! Our Corn Maze Geography page (all grades) has ten lesson suggestions and shows how they meet National Geography Content Standards.

Explore our Topographic Map Resources for Teachers to find more ideas for teaching about topographic maps.

The Great Shakeout
thumbnail of a Shakeout sign showing the name and date of the event
Is your school ready for an earthquake? Millions of people and thousands of schools across the U.S. will participate in the Great ShakeOut on October 17. Register your school and learn what to do with the help of a K-12 drill manual.

Interactive Water Cycle for Students
cartoon showing water drops travelling through the water cycle
Explore a new interactive version of our popular water cycle diagram, which describes how Earth's water is always changing forms and moving from place to place.

Find more water-related activities at our Water Science for Schools website and on the back side of the Water Education posters.

Streamer - The National Map
thumbnail of a U.S. map showing streams with one stream trace highlighted from southwest Montana to the Gulf of Mexico
Have you ever dropped a stick in a river and wondered where it might go if it floated all the way downstream? Now you can trace its journey in a new feature from The National Map called "Streamer". 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. (Try zooming to Metzel Creek, Montana and do a downstream trace from its head.)

Sources for USGS Geospatial Data
Screenshot of The National Map viewer, showing a map of the United states with a list of base data layers on the left
Do you teach GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in the classroom? A new website has links to all the best sources for free USGS geospatial data. Check out our Geospatial Data and Mapping Websites.

New Satellite Imagery - Free!
Thumbnail of a colorful satellite image
The new Landsat 8 satellite is operational and adding images to Landsat’s 41-year record of changes to our global landscape. The LandsatLook Viewer is an easy way to download free Landsat images. Use the Tracking Change Over Time lesson plans to get student's excited about studying the changing Earth.

Exploring US Topo GeoPDFs
Thumbnail of a topographic map
Do you use or teach about USGS topographic maps? A new 7-minute video tutorial describes the US Topo (updated every three years) and explains how to use the exciting features of this digital product.

Find a wealth of additional information on our list of USGS Resources for Working with Topographic Maps and our 27 Ideas for Teaching with Topographic Maps.

Lake Mead--Clear and Vital
photograph of Lake Mead surrounded by mountains
Located on the Colorado River, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the U.S. A new 13 minute documentary (additional film formats here) describes the crucial role of science in maintaining high water quality in Lake Mead. Supplement the film with a recent USGS publication covering research in the lakes and tributaries of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Mount St. Helens, 1980 to Now -- What's Going On?
photograph of erupting volcano
A new 6-page fact sheet provides basic information about the tectonic setting of Mount St. Helens, landscape change, volcano monitoring, preparedness, and a summary of volcanic activity between 1980 and the present.The digital version includes links to six downloadable (MP4) video clips about the 1980 eruption, volcano monitoring, and volcanic processes.

A Tapestry of Time and Terrain
thumbnail map of the contiguous U.S. showing different colors for rocks of different ages
One of the most popular and beautiful maps ever produced by the USGS, "A Tapestry of Time and Terrain" combines elevations with rock ages to tell the geologic story of the contiguous U.S. This map is a great way to visualize and teach about the different geographic regions and how they were formed. Download free pdfs or purchase paper copies from the USGS Store.

U.S. Department of the Interior Strategic Plan for STEM Education
thumbnail of report cover showing student working by a pond filled with lily pads
A newly published report outlines the Deparment of the Interior's vision for helping students and professionals understand and value the role of science and science inquiry in the stewardship of America's natural resources and cultural heritage.

Volcano Video Web Shorts
video still of scientist being interviewedWatch a new series of video Web Shorts (2-4 minutes each) about volcanoes. These include Photogrammetry, Debris Flows, Seismology, Instruments, Societal Impacts of Volcanism, and Volcanic Ash Impacts. Meet our scientists and learn more about their jobs as they watch over 169 known active volcanoes within the U.S. and its territories.

Images of Environmental Change
Side by side images showing the Aral Sea of central Asia shrinking in size by half from 1998 to 2010 Introduce students to remote sensing by showing examples of environmental change from around the world. Changes can be difficult to see from the ground, but a broader view using satellite imagery shows a detailed record of landscape changes. This site has been updated with more images and explanations. Supplement with lesson plans.

Tracking Pacific Walrus: Expedition to the Shrinking Chukchi Sea Ice
Photograph of a walrus with long tusks and a pup at her sideUSGS scientists have been tracking Pacific Walruses in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea since 2008. Watch a new 12-minute USGS video to find out what they've learned about walrus populations and how the loss of sea ice is changing walrus behavior.

Curiosity on Mars
Map indicating areas of severe drought in the central United StatesDid you know that the USGS played a major role in the selection of the landing site for the Mars rover "Curiosity"? Watch a new, online public lecture given by a USGS astrogeologist who provides an overview of Curiosity's mission, what scientist have learned about the geology of the landing site, and what they hope to discover about the role of water in forming the Martian landscape.

Students of all ages will have fun learning more about Mars by putting together one of several paper models of the red planet.

Drought Maps
Map indicating areas of severe drought in the central United StatesUse the USGS WaterWatch site to view maps of below-normal streamflow for the entire U.S. or for individual states. Or have students build their own side-by-side comparison maps for different time periods or different locations. Learn more about droughts at the USGS Questions and Answers about Droughts website.

Geologic Time Scale Bookmark
Geologic eras, periods, and epochs listed with their date rangesEvery student of geology needs a handy reference to the geologic time scale. Download and print a new, double-sided bookmark that shows a simplified time scale from the Precambrian to the present. For a bit more detail, there is a 2-page fact sheet.

Map Projections
portrait of Gerhardus MercatorCelebrate the 500th birthday of Gerhardus Mercator by introducing your students to the concept of map projections. The USGS Map Projections poster (pdf|html) is an excellent summary; a printed version is free through the USGS Store. Advanced students will appreciate Map Projections: A Working Manual, which is the most popular download on the USGS Publications Warehouse.

Bicentennial of the New Madrid Earthquakes
diagram showing heavy concentration of earthquakes along the Mississippi River in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas Three large earthquakes of magnitude 7.5-7.7 shook the central U.S. in 1811-1812. Located at the junction of Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, those quakes are a powerful reminder that risk of a similar event exists today. Classroom resources include:

100 Years of Tracking Eruptions in Hawaii
photo of fountaining lava A new publication, "The story of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory," documents how scientists have monitored volcanic and seismic hazards in Hawaii for 100 years and describes a journey of scientific discovery of how Hawaiian volcanoes work. Many photographs and diagrams are included. This is a great inspiration for future volcanologists. Although made in 2002, the USGS film Molten Paradise is a fascinating supplement.

Tracking Change with Satellite Imagery
photo of grand geyser Get students excited about studying the changing Earth with a new lesson plan that uses Landsat satellite images from multiple years to show changes in the global landscape. Targeted to grades 5-8.

Cartoon frog illustration New USGS Kids Website!
Create an animal coloring book, learn about invasive species, read stories about interesting animals, play nature games, make cool stuff and more at the new USGS Kids website, which is mostly targeted to grades K-6.

Screenshot showing parts of North Carolina covered by sea level rise. Sea Level Rise
Who will be affected by sea level rise as glaciers and ice caps melt? Find out by watching sea level rise animations for the World, individual countries, and individual states.

The animations are not a prediction of sea level rise, but rather illustrate areas of low elevation by using a blue color that simulates coverage by water. The numbers of people in those areas are tabulated.

Image of an earthquake hazard map for the U.S. showing high probability areas. Earthquake Prediction
Learn about the science of earthquake prediction in a new public lecture by USGS seismologist (and popular speaker) Susan Hough. What have we learned from recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and Japan?

Thumbnail of publication cover showing erupting volcanoEruptions of Hawaiian Volcanoes— Past, Present, and Future
Download a free PDF of this newly revised and updated publication that focuses on the eruptive history, style, and products of two of Hawai’i’s active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Written for a general audience, this publication is richly illustrated with diagrams and photographs. A limited number of hard copies will soon be available.

Learn more at the website for the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Thumbnail of publication cover showing abstract volcano drawingAlaska Volcanoes Guidebook for Teachers Over a third of Alaska's 140 volcanoes have been active in the last 300 years. This new online-only publication has chapters covering the tectonic setting, rocks, eruption styles, landforms, community impact, effect on climate, and monitoring of Alaska's volcanoes. Each chapter has 3-4 detailed classroom activities for grades 6-12 and a large amount of supplemental materials.

Sample view of the 100 topographic maps viewerTopographic Maps Illustrating Physiographic Features
More than 50 years ago, the USGS selected a set of 100 topographic maps showing good examples of a wide range of physical features in the United States. The goal was to help students learn about the geologic evolution of the Nation’s natural landscapes and to show how topographic maps reveal more about the land surface than its shape and elevation. These specially printed map sets have been unavailable for many years.

The National Map is now launching an improved and revised digital "Set of 100 Maps" using a simple online viewer. The initial release includes five maps from different parts of the country; additional maps will be added every few months. Go here to find more ideas for teaching with topographic maps.

EarthNow! screen capture showing satellite image and index mapEarthNow! Near-Real Time Satellite Image Viewer
What does a satellite see as it passes over our planet? Find out with the EarthNow! Landsat Image Viewer, which shows mesmerizing, near-real time satellite imagery from the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites as they pass over North America.

A fun way to learn more about these satellites and their imagery is to watch a high-resolution, 1-hour public lecture, Looking Down On Our Planet: New satellite imagery reveals a changing global surface.

Also explore Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change, an educational site full of before and after satellite images with detailed information for the classroom.

Sample of US Topo map showing the Coffeyville East quadrangle in KansasUS Topo: The Next Generation Topographic Map
Do you teach about maps, or do you use them in the classroom? The USGS has developed a new map series called the US Topo. Modeled on the old topographic series, these maps are derived from digital data that will allow the entire contiguous U.S. to be remapped every three years. US Topo maps are currently only available for certain states in the central and eastern U.S., but maps of new locations are constantly being added. Download free digital US Topo maps through the Map Locator on the USGS Store (or order paper copies). Download PDF files of traditional topographic maps at the same site.

Be sure to explore Lessons and Activities for topographic maps.

Photo of bald cypress and tupelo treesThe Fragile Fringe: Teaching about Coastal Wetlands
What are the beneficial functions of coastal wetlands? How are they impacted by canals and subsidence? What are the functions of barrier islands?

Learn about the importance of healthy coastal wetlands along the Gulf coast and in other locations through this online teaching guide. Each topic includes a classroom activity to illustrate the concept. A glossary, reading list, and resources for additional activities are included. For elementary and middle school students.

As a supplement, watch a new 8-minute video about the Effects of Sea-Level Rise on Coastal Wetlands in the Mississippi Delta and a new 7-minute video about the Impacts of Hurricanes on Salt Marsh and Mangrove Wetlands.

Thumbnail of GIP106 poster: 100-Year Flood -- It's All About ChanceWhat is a 100-Year Flood?
The term "100-year flood" is part of the national lexicon, but is often a source of confusion. Download and/or print this free poster that attempts to explain the concept, probabilistic nature, and inherent uncertainties of the "100-year flood" to the layman. Print full-size at 44" x 38" or on 11" x 17" paper.

Thumbnail of GIP 103, 30 Cool Facts about Mount St. Helens30th Anniversary of Mount St. Helens Eruption
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens Volcano exploded violently, causing the worst volcanic disaster in the history of the United States. Several new products offer educational resources to learn about the eruption, including a new poster, 30 Cool Facts about Mount St. Helens (free through the USGS Store).

Watch two fascinating new videos in which USGS scientists recount their experiences during the eruption, and the eruption is shown to have triggered a growth in volcano science and volcano monitoring.

Image of front cover of the new Colleg Board Standards for College SuccessScience College Board Standards for College Success
A new report from the College Board identifies the discipline-specific content knowledge and scientific practices that will provide all students with the education necessary to prepare them for success in college. The USGS co-chaired the Commission and was the only Federal science agency asked to have representation. This is the first time that the College Board has recognized and included a distinct set of standards for earth science.

Thumbnail of Earth as Art image of Terkezi Oasis in ChadSatellite Image Gallery
The USGS EROS (Earth Resources Observation and Science) Image Gallery offers free downloads of high-resolution satellite images that will captivate students of all ages. The Landsat State Mosaics collection combines satellite data with elevation data to produce spectacular images of each individual state. The Earth as Art collections offer satellite images chosen for their unique beauty. Paper copies of all these images can also be purchased through the USGS Store.

Thumbnail of cover for Earth Science Literacy Principles showing hands cupping a globeEarth Science Literacy Principles
The major ideas and supporting concepts of Earth science that all citizens should know has recently been released by Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI). This document was developed through support from the National Science Foundation and is a result of a year-long effort that brought together scientists from across the earth sciences. The document provides a summary of the major ideas in earth science for use by policy makers, educators, students and the general public. USGS Education hosted the initial planning meeting for this study and served on the steering committee throughout the report's development. A press release has also been issued.

Thumbnail of flowering saguaro cactusBecome a Phenology Observer
The National Phenology Network (sponsored by the USGS) is looking for volunteers to help monitor 200 plant species (animals will soon be added) found across the United States. Learn how to monitor plant phenology and sign up to contribute new observations to the national phenology database. Make this a classroom project!

Thumbnail of poster showing common mineral usesDo We Take Minerals for Granted?
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 geologic processes.

Thumbnail of Southern Appalachian geologic mapGeology of the Southern Appalachian Mountains
Created for use in high school and college classrooms, this new double-sided USGS map consists of a geologic map, photographs of geologic features, diagrams of plate movement, and more. The map is companion to the brochure Birth of the Mountains.

thumbnail of GIP 64 showing a cutaway diagram of a volcano New Volcano Posters—Free!
Two new USGS volcano posters are must-haves for the classroom wall. Geologic Hazards at Volcanoes is a cut-away diagram depicting the anatomy of a volcano and related surface hazards. Eruptions in the Cascade Range During the Past 4,000 Years is a timeline of Cascade Range eruptions. Get these FREE posters through the USGS Store ($5 shipping per total order).

Thumbnail of earthquake summary posterEarthquake Summary Posters
View and download posters (36 inches x 24 inches) that provide detailed information and a brief discussion about large earthquakes soon after they occur. Images include the epicentral area, plate tectonic environment, earthquake history, and generalized seismic hazard of the region. The posters serve as a one-stop-shop for information about large earthquakes that have occurred since 2002.

Thumbnail of GIP 58 showing dinosaurs and fossils spiraling through timeThe Geologic Time Spiral—A Path to the Past
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!

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