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MORE Fabulous Freebies: Free Materials for Teachers!


Looking for free teaching materials? Look no more! Education World has checked out lots of free resources and selected the best of the best. We share some of the highlights of these fabulous freebies, and -- of course -- we tell you how you can get your hands on them! Teaching materials for across the grades, including geography resources from the U.S. Geological Survey; an Arthur story-writing kit from the public television folks; science experiments for elementary/middle graders from the Edison Foundation; and a free magazine aimed at helping teens develop skills and character (and to help teachers and counselors help teens to do the same). Check out these great freebies!

Editor's Note: Internet stories have long shelf lives, but free teaching materials do not! Note that the following freebies story is being published on Education World in December, 1998. According to the sources of the materials listed below, all the highlighted freebies are currently available and will be for several months to come. But a word of caution: If you've unearthed this story from an archived Internet source, you shouldn't assume that these materials are still available many months later! [Be sure to see this week's other Education World story, Fabulous Freebies (Part 1) ].

What's even better than excellent educational materials? Excellent educational materials that are free!

But not all free resources are created equal!

In recent months, Education World editors have sent away for dozens of free educator materials. Here's our roundup of some of the most distinguished free resources -- across the grades and the curriculum -- including science experiments, NASA aerospace materials, language arts activities based on the "Arthur" books, and a teen publication distributed by email!


Maps! Maps! Maps!

Map.jpg What better source for maps than the U.S. Geological Survey? The USGS has a Web site, The Learning Web, dedicated to K-12 education. There you'll find many free materials for use. Some are available only on the Web; others are available thorough the mail (many in class sets of 30); some are available either way. Among the best resources are three teaching kits that teach basic map reading skills across the grades:

Map Adventures (for grades K-3) teaches students basic concepts for visualizing objects from different perspectives; and how to understand and use maps. The lessons center on a little girl named Nikki. Nikki goes up on an unplanned balloon ride that gives her, and the students, different views of a park. The illustrations will help your students move from visualizing objects from the most familiar perspective (a ground view) to the overhead view represented on most maps. The Map Adventures kit includes a teaching poster, seven step-by-step lessons, a picture of a hot-air balloon, two reproducible activity sheets, and more. The seven lessons cover the view from the ground, the view from a higher point, the view from overhead, symbols and legends, learning directions on a map, map grids, and map scale.

What Do Maps Show? (for grades 5-8) introduces students to different kinds of maps, because no one map can show everything. The legend, or map key, is the key to unlocking the secrets of each map. Several activities are included to assist in teaching the concepts of map reading. The kit includes teaching maps, four step-by-step lessons (Introduction to Maps, Some Things You Need to Know to Read a Map, What You Can Learn from a Map, and Reading a Topographic Map); reproducible maps so you can create a map packet for each student; and a reproducible activity sheet for each lesson. Concepts taught include reading maps, direction, latitude and longitude, and scale.

Exploring Maps (grades 7-12) is an interdisciplinary set of materials on mapping. 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. The packet contains two posters illustrating the development of mapping that includes a segment of the earliest known road map of the Roman empire (ca. 350 A.D.), a 1774 map of France based on land surveys conducted by members of one family over three generations, and a 1989 computer-generated map showing earthquake-prone areas. The kit also includes a teacher's guide, four activity sheets (each with several suggested activities), and an evaluation sheet.

The kits above are all available on the Web; click on the hypertext titles below. Two of the kits are also available by mail, with full-color posters. Send your request to: [Kit Name], USGS Information Services, Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225 or fax your request to (303)202-4693.


"The Best of Edison" Science Teaching Kit Upper elementary and middle school

Energy Divider This teaching kit, produced by the Charles Edison Fund, provides eight how-to units based on the experiments of Thomas Edison and other scientists. The kit comes in a sturdy, attractive 3-ring binder and contains about 250 pages of experiments. Included are experiments from the work of African-American inventor Lewis Howard Latimer. In the kit you'll find experiments and projects related to

  • energy conservation,
  • alternative energy sources,
  • the environment,
  • energy for the future,
  • nuclear energy --- and more!

The hands-on experiments are designed for the upper elementary and middle school audiences. Directions are simple, the language is straightforward and good-humored, and the materials required for the experiments are inexpensive and easy to come by.

To order "The Best of Edison" teaching kit, write to The Charles Edison Fund, 101 South Harrison St., East Orange, NJ 07018.Please include $1 to offset postage and handling charges.


Story Writing with ARTHUR A teacher's guide with reading comprehension and writing activities Ages 3 to 6

Arthur Book Cover Written for preschool and early primary students, these colorful, lively language arts materials feature the popular children's character from the books by Marc Brown. In the teacher's guide, for example, children use a story map to help them comprehend an Arthur book they have read. Children also have a story-writing checklist to help them plan to write, and then write, their own stories about Arthur.

If you'd like copies of the teacher's guide, write to Story Writing with Arthur, WGBH Educational Print and Outreach, 125 Western Ave., Boston, MA 02134. (NOTE: These materials received corporate sponsorship from Libby's Juicy Juice, babyGap, and Polaroid. Sponsors are discreetly credited in the materials.)


NASA Educational Publications Aerospace Education Services Program "Intricacies of the Spacesuit" Poster High-School Level

A four-color spacesuit poster features an illustration of a spacesuit on one side with information about, for example, "The Outer Space Environment" and "Space Tools" on the other side. Included with the poster is "Suited for Spacewalking," a teacher's guide with activities for technology education, mathematics, and science. The experiments in this guide are geared to high-school students but could be adapted for middle schoolers.

This excerpt from a "Design Brief" demonstrates the kind of approach used in the teacher's guide. Students will use the information they learn from the poster and previous activities, and information they learn about the Martian environment from other sources, to complete the activity:

CHALLENGE: Design and build a protective garment that will permit future space travelers to explore the surface of Mars. The garment must protect the person inside from the hazards of the Martian environment while remaining comfortable to wear....

PROCEDURES: Select subcontractor teams to design and construct each of the garment's components. Test these materials to ensure they will survive the Martian environment. Existing tools can be modified for use on Mars.

To obtain the spacesuit materials, write to: Request Spacesuit, WED-109, NASA Educational Publications, Code FEP, Washington, DC, 20546.


YoungSuccess Middle-school and high-school students

YoungSuccess is a monthly email magazine that is only distributed via e-mail. The magazine is written for teens, but many of its subscribers are teachers, mentors, and counselors who find that the articles make great food-for-thought or class lessons for their students. (Teachers are free to copy and use the materials as they wish.) The magazine features news of contests and competitions; a Question of the Month; news of freebies and samples; and articles with a definite self-help, self-esteem bent.

A recent "Success Tips" article in YoungSuccess encouraged teens to focus on their goals and aspirations. The article suggests creating a journal, with a different question at the top of every other page. A couple dozen possible questions were included, such as:

  • What would make my life perfect?
  • What is important to me?
  • Who do I admire?
  • I wish I could
  • What are some exciting things that I'd like to do?
  • What are my intellectual/learning/educational goals?
  • What are my professional/business/career goals?
  • What are my physical/health/appearance goals?

The article encouraged students to jot a quick response to each question, and to carry the journal with them for the next few weeks. "Whenever an idea or thought comes to mind for any of the topics, add it to your journal" Subsequent steps from this "Success Tips Workshop" involve students in setting realistic goals, and revisiting -- and revising -- those goals from time to time.

In the July issue of Young Success, a story focused on the benefits of volunteering. Among the dozens of benefits:

  • "As your efforts work to positively impact the lives of others, they will begin to cause positive trends in your life as well.
  • Your actions will help others to develop an understanding of your character.
  • You will meet others who share your interest, values, and concerns.
  • As you pursue your academic and career goals you may easily find yourself tapping into the resources and associations that your volunteer efforts made possible."

"Our mission is to help teens become successful students and adults in whatever their chosen endeavors," says Julie Joyce, editor of Young Success. "We believe that we can help by providing aspiring talent with tools, knowledge, and information about available opportunities."

To subscribe to Young Success, contact [email protected]. You can find information about Young Success online at


  • Units of Study From the prestigious Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, units of study available now include "Living Things" and "Wind: Our Fierce Friend."
  • McGraw-Hill School Division Resource Village Offers a breadth and depth of Web-based teaching resources for reading/language arts, social studies, mathematics, music, health, science, bilingual, and professional development.
  • Everyday Spelling Presented by Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley, these spelling units are for grades 1 through 8. The activities include word puzzles, writing prompts, and language facts in the early primary grades; and 25 "frequently misspelled words" and cross-curricular lessons in grade 5.

Article by Sharon Cromwell
Education World®
Copyright © 1998 Education World