Google Earth for Educators: 50 Exciting Ideas for the Classroom

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March 14th, 2010

Google Earth has opened up potential for students in classrooms around the globe with its bird’s-eye view of the world. Whether you are a veteran teacher looking for new ways to teach old topics or you are a still an education student getting ready to make your debut in the classroom, these exciting ways to use Google Earth are sure to infuse your lessons with plenty of punch. Find ideas for any age student and a handful of virtual tours that will not only help you instruct your students, but might even teach you something along the way.

Elementary

Younger students can have fun with these Google Earth lessons and ideas.

  1. Meteors. Have students locate the places around the world where meteors have hit, then use that data to create charts or graphs.
  2. My Summer Vacation. Elementary students can explore geography while sharing something about themselves in this lesson.
  3. The American Revolution. This activity is appropriate for elementary aged students and traces the paths of America’s founding fathers.
  4. Using the Ruler Tool to Measure in Google Earth. This lesson walks teachers through using the ruler tool in Google Earth as a learning resource.
  5. Flat Stanley. Scroll down to the May 4th entry here to learn how you can use a Flat Stanley icon to use in Google Earth.

Middle School

These lessons cover a wide range of subjects and are just right for middle school students.

  1. San Francisco: visualizing a safer city. Middle school students can do this group project that involves planning to make San Francisco safer during a major earthquake.
  2. His Dark Materials: Northern Lights in Google Earth. Read Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights and complete this lesson that uses Google Earth to bring the Norwegian island of Svalbard to life.
  3. The Red Badge of Courage. After reading this book, lead students through this lesson plan on the American Civil War.
  4. Great Explorers. Study Lewis and Clark in this geography lesson using Google Earth.
  5. The World in My Back Yard. This lesson focuses on cultural awareness for 6-8th grade students.
  6. God Grew Tired of Us: Migration and Cultural Interaction. Students will watch a documentary film, then study migration and Africa with this lesson. Just substitute Google Earth in place of the 2D maps suggested here.
  7. Travels of Odysseus in Google Earth. Map out Odysseus’ travels with this fun lesson.

High School and Beyond

These lessons are great for high school and college students and include literature, geography, history, and more.

  1. Around the World in 80 Days. After reading Around the World in 80 Days, have students locate 19 placemarks mentioned in the book. Have them select 19 places they would stop and explain why.
  2. Energy Consumption Rates across the USA and the World. Use this lesson plan to have students examine and compare energy consumption rates using Google Earth and several other resources.
  3. Environmental Reconnaissance of a Salt Marsh. Students will use Google Earth, field work, photography, and other resources to learn about salt marshes in this lesson.
  4. The Boxing Day Tsunami. Explore the causes and effects of the tsunami that occurred on December 26, 2004.
  5. A new management plan for Stonehenge. Have students create a management plan to improve the visitor facilities at Stonehenge.
  6. Modelling sea level change on the Gold Coast. Take a look at surfing and shrinking coastlines along the Gold Coast in this lesson.
  7. The Diamond Trade. Explore the social and ecological impact of the diamond trade using this powerful lesson.
  8. All Quiet on the Western Front. Read this book, then study Europe and WWI battlefields.
  9. Great Monuments of the World. Teach students about monuments around the world as well as the significance of them.
  10. Places Quoted in Shakespeare in Google Earth. Visit 85 places mentioned in Shakespeare’s works.

All Ages

From literature trips to volcano exploration, these ideas are great for any age student.

  1. Google Lit Trips. This site provides lesson plans coupling books with Google "trips" students can take. Lessons range from Kindergarten to college.
  2. Asia: Continent of Contrasts. Take a seven-day tour across the Asian continent with this lesson.
  3. Explore the Arctic with Google Earth. Have students explore the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with this resource from the Sierra Club.
  4. Google Earth Outreach Showcase. See how non-profit organizations are making a difference in areas experiencing disaster and war.
  5. Monster Milktruck!. Drive a milk truck around Google Earth here.
  6. Spring Sojourn. Teach civil rights history and geography with this lesson created by a real journey taken by a group of high school students and staff.
  7. Global Vulcanism Program. Study volcanoes around the world with this site and Google Earth.
  8. Real World Math. This site is full of lesson ideas for teaching math with Google Earth.
  9. Weather and Storm Tracking Tools in Google Earth. Use these tools to study weather and even track storms.

Virtual Tours

Take these awesome and awe-inspiring virtual tours with your classroom and Google Earth.

  1. Art Museums 3D Tour. Students can visit famous art museums around the world with this tour. Couple this tour with inside exploration when you visit the museums’ websites.
  2. Google Earth Ocean. Ocean allows students to explore the oceans and all that is within and around them.
  3. United States Capitol Buildings. Move your state capital lesson beyond boring memorization with this tour.
  4. Cathedrals 3D Tour. Take students on a tour of famous cathedrals across the world with this tour.
  5. Geosights of Utah. The geological formations in Utah are like nothing else, so be sure to include this tour in your lesson plan.
  6. Castles and Palaces 3D Tour. Students can see castles and palaces in 3D when you take this tour.
  7. Libraries. Visit historic libraries with this tour, then visit their websites for even more learning possibilities.
  8. Major League Baseball Stadiums. If you are looking for a way to capture the attention of the sports fans in your class, take them on a tour of these baseball stadiums.
  9. Google Earth Sky. Take students on a field trip that’s out of this world with this tour that explores space.
  10. Great Green Buildings. The buildings in this tour have received the highest level of certification from the Energy Department and offer a good tool for studying environmentalism.
  11. Rome Colosseum. Take students on a trip to the Colosseum with Google Earth.
  12. Beijing Tour. If your class is studying China, why not include a tour of Beijing?
  13. Universities. College-bound high school students will especially enjoy exploring the campuses of some of the most popular universities in the US.
  14. National Registry. The American Institute of Architects celebrated their 150th anniversary with this tour of their 150 favorite structures in America.
  15. Arc de Triomphe. When studying France, be sure to include this tour of the famous Arc de Triomphe.
  16. Skyscrapers Tour. Visit the tallest buildings around when you take this Google Earth tour.
  17. Rail Stations Tour. Take a look at the past and present with this tour of rail stations.
  18. Sydney Opera House. Students can explore the Sydney Opera House from several angles.
  19. Bridge 3D Tour. Students can explore some of the most amazing bridges with this tour.

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