Google Earth and Your Community


Google Earth is a wonderful free tool for the classroom. Use it for studying your community. Click on the link to download it.

A couple of years ago I asked Josepha how she used Google Earth and she said that she looked at stuff and said, “Ooooh!”

This is a valid use of Google Earth in the classroom, frankly. The following essential technology skills come into play when you use it in that way:

  • Use of mouse, keyboard, and possibly other navigational tools.
  • Use of zoom, and pan, and other common screen actions.
  • Recognition of common computer icons.
  • Ability to conceptualize in two and three dimensions.
  • Problem-solving abilities.

To get started with Google Earth, try these online resources:

Here are some more ideas:

  • Make an illustrated map. Create a file of images representing information about your community. Animals or plants found in different areas would be a great choice, or landmarks, or icons representing the goods produced or languages spoken in different parts of the city. Get the section you’re working on in your window and choose “Add” from the top toolbar. Within “add,” choose “photo” and browse to find the image you want from your file. Click on it. Now you can alter the size in the section called “field of view”. I also like to make the images slightly transparent: simply move the lever from “opaque” toward “transparent” till you can see the map through the image. When students are satisfied with their maps, they can save the image and print it out. This project gives students practice with research and also a good technology lesson, and the prints can make an excellent bulletin board display or illustration for a project board or report.
  • Create a path. Use the path icon or Add>Path  (that is, the “path” option on the menu you see when you click on “add” in the toolbar) to show movement of people and things across town or across the world. When you select “path” a pane will open that lets you name your path, choose its size and color, and otherwise customize the path. Leaving this pane open, click on the starting point for your path and then on the stopping points along the way. This is a great way to show students’ routes to school, the things you export from your community, or the route taken by raw materials on their way to becoming consumer goods. Add illustrations (see above) to create some amazing visual aids. For example, use paths to show where the families of all your students came from, and add a picture of each student at the start point of the path. This can be a class project — a great item to add to your class website or to print out and show at Open House.
  • Combine Google Earth with SketchUp. Show architecture, technology, and cultural artifacts with three-dimensional models by combining Sketchup and Google Earth. Create all the buildings in your neighborhood with SketchUp and add them to your Google Earth town. Then use the “Add Content” function in the Places area to add information about the places you’ve created.

Since GE is a free tool and fun to use even in the most casual way, you can easily use it to have fun and get to know your classroom computers during your community unit. On the other hand, it can also transform your geography studies. Other resources, if you want to get into Google Earth in greater depth:

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