I write quite often about Google Earth (it’s a terrific program, I can’t help it), and I often have ideas running through my head about how to use it, and I’m glad to read that other teachers are as well. Quentin D’Souza, a longtime educator, firm believer in educational technology, and author of the Teaching Hacks blog has outlined a project using Google Earth that I hope to do with my fifth graders this year.
Although Mr. D’Souza pulls from Canadian standards for Social Studies, they align themselves quite well with U.S. standards when it comes to studying the first European explorers to set foot in North America. Most students in 5th or 6th grade study these explorers, learning what their motives for exploration were, what dangers or obstacles they had to overcome, but most importantly, how they sailed through largely uncharted waters to reach their destinations. That’s where Google Earth comes in; just as the original explorers had to plot out their travels carefully, students can use Google Earth to carefully plot out the routes that many of the explorers took, adding push pins at points of interest to describe different parts of the voyages.
The lesson plan is outlined here, entitled North American Explorers, and also includes ideas for using a wiki to collaborate on notes and research, but I think the Google Earth piece could stand alone if a teacher wished to have the students research independently. Learners could place push pins from the explorer’s points of deparute in Europe, stops along the way, and even places they made land fall in the new world, creating a narrative as you traveled the path. Using the path tool students could then connect the points, using different colors for the “trip there” and the “trip home.” Alright, so you need to purchase the Google Earth Plus for access to the path tool, but for just $20 it’s a well spent classroom expense.
These are just a few “tip of the iceberg” ideas that I had while reading his post. He has a lot more ideas for using Google Earth, so read them for yourself and see what kind of ideas you have.