Since there were a couple of requests that I post the progress of the Google Earth project I’m doing with the fifth graders, I was happy to get such a decent reaction from my fifth graders today so that I could write about a small triumph. I haven’t used Google Earth for much more than just getting a better idea of where places are on the globe with students, so I wanted to push myself and try something more abitious. So far I’ve had to make some major changes to the plan, but that’s what I love about doing a brand new, never before field-tested activity; the kids really let you know if it’s a dud or not.
Originally slated to be a “let’s explore Michigan project” with the fifth graders in which they would put placemarks in Google Earth at various locations around the state, I felt that the interest level might be lacking considering that Michigan history is covered in fourth grade, and thus would be old hat for them. Instead, I decided to create a fictitous travel agency. As the founder of this new travel agency, I’ve assigned all of the fifth graders as my employees, and will be making them resonsible for putting together points of interest at various popular travel spots around the globe. I started with a few questions about where they’ve traveled before and what they enjoyed about their family vacations (which was helpful in activiting that good old prior knowledge), and then followed up by asking if any of their families had used travel agents to set up the vacations. A few raised their hands, so I had them explain how the travel agent had helped, and then I led the entire class to my school blog where I explained a little bit about a travel agent’s job. I also explained that travel agents that aren’t well prepared aren’t going to sell a lot of vacations due to lack of confidence in their abilities, so they should probably know a lot about popular travel locations.
I knew I didn’t have them hooked yet, so I mentioned that as my new travel agents, they would need to put together dream vacations for my new clients. At the sound of dream vacations their little eyes lit up, with images of Disney World and Hawaii washing across their imaginations. Sure enough, when I had them partner up, they eargerly got to brainstorming about which vacation spot they would like to pick and what information they would need to know about the area in order to help give clients a great idea of why it would be such a great vacation spot. Next week I’ll be using placemarks already in Google Earth that contain information about attractions from Wikipedia as well as a few other yet to be determined encyclopedia sites and a few more travel agency sites (these sites are GREAT for giving the kids ideas on what types of tours, sightseeing, and attractions to include in their travel packages). Once they’ve done some simple research I’ll have them place all of the gathered information into a placemark on Google Earth, collect all of the placemarks, and then create one large class file, so they can check out all of the dream vacation spots and the amenities each spot has to offer. I’ll also post the files online so parents and students can download them at home, in case anyone gets excited about visiting a particular area based on what’s been written about it.
Really, it’s a clever way to get them to do a basic report about a region or locale around the world, but so far there’s no hint the kids know this as the brainstorming session went incredibly well, with lots of typing, thinking, and talking (the 3 Ts that usually lead to some highly productive work in my classroom).