Earth Day Should Be Everyday – Google Earth & Climate Change in the Science Classroom

In an attempt to get a jump-start on providing activities, resources, and other goodies for Earthday 2008, I’ve found a number of really great resources. Alone they provide an interesting discussion, but together, you can really start to create some terrific learning opportunities using real world data for secondary science classrooms!

It all started with one of my new favorite blogs for science teachers. The “Science Teacher” (name isn’t provided on the site) over at the St Vrain Science blog was lamenting about a small group of students in an AP Environmental Science class that absolutely refused to discuss the subject of climate change:

I am very concerned about a small group of AP Environmental Science students (3) who have taken an aggressive stand opposing my teaching of climate change. I already teach it from the perspective of “here’s the data, figure it out” but they think that I made the data up. I showed them where it came from (NASA and NOAA) and they think it is a conspiracy by the left wing to infiltrate and brainwash the American public.

The comments that followed were all incredibly helpful, with many educators supporting the science teacher’s actions of providing data from highly reputable sources. Presenting the topic from the point of view of “you figure it out” is also a brilliant move, but when students (or adults) start discounting real-world data as being “biased” it’s time to up the presentation a little.

Temperature in Google earthEnter, Google Earth! The ultimate multimedia tool when presenting information about the real world, because it’s in context, and allows for information like graphs, images, and data to be embedded directly into placemarks. Which is why I was really excited when I saw that the Google Earth blog had posted a map that contains temperature data from NASA and other sources for the entire globe. Want to find out whether Chicago has been experiencing significant warming trends over the last 40 years (is has)? You can see the temperature data and graphs from hundreds of reporting stations around the world from NASA and other sources. Links to the data collecting stations are included in case you want to investigate further. Care to compare data for two major cities on opposite sides of the globe, say New York and the Royal Observa in Beijing? You can find it. You could even use the data to compare the collection habits of various stations throughout the years, as some stations have reported data for the last 40 years, while some have records going back more than 100 years!

Once again, Google Earth presents itself as a wonderful tool for taking abstract data and giving it some relevance. Whether you believe in global warming or not, this is an excellent resource to use for any discussion (in a science classroom or otherwise) about climate change in general, and giving students a concrete view of how temperatures around the globe and increased or decreased over the past few decades.

Global Temperature Trends for Google Earth via Google Earth Blog

Other Posts in my Earth Day Series:

Earth Day Should Be Everyday – Planet Green Game

Earth Day Should Be Everyday – SimCity, Eat Your Heart Out!

Earth Day Should Be Everyday – Earth Day All Year Long


  1. This is yet another perfect situation for Google Earth to be used to enhance a student’s learning experience. Google Earth goes beyond the typical textbook information and provides students with real, relevant evidence. . . whether they are in an AP class debating the issue of climate change or in a third grade classroom learning about different areas of the world. What a great use of technology to benefit the students and give them a better idea of the truth.

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