Google Earth is a fun and exciting way to look at the Earth, moon and planets for students. I began using Google Earth when I noticed how much interest my students had in it and how much fun they would have when exploring with it. I first began by having students get familiar with the program by just exploring it on their own, without a purpose or assignment. This allows the students to get a feel for the program and they learn how to use it on their own or in groups.
The one way that I have used this is to reinforce mapping skills. The lesson went with a unit on mapping latitude and longitude. I reviewed the concepts of latitude and longitude with my classes. Because they had already seen this in their own classrooms most of the students were able to make a connection between paper maps, globes and Google Earth. I used the Crack the Code activity from National Geographic found here. I read the students the story then set them free to work on the activity. The students were given a sheet of paper with coordinates on it that their groups had to find and write down the name of the City that the coordinates matched with. All of the beginning letters of each answer then spelled out a word that the students had to unscramble to Crack the Code. This provided a sense of healthy competition in the classroom to be the first group to finish with all of the correct answers. The students enjoyed this activity in the 5th grade classes at my school. I plan to use this activity again.
The following is the sheet of paper that the students were given to record their answers and crack the code:
The students were expected to use the coordinates at the bottom of the Google Earth screen in order to find the places. They were not taught how to type them into the “Fly To” bar. Here is a screen capture of what this activity looked like as I walked around the room.
Down here at the bottom is where the students would watch for the coordinates. The first City is Salamanca.
Although, this is how I have used Google Earth in the past there are many other mapping uses for this program. Students can see where earthquakes have occurred (and their size), they can measure distances, they can study endangered animals, they can see live weather, or explore photos of places that they would like to visit. Google Earth can also be a very interactive program and students can create tours around the world. This program is great and I have yet to experience everything that it has to offer, but I look forward to using it again in my classroom and I encourage you to use it in your classroom as well.