In case you’re not utilizing Google Earth in your classroom, then it is about time
It might be daunting to have another tech tool in the classroom to learn from, but trust me, Google Earth is an absolute game changer when it comes to student engagement. And it can be used in multiple content areas, so it’s a win-win situation!
Google Earth is a free program that renders 3D representations of the world using satellite imagery (not to be confused with Google Maps, which we use when we’re lost). One of the most incredible aspects of the program is the “Street View” which allows a user to look around at one location through aerial photography and GSI data. This means our students can “walk” along the Great Wall of China or take a virtual tour of the White House from their classroom or home.
Bring the world into your classroom
I found out about Google Earth in 2012 and decided to try it out with my first graders. At that time I was teaching a unit on communities. Many of my students hadn’t traveled far outside of town, and I needed a way for my first years to appreciate the vastness of the world around them.
I started the lesson by entering our school address into Google Earth.
This allowed my students to “see” our school yard and buildings on our big screen. What I didn’t expect was the immediate sense of awe and wonder it evoked!
Next, I zoomed out to show our community. The students began to recognize buildings and places in the city. Suddenly everyone wanted me to look up their home, their best friend’s, and their grandparents’ house.
Finally, I zoomed out even further to see different cities and places around the world. My students immediately asked for more. Not only did I access Google Earth during social studies, but also in other content areas. It quickly became my go-to tool.
Using Google Earth in ELA
Google Earth can be used across grade levels and content areas. It’s a great tool to help students visualize text. For example reading the book A long way to the water by Linda Sue Park, it can be helpful to provide background and context before reading by literally showing students images of the terrain, plant life and community structures in Sudan. Google Earth provides an interactive and engaging image to help our students better understand the country and surrounding area as they progress through the book study.
Even better, research shows that reading gains are greatest when students have more background knowledge. So adding Google Earth is another powerful way to do just that!
Integrating Google Earth into mathematics lessons
When we can make connections to real life, our students are more likely to find value in what they learn. If you are teaching geometric measurements, the measurement tools in Google Earth are a great tool to use. For real world math problems, draw up the school yard or soccer field and use the measurement tools to determine the perimeter or area of the room. For additional visual practice, have students find geometric measurements of specific locations or landmarks.
Google Earth and Science
If you’re studying biodiversity or habitats, Google’s Street View feature is a powerful way for students to visualize the world. Have your students “visit” the Amazon Rainforest:
Or take an underwater tour of the Great Barrier Reef:
The panoramic views on Google Earth offer students the opportunity to ‘look around’ or explore the world’s biodiversity, which is sure to keep them engaged.
Integrate Google Earth into your subplans
If the current sub shortage forces you to take another class, or you need an engaging farewell activity with a visiting teacher, consider a Google Earth-integrated virtual field trip. Make Google Earth purposeful by taking your students on a virtual tour of a major landmark, country, or specific historical site while integrating literacy skills. Combine topic text, Google Earth links, and critical thinking answer questions to give your students a virtual field trip. If you have devices, your students can complete this as an independent, self-paced activity. Or your guest teacher could act as a tour guide, navigating the entire group of Google Earth.
With today’s technology, we have new ways to engage our learners and provide instruction that goes beyond the textbook. The world of teaching opportunities is limitless with Google Earth.
How do you use Google Earth in the classroom? Let us know in the comments.
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