Google Earth makes a world of geographic information available to your students in a dynamic way over a web browser. Use these ideas to get familiar with the available tools and features, and infuse your students’ learning with geographic thinking and inquiry.
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Movement of Goods
Start by having students watch this video as an introduction to the challenges of shipping cargo and then answer questions about the video in the Questions tab on the page. Then have students type “Port of Los Angeles” into Google Earth search and fly to this location. Explain to students that there are many important ports around the world and that the Port of Los Angeles is one of the largest cargo ports in the United States. Ask students what they think is imported and exported from this port (major imports include products such as furniture, footwear, electronics, cars, and apparel; major exports include paper wastepaper, cotton, animal feed, and scrap metal). Then ask students how they think goods are transported in and out of the port. Have students view the satellite imagery for clues, and if needed, direct them to identify the train and rail infrastructure in and around the port. Use this as an opportunity to lead a discussion about transportation systems and how they move people and goods or go further with this topic in the Geography of a Pencil activity.
Exploring Sacred Sites
Google Earth includes a number of important religious and sacred sites that students can explore. Begin by having students explore Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. (Tip: Click the arrow in the top left to go from Street View back to an aerial 3-D view of these features). Based on students’ findings, lead a discussion about sacred sites.
Then have students watch the video series The Conflict Zone to learn about National Geographic Explorer Aziz Abu Sarah’s work to bridge cultural divides in Jerusalem, a city considered a sacred site to members of three major world religions. Have students visit Jerusalem in Google Earth (Tip: Use “Old City Jerusalem” as the search term), and use Street View to identify the various cultures that share this location as a holy site. Extend instruction on this topic with the collection of education resources about Jerusalem.
Twenty Earth Questions
Have students work in small groups to challenge each other to a game of Twenty Questions, using the I’m Feeling Lucky feature. Have one student at a time click the dice icon and see where it takes them. The other students in the group then ask questions about the geography of the place to try and figure out where the first student landed in Earth. Students can ask questions such as “Is your place on the African continent?”, “Is it a body of water?”, or “Is it east or west of the Mississippi River?” The students guessing can use Google Earth to narrow down possibilities before they guess.