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10 Google Earth Activities for Students That Bring the Wow Factor to Your Lessons

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Photo of Jeanne Sager
Updated | 4 min read

If you aren’t using Google Earth in the classroom, we need to talk. The free (ahem) resource from Google is probably an obvious choice for social studies teachers. But did you know there are Google Earth activities for kids to use in your ELAR and science lessons and even in math class?

From literature tours to virtual field trips to some seriously fun games, let’s dive into our favorite Google Earth activities for kids!

Google Earth Activities for Kids

Play Where in World is Carmen Sandiego

The fedora-wearing super thief has been teaching kids geography since the ’80s (yes, it really is that long), and these days your class can track her right on Google Earth, tracing her across the globe to foil her plot to steal the crown jewels.

Take a Google Lit Trip

Exploring literature may not jump out at you as the obvious usage of Google Earth in the classroom, but thanks to Google Lit Trips, that’s changing. The free service turns students into virtual traveling companions for the characters in the stories they are reading. The trips available cover grades K-12 with everything from primary favorite Make Way for Ducklings to Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars.

Learn About Climate Change

What did your hometown look like thousands of years ago? How about the Arctic Circle? Google Earth’s timelapse function lets you jump back in time and springboard into discussions of everything from erosion and weathering to climate types.

Make a Biography Come to Life with Google Earth

Are you studying someone famous and completing a biography? Take note of relevant spots on the globe, such as where they grew up, which school they attended, which university they went to, and any other significant areas in that person’s lifetime.

Your students can take screenshots of these areas to include in their biography.

Teach Starter Teacher Tip: Encourage students to ask a grandparent or another older person who is important to them about their life and significant places of interest and let them explore these places together on Google Earth, taking screenshots to show their friends in a speaking task!

These resources can help:

Image of Biography Cube

teaching resource

Biography Cube

Research and create an interactive biography for a historical figure.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrades: 1 - 6
Image of Getting to Know You Biography Template

teaching resource

Getting to Know You Biography Template

A must have back to school activity for upper year students.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 3 - 6

Math Concepts with Google Earth

Put away the math textbooks, and fall down a rabbit hole of real-world math activities and experiences with Google Earth.

  • Measure distances between two different destinations (e.g. school and home).
  • Measure and compare the roof area of houses (students compare their roof area with a friend).
  • Informal measurement – students take a screenshot of a familiar place in their neighborhood – like a local park. They take a screenshot on their iPad and then use emojis to measure the area of the park.
  • Explore location and general mapping skills including compass directions (north, south, east, and west).
  • Discuss positional language with younger students. Go to street view and use positional language such as above, below, in-between, beside, etc.
  • Explore time zones around the world.

These resources can help:

Image of Positioning Word Wall Vocabulary

teaching resource

Positioning Word Wall Vocabulary

Eighty-five location vocabulary words for a word wall.

Teach Starter Publishing31 pagesGrades: K - 4
Image of Using Positional Words - Worksheets

teaching resource

Using Positional Words - Worksheets

Three worksheets using positioning vocabulary.

Teach Starter Publishing3 pagesGrades: PK - 1
Image of Positional Language Activity – The Campground

teaching resource

Positional Language Activity – The Campground

An activity to use when teaching younger students about positional language.

Teach Starter Publishing4 pagesGrades: PK - 1

Explore Latitude and Longitude with Google Earth

Use Google Earth to explore and grow your students’ knowledge of latitude and longitude using a variety of activities.

Students can go on a scavenger hunt, finding the coordinates of their school, the closest park, the closest train station, or the closest library and write down the geographical coordinates of these places.

These resources can help:

Image of Latitude and Longitude Worksheet

teaching resource

Latitude and Longitude Worksheet

Use this free latitude and longitude worksheet along with Google Maps to teach your students about longitude and latitude.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 4 - 7
Image of Latitude and Longitude Poster

teaching resource

Latitude and Longitude Poster

Use this educational poster when students are learning about geographical coordinates, latitude and longitude.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 3 - 6
Image of Latitude and Longitude Banners

teaching resource

Latitude and Longitude Banners

Latitude and longitude banners to display in the classroom when studying geography.

Teach Starter Publishing5 pagesGrades: 3 - 7
Image of Geography Word Wall Vocabulary

teaching resource

Geography Word Wall Vocabulary

87 geography related vocabulary cards for a word wall.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 3 - 6

Take a Virtual Field Trip

A flight to Antarctica with your class probably isn’t in the cards — no matter what the voters decide in the next school budget vote — but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a virtual trip to the southernmost continent on Google Earth. Visit anywhere on Earth — literally — right from your classroom! Speaking of…

Discover Famous Landmarks with Google Earth

Across the world, there is a multitude of different landmarks (man-made and natural) for students to explore. In small groups, provide students with a particular landmark, and get them to really discover this landmark by ‘visiting’ it in Google Earth.

Instruct students to note the coordinates or even get them to plan out a virtual tour of their chosen landmark. They can also write out some interesting facts about this landmark and present their findings to the class.

Explore natural landscapes and features of your very own country with Google Earth. Students can research a particular natural landmark and report back to the class.

These resources can help:

Image of Comprehension - The Great Wall of China

teaching resource

Comprehension - The Great Wall of China

A comprehension activity about The Great Wall of China.

Teach Starter Publishing3 pagesGrades: 5 - 6

Brain Break Activities with Google Earth

Really get your students thinking with this fun brain break idea for the classroom: Play a game of ‘where are we today?’

Open up Google Earth, and pick a place of interest. Make sure there are some clues within the chosen image. The students then have to ask 20 questions to figure out where they are. This is a great problem-solving task to get their brains warmed up!

Use Voyager by Google Earth

This feature is truly fascinating. Be careful, this is a rabbit hole that you could get lost in yourself! Go on a storytelling journey with your students through a variety of subject areas. Explore the world in an interactive educational experience like no other!

  • Explore classrooms from around the world and compare and contrast your own classroom with others.
  • Experience interactive stories from around the world for an after-lunch cool-down activity.
  • Fly through landmarks from around the world.
  • Follow six bold navigators as they open the globe to exploration and claim territory for European empires.

 

How do you use Google Earth in your classroom?

 

Banner image via shutterstock/Davide Zanin Photography

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