If you ask me, Google Earth is one of the most under-utilized teaching tools available today. The possibilities for classroom use are almost as expansive as the Earth’s own landscapes.
First of all, think how wondrous it is that anybody with an internet connection can now explore and zoom in on almost any part of the globe! Such a thing was impossible just a few short years ago. And by enabling the various layers Google Earth can use, students can even learn about the environment, people, or culture specific to a location.
The only downside to Google Earth was that, until recently, everything was represented by a flat satellite photo. However, Google recently added 3D building imagery to many places across the globe, making exploring our world that much more entertaining and informative.
Luckily, Google has a whole site devoted specifically to showing teachers how they can use Google Earth with their students. They even have free lessons plans on subjects ranging all the way from ecology to literature. With that in mind, here are some awesome Google Earth destinations for your students:
The Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
The city of Paris has some of the highest definition imagery available in Google Earth. Combine that with lots of 3D building models, and you get one of the most immersive experiences available, all while sitting right at your desk. Be sure to also check out the nearby Champs-Élysées and the Louvre.
The Grand Canyon (East of Las Vegas, NV, United States)
One of the largest natural formations on Earth, the Grand Canyon is truly a sight to behold. It’s pretty much impossible to sense just how large it is without having been there, but you can get an idea just by looking at it in Google Earth. Although it isn’t exactly a man-made structure, it’s still a sight worth seeing for a geography lesson, for example.
Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
This statue sits on top of a hill overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. If you zoom in enough, you can even see the individual umbrellas that provide shade for the nearby tables. While you’re in Rio, take a look at the Carioca Aqueduct as well. It’s now being used as a tramway, but it’s many arches are still beautiful.
The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
I had to include one ancient Roman building since I am a bit of a classics buff. :-) Either way, the Colosseum is one of the most remarkable structures in the world. There’s even evidence that the Romans used to flood the floor of the Colosseum with water and reenact naval battles there! If your students are into history as much as I am, Rome has many other sights worth seeing as well.
Doing a few lessons on astronomy? You may not know that Google Earth can also be used to explore the night sky! From the menu, just click View > Explore > Sky and suddenly there’s hundreds of stars where our planet used to be. The same menu options can also be used to explore the surfaces of Mars and the Moon.
Whatever destination you check out with your students, make sure to also browse the gallery of layers uploaded by fellow Google Earth users. There’s a boatload of educational content there, and all of it is much more exciting than simply looking at a paper map.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve used Google Earth in your classes!
[Image courtesy of Google Earth © and Flickr, DonkeyHotey]