Geography Lesson Plans Using Google Earth

Geography lesson plans using Google Earth, or other interactive websites can make this topic current and interesting for students.

By Karen Ganzel

Google Earth Lessons

There are many ways to make geography lessons memorable and interesting for your students. For example, instead of having your students stare  at maps for a class period each time you teach a geography lesson, you can get them involved in some hands-on activities that cement and enrich the topic. After teaching students about the five themes of geography (location, culture, characteristics, human interaction, and movement) you can have them practice applying these ideas by focusing on different parts of the world using some of the following activities.

Google Earth is a fantastic computer application that allows students to actually see what you are talking about when you mention a particular location. When you discuss Mount Rushmore or the Grand Canyon, you can actually show students the location and take a remote tour. Google Earth also allows students to explore the moon, the ocean, and their own backyard - literally. Now, not only can you see visuals of Earth, you can explore space and see the stars and planets.

There are many projects you can assign students to get them thinking about geography. One of the first activities I assign students is called the "kitchen project." It gets them involved, it gets the family involved, and it’s just plain fun! They make a physical map of their state or country using only items found in the kitchen. They can use things like rice, spices, beans and cereal to make the physical textures of the area. You should send a letter home to parents/guardians about the assignment and get a signature returned before students start work on the project. Some moms do not like their kids pilfering items from the cabinets, so it is best to involve the family in this project. You will be amazed at their finished projects!

Another way to get students involved is through a scavenger hunt. Before students begin, you should measure out three planned routes through your school, inside or out, and count out the number of paces. Then you can put students in groups, and have them start at three different locations. You should give each group of students a sheet of directions to follow, a map to trace their route, and a list of checkpoints along the way where they can pick up stickers or other items as prizes along the way.

You can also integrate math into a study of geography. Some students have difficulty with visualizing changes in direction. First, you can have students create a design using pattern blocks on grid paper. Then you can have them label the beginning and ending point of the design, and points in between. Then they can write directions using their directional references for moving around the perimeter of the design. For example, the directions might be something like; go north one cm, southeast two cm, east four cm, etc . . . Students can then trade directions with a classmate and attempt to draw the design themselves using only the instructions. Here are some other lessons that provide great ways to teach geography lessons.

Geography Lesson Plans Using Google Earth And Other Hands-On Activities:

America's Favorite Landmarks

In this lesson students use Google Earth and other websites to take a look at famous American landmarks. They also write a position paper arguing why, or why not, their historical landmark should have its particular ranking. While this activity is geared toward high school students, the resources could be used to teach geography to younger students.

Learning Physical Geography With an Edible Map

This lesson has elementary students make maps that are completely edible. Using a physical map, students make a map made from food to represent the physical features of a state or country. This is a great way to get students doing hands-on activities.

Where in the World Are We

Students use Google Earth to solve a series of riddles to find different geographic locations. They review the five themes of geography, and create a PowerPoint presentation.

Geography Game

This lesson has three different activities. In the first activity, students make a game using clues about a specific place. Then they can have their classmates guess the location. In another activity students use outline maps. The last activity focuses on how items get from where they are made or produced to consumers.