Google Earth

A Journey Across the Curriculum


Google Earth allows you to travel the world through a virtual globe and view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, and much more. With Google Earth's rich, geographical content, you are able to experience a more realistic view of the world. You can fly to your favorite place, search for businesses and even navigate through directions. This course will focus on how K-12 educators can integrate Google Earth with all content areas. Although the options within Google Earth are endless, here are a few things you and your students can do:

  • Discover the Earth: Fly to any location in the world, learn about a city and it's geographic features, find local businesses, and create tours.
  • Explore the Sky: Enjoy the wonders of the heavens and learn about our solar system.
  • Dive in the Ocean: Go beneath the surface and visit the depths of the ocean and explore the planet's deepest underwater canyons. Learn about ocean observations, climate change, and endangered species. You can even discover new places to surf, dive and fish.
  • Walk on the Moon: Take tours of landing sites narrated by Apollo astronauts and view 3D models of landed spacecraft.
  • Visit Mars: Travel the Red Planet and explore NASA's latest imagery of our galactic neighbor.

Virtual Field Trips

Virtual field trips challenge and expose students to new types of technology. It is a great way to spark their interest and motivate their learning in a specific content area. Virtual field trips can offer students more opportunities because you can take them to places they wouldn't normally be able to go to otherwise - like inside a volcano or ocean floor! In addition, virtual field trips may even boost students' reading comprehension skills and will expose them to different cultures and environments.

Google Literature Trips

Google Lit Trips is a project developed as part of the Google Certified Teachers program. They are free downloadable files that mark the journeys of characters from famous literature on the surface of Google Earth. At each location along the journey there are placemarks with pop-up windows containing a variety of resources including relevant media, thought provoking discussion starters, and links to supplementary information about “real world” references made in that particular portion of the story.

Real World Math

Real World Math is a collection of free math activities for Google Earth designed for students and educators. Mathematics is much more than a set of problems in a textbook. In the virtual world of Google Earth, concepts and challenges can be presented in a meaningful way that portray the usefulness of the ideas. Google Earth Math Walks engage in real-world problem solving as students work their way through a virtual tour on Google Earth. Each placemark offers an engaging, geotagged image as well as a compelling question, challenging students to apply what they've learned in the real world.

Earth and Life Science

There are numerous layers and features built into Google Earth that science teachers can utilize. If you’re teaching lessons on astronomy or space exploration, switch Google Earth into Moon, Mars, or Sky mode. In the Moon mode students can explore Apollo landing sites and even listen to phone calls from astronauts to the President of the United States. If you’re teaching Earth Science your students can analyze earthquake data. Teachers of environmental science will want to explore the climate data layers. Biology teachers may want to look at endangered species habits.

Additional Science KMZ files:

Historical Imagery

Travel back in time with Historical Imagery in Google Earth. View your neighborhood, home town, and other familiar places to see how they have changed over time. The maps in the Google Earth Rumsey Historical Maps layer have been specially selected by David Rumsey from his collection of over 150,000 historical maps; in addition, there are a few maps from collections with which he collaborates. All the maps contain rich information about the past and represent a sampling of time periods (1680 to 1930), scales, and cartographic art, resulting in visual history stories that only old maps can tell. Each map has been georeferenced, thus creating unique digital map images that allow the old maps to appear in their correct places on the modern globe. History Tours is a collaborative website that gives teachers access to pre-made Google Earth tours on various topics in American and World history. These tours provide an excellent backdrop for visual learning. They allow students to view people and places of historical importance while the teacher presents essential background knowledge.

Additional History KMZ Files:

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound, and video, to create a short movie, typically with a strong emotional component. Place-Based Digital Storytelling demonstrates the relationship between place, story and community. As we revisit these places in our memory, we realize how stories naturally attached themselves to places from our past and how they shape us in the present. Google Maps and Earth are the perfect vehicle to showcase place-based digital storytelling.

Additional Digital Storytelling KMZ files:

Earth Mashing: Google Earth Meets Web 2.0

A web mash-up is a web application that takes information from one or more sources and presents it in a new way or with a unique layout. If you know how to copy/paste, then you can become a professional Google Earth mash-up generator. There are many free web tools that generate an embedable HTML code for you. Simply copy the code from your web project and paste it in your Google Earth placemark. Viola! Students have one more way of creating dynamic multi-media projects. Here is a list of web tools that can easily be embedded in Google Earth.

Additional Mash-Up Examples:

Share Out

Post your ideas for using Google Earth in your classroom on my Padlet Wall. Check back often to see new ideas from other teachers.