Google Maps: More than finding your house!

Google Maps in the Classroom

Ask a room full of kids if they've used Google Maps before, and almost every hand will shoot up. Ask how they've used it, and most will say "I found my house!" Finding your own house is a great introduction to a very powerful educational tool, but let's go deeper into what we can do with Google Maps in our classrooms.

Google Maps can be used to explore distant lands using Street View, which you've probably used to explore your neighborhood or places you've travelled before. Here's a Behind the Scenes look at Street View, including a nice overview video of how to use it best. You can create a quick introductory lesson for students to drop in to a place you're learning about, make some observations, and hypothesize about what they see. 

But I think the most powerful features of Google Maps lie in creating your own original maps. Students can be involved in plotting water quality data from a science lab or any other data that has a geographic component. The key is to put students in the creator role, where they are creating their own Google Maps, sharing them with others, and using them to make decisions and reach conclusions. This is the kind of work geographers and other professionals do every day.

In this post, I want to focus on how two RFSD teachers have used Google Maps in their classrooms this year. 

Basalt High School ELD students map their journeys to the U.S.

Here's Ticia Ingram explaining how she used Google Maps in her ELD class at Basalt High School.

You can see two of Ticia's students' maps here and here.

And here's a collaborative map of Africa that they're working on now. This one has multiple layers of information that different groups of students are populating with data from other sources. Then, they will answer these questions by analyzing the various layers and looking at the underlying base map. None of these students had used Google Maps before this project, and neither had Ticia.

Basalt Middle School 5th Graders map explorers' routes

Pat Harlow's students at Basalt Middle School used Google Maps for their Explorers project this year. Again, neither the teacher nor the students had created their own Google Maps before, but they picked it up quickly and ran with it. Here are a few of Pat Harlow's fifth graders' maps showing explorers' routes.

Getting Started with Google Maps

To get started, check out these video tutorials. We showed these to students at BHS to introduce them to Google Maps, and they quickly took off from there.

Please let me know if you're using Google Maps in your classroom, or if you would like support getting started with this tool. I can come in and teach an intro lesson to get you and your students started, and support you along the way.

Have fun mapping!


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