How I Use It
The first time I used Google Earth I was talking about a savannah with my botany class. I had a student say he had been to Africa and seen regions that looked like what we were talking about. He was even able to name some of the plants he saw that made up the "savannah." I remember thinking okay this student is going to fully understand what I am talking about when I describe plant fommunity struggles and strengths in this environment because he can picture it. This child had fond memories of the savannah, so it would be an easy region for him to learn about. I was really wishing at that moment all of my students had been to one of the regions we were going to talk about that day. I thought of google maps, and then came accross the Google Earth site. It was wonderful, it did everything I was wanting to do, besides physically take them to the places we were talking about. I knew I could not take my twenty students to the savannah, or the rainforrest, but this site would allow me to mentally take each of them there. The next day in class I told each of the students today was the day we were all going to take a trip around the world- together. We broke off into small groups. Each group was assigned a plant community region. They spent the better part of the period exploring their assigned region on Google Earth. Throughout the period they were shouting out cool things they were seeing. I can honestly say that every single student was actively engaged that period. (I wish this were true with every lesson lol) At the end of that class the students seemed to take a pride about introducing their region of study to the class. Several groups even went back to Google Earth to look at other groups' regions. Google Earth made for a wonderful lesson that day, and it has several other days in my class as well. I would reccommend finding a use for this site in your classroom. It was very hands on, and engaging!
I absolutely love Google Earth! When I explain the rainforest and other plant communities to my Botany students I always use this site. It is not enough for the kids of this generation to listen to me describe an area, look at the pictures in the textbook, and imagine the region. I love being able to say let's take a look at a real life tundra, or rainforest, or whatever plant community we are thinking about. This allows me to really let the kids virtually wander through these areas on their own. They can use the site and their mouse and decide what is important to them to see. The kids take you more seriously when they can see what you are describing, rather than looking at a textbook image. They feel like they have actually been to the region on their own, and it no longer seems so far away. The only negative I have about the site is sometimes it takes a long time to download the images if a student is "walking" too quickly, or trying to explore an area too remote. I would like it if google reaches the point of being able to cover every inch of the globe. With our increased use in the classroom, I think they will see the need to reach this point.