Google Earth is one of my favorite tools for students and teachers. The more time a person spends learning the many features of Google Earth, the more that person will see that Google Earth can be used for a lot more than just social studies lessons. I have seen many good science lessons incorporate Google Earth. Since this is Earth Science week, I’ve dug up some science lessons that utilize Google Earth.
The Extreme Ice Survey offers a Google Earth file (clicking the link will launch a KML download) that displays the results of the Extreme Ice Survey. In this Google Earth file users can view glaciers, historical data about glaciers, and some video clips about shrinking glaciers. The Extreme Ice Survey website has high quality photos and time lapse videos from the surveyors.
The California Solar Irradiance Map (link launches KMZ download) is a Google Earth file that illustrates how much solar energy could be generated in one year from a horizontally oriented solar panel. The file can be used to see how much energy could be generated from the entire state. The file also includes thousands of individual data points showing how much energy could come from each individual place. Turn on the “placemark data” layer to view individual points.
Richard Treves has a built and shared lesson plans about flooding and volcanoes. The lesson plans include the Google Earth files that your students need to complete the activities. Richard’s blog is an excellent source of information on all things Google Earth.
Declan Butler from The Great Beyond blog on Nature.com has created a Google Earth file displaying all of the world’s nuclear reactors. Each placemark on the map is color coded according to reactor type. Click on each of the placemarks to learn more about each reactor. You can view the file in your browser by going to The Great Beyond blog or by downloading the kmz file. As Declan points out in the blog post, it would be interesting to have students combine the nuclear reactor layer with layers of information about population density, earthquakes, and tsunamis to evaluate the possible consequences of nuclear reactor melt-downs.
Earth Labs at Carleton College offers an excellent set of directions for working with Google Earth to explore watersheds and USGS watershed data.
Appalachian Voices is a featured project in the Google Earth Outreach gallery. The project uses Google Earth along with other tools to show people the effects of the practice of mountaintop removal mining.
One of the featured projects on the Google Earth educator’s page is a lesson on plate tectonics. The lesson was developed by Cheryl Davis for 5th and 6th grade students.