By Jessica Sanders
Google Maps is a great free tool for teachers to engage students. They’ll love mapping major novel moments, guessing locations based on clues, and investigating cities around the world.
Create a Custom Map
Have students create their own custom Google Map. With this Maps feature, they can choose all the points they want to place on the map. You can use this in a variety of fun and/or educational ways. Here are a few ideas:
- Add all locations on the map you want to visit.
- Add all locations on the map you’ve been to before.
- Game: I say a city; you pin the location the map.
- Game: I say a geographical monument; you pin the location on the map.
Students can add notes as well. Use this feature to have students explain their pin’s location, add a fact, a link to a resource and more.
Investigate the Modern Version of an Ancient World
Investigate the modern cities that bloomed from ancient worlds. Head to ancient Rome, Greece, Asia and more. Ask students to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between what it looked like then and how it looks now.
Pin Point a Book’s Setting
If the book your students are reading takes place in an actual city, state or country, head to the map, where students can walk the streets and get a real-life feel of the setting, while giving it perspective in terms of the rest of the country or world. If it doesn’t, have students use Google Maps to find where they think the setting might be and then add notes to the pin about why they chose this location.
Use Detective Skills
Games like SmartyPins are powered by Google Maps and make for engaging, yet educational games for the classroom. The idea is simple: students must choose the location of various trivia questions. You can choose from a variety of categories, including Sports and Games, Entertainment, and History and Current Events.
Go On a Scavenger Hunt
Give students a list of points via latitude and longitude and have them use Google Maps to find out what each point is. Turn it into a game: the first student to figure them all out wins. Do this in small groups or as an independent activity, in class or for homework.
Geography Project: Map Important Spots
Have students take their geography project to the next level by mapping important points in the state or county their researching. Again, have them use the notes section to share the resource that explains why each spot is important. Have them include major mountains, bodies of water, monuments, capitals and more.
Students can draw a line from one location to another and get the distance between those two points. Have students uncover the size of various countries or continents, or have them find the distance between a variety of locations that you’ve pre-selected for them.
Conduct Student Interviews
Have students interview their peers, who are pretending to be from a specific location. Students will have to ask all the right questions to uncover where they’re from. Give everyone a specific amount of guesses so they are more likely to wait until they have all the information they think they need; once they think they know the location, have them pin it on the map and see if they’re right.
Take Architecture Tours
Have students create a report on the architecture of a certain location based on what they see in Google Maps street view. They can walk around the area and note architecture details that they’d normally only read about in textbooks.
Recreate a Historical Route
Have students map the various battles in a war, popular regions during the gold rush, notable stops during presidential tours and more. This gives them perspective in terms of how close the event was to where they are, while bringing more depth to the overall story of that time in history.