Pedagogy in Action > Library > Teaching with Google Earth > Examples of Google Earth Activities > Our Place in the World (Long Island Series)

Our Place in the World (Long Island Series)

Glenn A. Richard, Stony Brook University


Author Profile

Summary

Our Place in the World is a series of Google Earth activities that can be used to establish a local, regional, and global geographic context for a course, workshop, or field trip. This activity, which utilizes a set of KMZ datasets that focuses on Long Island and New York State along with global datasets, has been adapted for a range of audiences and venues, including:
1) CEN 514: Geology of Long Island, which is designed for practicing K-12 teachers and students in a teacher preparation program
2) GEO 301: Sustainability of the Pine Barrens, which engages students in studying the Long Island Pine Barrens from an interdisciplinary perspective
3) A canoe trip on the Nissequogue River for the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), which is a four-week residential Earth Science program for high school students from underserved groups.
4) SBC 205: Introduction to Geospatial Analysis, designed for undergraduates enrolled in a sustainability program at Stony Brook University's Southampton campus.
The activities for three of these venues are discussed here, and links to the student handouts for the activities are provided. Educators on Long Island can adapt these activities to their specific educational venue by making minor modifications to the student handouts so that the focus is on the locale where the activity will be conducted. In some cases, it would be advantageous to develop and use additional datasets that focus on concepts or geographic features that are of special interest in that location. For an introduction to a course or for a review of material that was previously presented in class, either the Our Place in the World (from CEN 514) or the Mapping Southampton and the World (from SBC 205) activity would be good choices for activities to adapt to the local context. For preparation for a field trip or a post-trip review, a modification of the Nissequogue River Canoe Trip activity (from the STEP program) would be an appropriate choice.

Learning Goals

The primary goal of each of these activities is to provide participants in a course, workshop, or field trip with an opportunity to develop a conceptual geographic framework for the locality or region that serves as a focus for the subject matter that they will be learning. For the set of venues presented here, the geographic area of interest is Long Island and the surrounding region. In these activities, students explore a set of concepts that include:
1) Basic Google Earth functionality
2) An overview of New York State's physiographic regions
3) Long Island's physical geography
4) Long Island's place on the North American tectonic plate
5) The role that what is now the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has played in the Long Island region's geologic history
6) The geologic history of Long Island
7) Long Island Sound and Connecticut as sources of rock material on Long Island
8) The relationship of Long Island's aquifer system to local bodies of freshwater and to the shoreline
9) Long Island's coastal features
10) How to use hand-held GPS devices to collect field data and to load it into Google Earth
11) Local magnetic declination

Context for Use

This activity needs to be conducted in a computer laboratory with Google Earth installed and with a web browser that is not blocked from accessing off-campus web sites (a situation that needs to be addressed in some public schools). The laboratory needs to have good bandwidth access to the internet.

Since it can draw upon a combination of over a dozen datasets that are posted on the Google Earth Community Forums, it can be customized for a wide range of audiences, and can readily be emulated for any part of the world for which appropriate datasets exist or can be created.

The activities presented here have been tested and refined for the following venues:
1) CEN 514: Geology of Long Island, which is designed for practicing K-12 teachers and students in a teacher preparation program.
2) GEO 301: Sustainability of the Pine Barrens, which engages students in studying the Long Island Pine Barrens from an interdisciplinary perspective.
3) A canoe trip on the Nissequogue River for the Science and Technology Entry Program, which is a four-week residential Earth Science program for high school students from underserved groups.
4) SBN 205:Introduction to Geospatial Analysis, designed for undergraduates enrolled in a sustainability program at Stony Brook University's Southampton campus.


Google Earth view with water table elevation contour map overlay in the vicinity of the Nissequogue River.

Description and Teaching Materials

The handouts provided below, or versions adapted for the specific venue, should be made available to the students in the computer laboratory during the activity. With the live hyperlinks, they will be able to access the data sources without having to type in URLs. They can also be given paper copies of the activity sheets if the instructor would like them to write down answers to questions.

These activities are most effective if the the instructor engages the students in open discussion while they explore each data source to answer the questions. It is helpful to have at least one person available in addition to the instructor to help students if they have problems with the technical aspects of the activities.
  • The following handout was used for the Our Place in the World orientation activity for CEN 514: Geology of Long Island at the beginning of the fall, 2009 semester at Stony Brook University.
    Our Place in the World student handout (Microsoft Word 178kB Oct4 09)
  • The following handout was used to direct the Nissequogue River Canoe Trip activity in the computer laboratory for the STEP students prior to the actual trip.
    Student Handout for Nissequogue River Canoe Trip (Microsoft Word 28kB Oct4 09)
  • The following handout was used in the Mapping Southampton and the World activity for the first class session of SBC 205: Introduction to Geospatial Analysis.
    Activity Sheet for Southampton Students (Microsoft Word 37kB Oct4 09)
  • For any venue, if the students will be using GPS devices to collect field data, they can use the following sheet, or something similar, for recording their data. If they save the data from the GPS devices in GPX format, they can open it in Google Earth, then edit each placemark (waypoint) to enter the data from their sheets.
    GPS Data Sheet (Word doc) (Microsoft Word 35kB Oct4 09) or GPS Data Sheet (pdf) (Acrobat (PDF) 12kB Oct4 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Prior knowledge of Google Earth is not required, but if students do not have this knowledge, they should be instructed in basic Google Earth functionality prior to use of the data sets. If GPS devices will be used, they should be provided with some initial instruction in a quite place prior to collecting actual data in the field.

Assessment

Various forms of assessment have been used depending upon the venue.
  • For CEN 514, the students are asked questions on midterm and final exams concerning the geology of Long Island, New York State, the surrounding regions, and continental and global-scale tectonic events that relate to Long Island's geologic history.
  • For GEO 301, the students work in groups to explore a particular aspect of Pine Barrens sustainability and hand in a report on their analysis. In addition, they are given quizzes.
  • For the STEP program, the students engage in class discussions, and are asked questions about the geology and hydrology of the Nissequogue River on exams.
  • For SBC 205, the students hand in answers to questions asked in the handout and they email the instructor a KMZ file containing their work.

References and Resources