Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Introduction to Google Earth

Introduction to Google Earth

Bentley College
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 7, 2008


This assignment is designed as an introductory Google Earth tutorial on navigation; layers and featured content; and the creation and modification of Placemarks, Paths, and Polygons. The assignment is intended as a stepping stone to more advanced geologic projects that require use of Google Earth. Future geologic projects are without limit - description of geologic features of interest, simple spatial analysis of data (e.g. water quality at the campus pond), student-created content in a virtual field trip, etc.

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This assignment is part of a 3-4 part course project for the non-science majors in an introductory physical geology course at Bentley, a (primarily) undergraduate business college. There are no geology majors at Bentley; few students elect a broad liberal studies major in "Earth, Environment & Global Sustainability."

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students complete this assignment near the beginning of a course on physical geology. Little previous geologic knowledge is required, despite the framing of tutorial questions within a geosciences perspective. Students are expected to complete basic textbook/internet research to answer some questions.

How the activity is situated in the course

The course project requires students to investigate and describe a geologic feature on campus, and then to create a Google Earth placemark (text and photographs) for their feature. Students work in pairs to complete this work. Additional project assignments include: a campus field trip to learn field methods and observations; initial investigation; detailed observation; creating a written summary; and creating Google Earth content.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

The goal of this activity is to develop a working understanding and skills relating to the use of the Google Earth application; these skills will be applied to future geologic projects requiring the successful utilization of Google Earth.

Description of the activity/assignment

This assignment is a geologically-oriented Google Earth tutorial that is used in preparation for a course project in which students create Google Earth content summarizing the geology of features of interest on campus. This tutorial addresses navigation, layers and featured content, and creation and modification of placemarks, paths, and polygons. Students are expected to be proficient in the use of Google Earth at the completion of the tutorial. Proficiency with Google Earth allows students to complete geologically advanced projects that require, or benefit from, geographic display of information. Further, non-science majors are introduced to the exploration of Earth using this fascinating application, and are able to find applications for the program in their daily lives.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students submit a Word document with answers to geologic and Google Earth-based questions. Students must also submit a Google Earth file (.kml, .kmz), with the required content, proving their ability to use the content and tools in Google Earth. This assignment is assessed by marking written answers and the creation of Google Earth content.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Stevens, Liane M., 2008, Enhanced Reality: Linking the campus field trip and the virtual field trip in an inquiry-based Google Earth project for non-science majors: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Northeastern Section, March 2008, Buffalo, New York.

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