Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Using Google Earth & GIS to Create a Customized Map

Using Google Earth and GIS to Create a Customized Map

Omowumi Alabi
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Author Profile

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 15, 2008


Students are introduced to cartographic concepts and learn how to use GIS to make a proper map with scale information, location (longitude and latitude), orientation and appropriate title.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Cartographic concepts and how longitude and latitude are used to describe different locations on the surface of the Earth.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is part of a sequence of exercises.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

- Students learn to use the latest version of Google Earth to obtain geographic coordinates (longitude and latitude) of any location.
- Students use GIS to create a customized map.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

- Students learn to format data in preparation for GIS analysis
- Students use GIS as an analytical tool to measure the shortest distance between two locations

Other skills goals for this activity

- Usage of GIS software
- Using Google Earth as a GPS

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this laboratory activity, students are introduced to the concepts of cartography such as longitude and latitude, the cardinal points, map orientation, projection and scaling. (See supplemental handout) A mock quiz is administered to ensure understanding of these basic concepts.

The exercise requires access to an internet-ready computer, with Google earth downloaded, the GIS software package (ArcGIS) installed, a word-processing application (MS Word), and a spreadsheet program (MS Excel). Students may need a primer on how to use Excel: http://www.shodor.org/scsi/handouts/excel.html

Through this activity, students can plan their dream vacation. They will use Google earth to obtain the geographic coordinates (longitude and latitude) of places of interest in any part of the world. Using GIS, students create a customized map depicting chosen sites, and approximate the distance between these locations. This activity gives students practice in interpreting maps, and an opportunity to learn about countries outside the United States. The activity can also be used to connect geography with environmental science.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students will produce a copy of their map and estimate the distance between at least two points on the map. In addition, students' understanding of basic cartographic concept will be assessed through quizzes and tests. Students will perform with a minimum of 80% accuracy.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

New TTE Logo Small

Google Earth resources from across Teach the Earth »

Google Earth resources from Teach the Earth include:

Specialized collections including

or search

GIS/Remote Sensing resources from across Teach the Earth »

GIS/Remote Sensing resources from Teach the Earth include:

Specialized collections including
or search

Intro Geoscience resources from across Teach the Earth »