I teach in the IGNITE program at O’Malley Elementary. We utilize and create thematic units for this enrichment program. When teaching a unit, we like to approach the subject from many directions in order to engage our many different types of learners. We integrate writing, math, economics, visual arts, and performing arts. We want to include technology and geography. I took this geospatial technology class because I thought it sounded like the perfect answer. We have projected some Google Earth images for our classes, but really were unaware of the capabilities of this program. In the past, we have not been able to access the school computer lab for our classes, so our ability to integrate technology has been a bit stifled. Just today we were informed that we’ll be getting eight new (to us) flat-screened Macs to create our own little lab. Needless to say, we are ecstatic! And, Google Earth is installed on them all!
The unit we are currently teaching is focused on the rise of civilization in the Tigris, Euphrates River valleys. Groups of students are evolving from being nomads to becoming an empire through the stages of tribes, villages, city-states, and ultimately empires. The class map (for each of our eight classes) has a grid superimposed on it for the students to strategize the movement of their armies, collect resources, and accumulate needed ‘elements of civilization’ to progress to the status of empire. We have some great books on ancient civilization, but looking at drawn, flat maps in books just isn’t the same as the ‘living’ maps of Google Earth. This program will allow us to teach this relevant history and geography through technology.
I will create overlays to illustrate the area over time. Where did the nomads settle to begin the long journey to civilization? Are these settlements still populated today? Why? Has the climate changed? Have the resources changed? Why? Have the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers remained the same?
The students are in groups by geographic area and the peoples that populated that area. Students will create tours and paths reflecting the movement of their groups, trade routes, travel to the location of resources, and expansion of their empires.
This is not the only unit that I am excited about utilizing Google Earth. We will be teaching a unit on pirates this winter. I can visualize ocean trade routes, pirate hangouts (and why they were hangouts), ocean currents, maps of the ocean floor for navigation purposes, tidal systems. It is endless!
I have preached the value of this great program to most every teacher I have encountered since the first night of class. I certainly hope the class will be taught at ‘Teacher’s Academy’ this year. I know many that are anticipating it!