The Educational Advantages of Google Earth

By Zach Sperling


Google Earth is a revolutionary technology equipped with many advanced features that, when used correctly, can be used by instructors to enhance the education of their students. Google Earth is equipped with easy-to-use software that gives unlimited capabilities to the typical novice user. It allows a variety of users, from experts in a typical field to your average Joe, to design their own applications that can be used in an educational setting. These layers, or KMLs, are accessible to anyone with the Google Earth software and can be modified in anyway. This is what makes Google Earth so unique, the possibilities are endless.  Furthermore, these KML’s allow teachers to design their own lectures around the Google Earth software. Through this blog I will talk about two layers, which are easy to access and easy to use, and describe some hypothetical lesson plans that can be used by teachers. I will talk about Rome 3D first, followed by the Google Ocean layer.

Google Earth

Google Earth

Rome 3D:

–       Maps Ancient Rome circa 320 AD

–       6700 buildings shown in 3D equipped with editorial content detailing the history and significant use of building

  • Ex: Click on Colosseum and a page will give you a lot of content on the Colosseum, including that it was built by Vespasian and could hold 45,000-50,000 spectators to watch gladiatorial games and animal hunts

–       Not only can students learn about the ancient civilization, but they can also, for the first time, visualize it

–       Video tutorial of Rome 3D can be found here

Ancient Rome 3D

Ancient Rome 3D

Background: In 2009 Google Earth held a competition to see who could create the best lesson plans using the new Google Earth Rome 3D layer. There were three winning lesson plans for students grades 9-12 and three winning lesson plans for students grades k-8. One plan will be outlined bellow. (Google Earth, 2009)

Link to winners

Outline of Lesson Plan: Benjamin Johnson, for his lesson, created Walking in the Footsteps of the Romans. In this lesson

Step 1: Students pick famous Roman Emperor to research

Step 2: Students use Rome 3D to “tell the story of the life of their

Roman using the tools in Google Earth… and information in

the Ancient Rome Layer.” (Google, 2009)


– Student picks Emperor Vespasian

–  Vespasian built the Colosseum “in the valley between the Velia, the Esquiline and the Caelian Hills. The area had been a pond in the private gardens of Nero’s Golden House. Vespasian restored it to public use for the popular animal hunts and gladiatorial games. The complex, which could hold ca. 45-50,000 spectators, replaced an earlier amphitheater elsewhere in the city that was destroyed in the great fire of A.D.” 64. (Google Earth, 2009)

The Colosseum as the Emeperors saw it

The Colosseum as the Emeperors saw it

Google Earth Oceans:

–       Maps the oceans of the world

–       Equipped with 13 image-rich easy-to-use sub-layers

–       User friendliness and multiple informational sub-layers allow Google Ocean to be appropriate for a variety of age groups, from elementary school students to college students

The Oceans layer, much like the Rome 3D layer, offers an easy to use interface so that the user can navigate around the ocean easily. To access the layer, you need to click the “oceans” toggle in Google Earth. Oceans serves more as an encyclopedia of information than any other application, due to its many sub-layers.  This application would be very helpful for any age group. Elementary classrooms could look at the National Geographic sub-layer, while college students and scientists could look at the Animal Tracking sub-layer to study migrational patterns of certain animals. 

Google Earth Ocean Analysis:

Google Earth Ocean Layer

Google Earth Ocean Layer

National Geographic sub-layer:

– Appropriate for grade schoolers

–  Detailed images and information on a variety of aquamarine life

– Available with multiple-choice questions to test your knowledge

Elementary School Lesson Plan:

– Teacher uses the national geographic layer, equipped with detailed imagery,

to engage students on the blue-fin tuna

– Teacher engages the class with the multiple-choice questions, as seen in

bellow. “ How much can a giant blue-fin tuna weigh?”

Picture 7

Animal Tracking sub-layer:


– Appropriate for college-level research students and scientists

– Tracks specific aquamarine life

– Records pictures, tag numbers, gender, length, and weightPicture 3


With Animal Tracking, scientists can track the migration patterns of endangered species such as sea turtles. Adelita, a female Loggerhead sea turtle, was the first turtle tracked across the entire ocean basin using satellite. According to scientists, using her migration helped them discover “that loggerheads born in Japan cross the Pacific and feed in California and Mexico, before migrating back home to nest in Japan.”(Wildlife Tracking, 2009)


Google Earth. (2009). Rome 3D. Google. Retrieved from Google Earth

Google Earth. (2009). When in Rome… Teach! Ancient Rome 3D Curriculum Competition. Retrieved from:

Wildlife Tracking. (2009). Sea Turtle (Navigate) Ocean. Retrieved from:

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