Google Earth Lessons

An Educational Resource for Teachers

 Where We Are From
Teacher's Resource Page

This is a pretty cool lesson with some neat possibilities!

Originally designed as a Math exercise to have students calculate Mean, Median and Mode, it has the potential to be used in a multi-disciplinary way to investigate and bring awareness to a number of other topics.

Some potential topics include:
Human Migration
Similarities and Differences among Populations
Environmental and Sociological factors regarding human migrations
Statistics and Analysis
Human Communities Dynamics


In this lesson students use Google Earth (Technology) to locate where they are born and where they are now (in your school)(Geography). They then create an image overlay using an arrow graphic connecting the two points (Geometry) and measure the distance between the two points (General Math). The placemark folders are then compiled by the teacher into a single folder with the end result being an informative graphic display of the origins of the students that make up the class population. Meanwhile, the students use the distance data for the class to calculate various aspects of the data in order to ultimately make determinations about how the data represents the class population.

The teacher can create a screen shot of the collected arrows all pointing to the school to share with Parent Groups, Administration, the school's website, etc. If you teach in a high mobility, diverse school, the results can be used to build a sense of community through diversity. If you teach in a low mobility, homogenous school, the results can be used to reinforce common heritages. It is my hope that once the screenshots are made that they are shared both locally and through this website so that your students can see how your school compares to others and use the shared data as the basis for other lessons. That would be even cooler!

Support Materials:

-Step by Step instructions for the students (html document with links to instructional videos of the steps)
-GELessons formatted lessons page with goals and objectives for your lesson plans.
-Step by Step Flash Videos

-Worksheet for Mean, Median & Mode plus Basic Data Analysis (as .doc) (as .pdf)
-zip file of entire lesson directory (7.7M)
-zip file of entire lesson without videos (65K)


Day 1. Assign students the task of finding out where they were born. Tell them to be as specific as possible, including the town or city, hospital and if possible the street address. Every student's birth situation will be different. Try to be sensitive to unique birth situations such as adoptions, taxi-cab births, parental secrets due to custody battles, etc. In such cases, it is allowable to 'toss a dart' and pick a random hospital from a location nearby.

Day 2.  Depending on the unit of study this activity is used in, the anticipatory set will vary. Some suggestions could include rolling dice, noting the sum of the rolls and using that to initiate a discussion about probability. "What are the chances that everyone in this room would be right here, right now, at this exact point in space and at this exact point in time? Can Math help us figure it out?"  Other options include initiating a discussion about the spread of humans around the globe from a common ancestral region, having students guess who was born farthest from the school, having students share their family's origins, etc.

During the activity the student will complete the nine steps detailed on the "Where We Are From" tasks web page. This can be done as a small group computer station lesson (students working in pairs, at most) or in a lab setting.

The teacher will provide the students with a centralized location for recording their distance data. If the exercise is taking place in a single computer classroom, an Excel spreadsheet may be used, otherwise a poster sized piece of paper or an area on the white/chalk board, a clipboard with a peice of paper, etc. may be used.

Day 3. After compiling the distance data from all the class members the student completes the worksheet for Mean, Median and Mode. The teacher compiles all the student placemark folders into a centralized 'My Places' folder (or has a kid do it) which can be shared with sudents as a distributed kmz file or on the overhead, etc. A class discussion about the overall results could focus on such things as the symmetry (or lack thereof), patterns, clustering or similar visual observations. The visual observations could then be compared and contrasted with the numeric data.

Contribute Your Data!

Wouldn't it be cool to let your students compare how their class compares to other classes around the world! It could be the basis for a whole other series of lessons! Once you have created a screenshot of your data, please share it with other teachers by posting the picture here. Please be sure to include the name of your school, location and the Mean, Median and Mode information you calculated. If you want to have an email exchange with other classes to discuss some of the topics that are raised by your students I would suggest that you set up a Yahoo, Google or Hotmail email account and then respond to interested teachers from your school account and have the other teacher respond from their school email. Why? Spambots, nasty little programs, search the internet for email addresses and then you get all sorts of junk mail. If you post your school email account on-line here it is only a matter of time before you are flooded with junk mail. If you have a generic email account on Yahoo or Hotmail then it can get flooded all it wants. By having the teacher respond via their school email account you can be more certian they are who they say they are and they can be more assured you are who you say you are for safety reasons.

For comments or suggestions on ways to improve this lesson, or feedback on how it went with your class, please visit here.