Legacy of the West Road Trips – Using Google Maps in the Classroom
10 Feb 2013 Chuck Taft
I have been fascinated with Google Earth since I was introduced to it a few years ago at a conference, and I pull it up on my SmartBoard at least once a week to show some geographical sites in American history … or, just to spin the earth with my hand and feel powerful. I tinkered with making some .kml files myself, and successfully layered some images of D-Day and a few Civil War battles. I have been dying to get my students to use it, but I was worried about the complexity of the programming, how to collaborate, where to store files, and more. Needless to say, I put it on the back burner. Until …
I was playing around with Google Maps, trying to find directions to a few local spots, when I came across the “My Places” button. I made a quick interactive map of some nearby locations, saved it, and then found out it can be converted to a .kml file with one click. Once I was blind … now I can see! It only took a few minutes to devise what I felt could be a challenging, creative and engaging activity combining history, geography, and technology … I am quite pleased with the results.
The assignment is The Legacy of the West Road Trip. When we examine America’s expansion into the West after the Civil War, one essential questions is “What is the legacy of the West?” The gimmick for this assessment? I am starting a historical themed travel company called History Rules! Tours, and I am looking for some summer employees. I offered kids the “chance” to design a road trip the help present the legacy of the reshaping of the American West after the Civil War. Students were given a an introduction with a project outline and instructions, a project rubric and example entries, and a class demonstration. From there, they completed their research and maps on their own. I encouraged them to locate essential spots as we discussed different concepts and events in class.
I was very pleased with the results for the first time around – check out a few of the student trips here (the files should open in Google Earth).
What are some other possible uses?
- Road trips for historical topics, such as the Ciivl War, the Great Depression, Civil Rights Movement, etc.
- A historical timeline for just about any topic
- Historical or modern day tours of cities, similar to the Freedom Trail in Boston
- A “collection” of geographic features, such as archipelago, basin, peninsula, desert, and more
- A biography or creative story about an individual (real or fictitious)
- I’m still thinking … let me know if you have some ideas as well!