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Flight Day with Google Earth

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What it is: Every year the second grade students at CHC participate in Flight Day.  Each class ‘flies’ to a different country where they learn about the customs, architecture, and geographical landmarks of the country.  This year we spruced up flight day with Google Earth.  I created tours in Google Earth so that our students could virtually ‘fly’ from Denver International Airport to their destination (France, Germany, and Mexico).  Before landing in the destination country, we toured famous buildings, landmarks, and points of interest in the destination country.  Flight day begins with a re-arranging of the classroom.  Chairs are arranged in rows to simulate an airplane.  Desks surround the chairs and act as the airplane enclosure.  Students prepare for flight day by creating suitcases (that looks like the flag of the destination country) and passports for their travel.  Students have to go through security before they can board the plane.  There bags are searched and they have to take off their shoes and be wanded.  We have amazing parents who volunteer to act as the pilots of the plane and stewardesses on the flight.  The parents are great sports dressing the part and following a script we have written.  The Promethean boards displayed the Google Earth tour that I pre recorded for teachers.  Each flight leaves from our airport.  The features in Google Earth are incredible, using the 3D buildings option in Google Earth, students could actually see the white peaks of DIA as they waited on the tarmac.  The plane picks them up from a terminal and the flight begins.  Before flight day I had teachers create an itinerary of places they would like to see before the plane landed.   I based all tours on this itinerary.  Students flew to destinations in France such as the Eiffel Tower, Arch De Triumph, Notre Dame, Versailles, Saint Chappelle Cathedral, and the Louvre.  With the 3D buildings and Google Street view options selected, we were able to see each place in 3D and then see a real 360* panorama view of each stop.  During the flight, we provided students with in flight entertainment videos.  Our videos came from Discovery Streaming and the links were embedded right in Google Earth.  The videos were all related to the final destination country, we found some great videos of kids talking about what school is like in each country.  Students were also served an in flight meal.  Students traveling to France enjoyed a croissant, baguette with brie cheese, grapes, and sparkling lemonade.  Each meal came served in a little box topped with the flag of the destination country and a note that said “Thank you for flying Air France.”  When the flight ended, our Google Earth tour finished by landing at the airport of the destination country.  Students disembarked the plane and got their passports stamped.  Students then pretended to visit the local library and were read a story about the country.  The students who ‘traveled’ to Mexico were greeted by Spanish speakers and singers as they exited the plane (our 7th grade Spanish students came down to make the experience more authentic).  This was a very neat day for our students and is SO much better than reading about the countries they visited from a social studies text book.  Tomorrow students will create crafts of the country and sample some of the local cuisine.  They will watch some more clips from Discovery Streaming, learn a few phrases in new languages, and see some more pictures of the places they are visiting.  You can view our tour of France here:  France (To get the full effect make sure that you have turned on the 3D Buildings, Street view, Borders and Labels, and Terrain under Layers in Google Earth.)

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How to create a Google Earth Tour: Google Earth is a truly incredible tool.  If you aren’t using Google Earth in your classroom, you should be!  It is a free download here: Google Earth 5. To create a tour of your own:  Before you begin, come up with an itinerary of places you would like to visit.

1.  Open Google Earth (I worked in Google Earth 5) and create a new Folder under “Places” 2.  Under the Search type in your first destination. (Ours was DIA, our local airport).  You can search by business name, city, or specific address.  Google Earth will search for places that match your search criteria and drop place markers on the map.  When you find the place that you want to add, zoom in and click on the “add placemark button” (the yellow pushpin in the top menu).

3.  When you add a pushpin, the place will show up under your places folder as your first destination.  Continue searching and adding placemarks for each of the stops you would like to make on your journey.  You can add notes, links, etc. when you create a placemark.  Make sure that the view of the feature is exactly the way you would like students to view it when they play the tour.  In other words, if you want students to actually see the 3D model of the Eiffel tower, make sure that when you place your placemark you have zoomed into the map and adjusted the screen.

4.  Under “Layers” you can select the features you would like to show up on your map.  For our flight day I wanted students to be able to see the 3D buildings, Street View, Borders and Labels, and Terrain.  You can select as many or few layers as you would like.

5.  Finally you will play and record your tour.  To play the tour click on the video camera play button which is located directly under the Places panel.  This will automatically play your journey.  To record your tour, click on the “record” button which is located in the top menu button and looks like a video camera with a red record dot.  As I recorded, I would pause the play back of the tour and zoom in and around buildings and feature landmarks.  When you press play again, the tour continues.

6.  Play the tour for students.  When we played the tour for students we paused often so that we could talk about the different architecture and land features that we were seeing.  Pausing also gave us the opportunity to “fly” into the street view so that students could see what it would look like to actually stand on the street corner and look around.  Amazing is the only word that comes to mind!  (As a side note, the Louvre has an incredible 360* tour, be sure to check it out!)

Tips: Google Earth is preset to ‘fly’ quickly between destinations, because we wanted the students to feel like they were actually on a flight, and to get a feel for flying over the ocean to reach a destination I changed the Preferences in Google Earth.  I delayed the amount of time that it took to reach the destination and tweaked a few other settings to get the tour to run the way we needed it to.  The tours can be saved as a place and even emailed to other team teachers directly from Google Earth.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Google Earth in your classroom.

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