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Activity: Google Earth Vacation Preview

Vacations, Scale, and Google Earth


Before we left on vacation this year, used Google Earth to orient ourselves to our destinations - Chicago, IL and Traverse City, MI. Google Earth lets you "fly" over any place on earth and see satellite images of the area. It is a program you download and install, free, from the Google Earth web site. You can read our earlier review of Google Earth here .

So to preview our vacation, we used Google Earth (GE) to fly over Chicago, and then from there to Traverse City.

Ok, the math . Since we were driving from one city to the other and taking a ferry across Lake Michigan, we used the ruler feature to measure distances. By clicking on the beginning and end of the ferry path, we found out it's about 85 miles across Lake Michigan.

There are several mathematical directions you could go with the ruler tool as you explore places with your child.

How far is our destination from homes? You can measure other trips familiar to your child and compare. How far to school? How far to something familiar that is about an hour away? That will help your child develop their real-world understanding of distances.

Understanding map scale . You can use the Google Earth ruler to help your child understand a basic truth about maps - no matter what scale you draw the map, you're still representing an unchanging real-world distance. Zoom in tight, measure a distance between two places. Now zoom out, and measure the same distance again. Even though your ruler line is much shorter, the distance in miles will be about the same (allowing for a little error in clicking).

Using numbers to describe places. Lake Michigan is much longer, north to south, than it is wide. By measuring with the ruler tool we can find out how many times longer it is than wide. If I tell you that Lake Michigan is over three times longer than it is wide, that's a more specific description than "a lot longer than wide." It also allows you to draw a rectangle about the same shape as Lake Michigan, without ever seeing a map. Aren't numbers great?





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