Where Are We in the World?

Do your students struggle with understanding the importance of longitude and latitude?  Sure they might grasp that they are numbers that correlate to a location on Earth, but do they really have an idea of what that means?  Here are two technologies that will get your kids thinking about longitude, latitude and where they are in the world.

Google Earth – Most people know it is really cool to spin the Earth around and “fly” into see their house, but not many think about checking to see what coordinates they had just landed on.  Give your students a list of cities around the world and have them search Google Earth for each location.  When they arrive at the city they will be able to see what its longitude and latitude coordinates are.  Ask them to make observations about what the coordinates are and where that city is located in relationship to other cities they are searching or the equator.  Can they identify the connections?

Geocaching – Geocaching is like a treasure hunt except you use a GPS device to find longitude and latitude locations where caches (treasures) are hidden.  These geocaches take place all over the world.  By using the geocaching website, you can find out if there are any treasures close to your school campus.  If there are not geocaches already setup in your area, have your students walk around the land surrounding the school to document different locations on campus.  Have them make their own geocache on campus.

Students will be able to see that based on the direction that they walk in the coordinates will change as well.  It will also allow them to see where in the world they live.  Have students draw conclusions about how and why the numbers change.

Right now I am sure you are thinking, Sweeney, where am I going to get 8 GPS units so that my students can walk around our school in groups of 4 exploring longitude and latitude? Well here are some ideas!

  1. Do you have a wireless campus and do 8 of your kids have iPod touches they would let you use for the day?  Download the GPS app that allows the iPod to be a GPS device using wireless!
  2. How many parents of students or staff members have a Garmin, TomTom, or Magelin that they could part with for a day so their kids can learn something?
  3. Is there a local hiking, outdoors, or camping club that rents the GPS units to members?  Maybe people would even volunteer to come show the kids how to use them.
  4. Use the forum on the geocaching web site to see if a hardcore cacher could help.
  5. Is there a local Best Buy or Home Depot?  At some locations they do grants for area schools, could this help you out?  Other tech grant options can be found under my blogroll on the right side of this blog.  Check those sites out for money!

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