Google Maps is a great site to use to allow students to explore their local community from the classroom through technology. Not only does the site allow for students to move around and explore the local built and natural environment, but also develop students’ “spatial and statistical literacy” skills (Beeson, 2009, p. 14). The site provides a detailed map of any address or location and its surroundings, including the names of shops, buildings and parks. Students can also swap between looking at the area as a map and through three dimensional satellite images. Using a local map is highly useful in the classroom to engage students in an understanding of their local community and their role in it, as supported by Mitchell and Elwood (2012, p. 148) who argue, “the integration of local history and geography through collaborative digital mapping can lead to greater interest in civic participation by early adolescent learners”.
To achieve optimum learning during this lesson, try to arrange a computer for each student to work on individually. Using the IWB, guide students through Google Maps by typing in the name of the school, and zooming in on the immediate area around the school. Ask students to identify where they believe the local community boundaries exist, and if it is an urban or rural community. Ask students to list some of the things in their community, such as types of shops, parks, schools, and places where the community meet. Ask students to talk to the person next to them about some of their favourite things to do in their community. Students then create a class poster together called “Our community” which collates their information. Such a lesson enables students to begin exploring their own local community, what exists there and how they interact with it.
Assess students through observing discussions with teacher and between students. Students could also be asked to write or draw what they think a community is, which could then be displayed with the “Our Community” poster.
As students locate, navigate and describe areas on a map using Google Maps they meet the Stage 2 numeracy substrand outcome ‘Position’ in Space and Geometry.
Beeson, Pat. Investigating Journeys to School Using a Range of Technologies. Interaction, Vol. 37, No. 1, Mar 2009: 14-20. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=797112230983166;res=IELHSS
Katharyne Mitchell & Sarah Elwood (2012): Engaging Students through Mapping Local History, Journal of Geography, 111:4, 148-157