Living and Working in Ontario – Google Earth to the Rescue!


Identifying and describing patterns in population distribution and land use are not the easiest concepts to grasp on an atlas map, nor on a globe, just ask the Grade 3s! They are currently working on reading city maps with the goal of extracting information on residential and transportation purposes, as well as population patterns in agricultural areas.

The infusion of technology made this somewhat abstract task more concrete, not to mention more exciting and engaging. Using Google Earth, a FREE iPad application that renders a 3D representation of Earth based on satellite imagery, students were able to see cities and landscapes from various angles, all through touch.


From above, students identified the location of the greatest number of cities and towns in Ontario. They talked about why some were centred in certain areas. Thereafter, they used their fingers and thumbs to zoom in closer, and targeted their own towns.

They could be heard describing land use, and were instructed to spot examples of agriculture, industry, commerce, housing, recreation, transportation, and conservation. They noticed that residential streets were quite easy to spot, as the houses and streets made for interesting, repetitive patterns.

In order to help them further identify the various examples, Mme Madeley introduced them to “Street View”. Street View displays 360° panoramic street-level photos of select cities and their surroundings. The students thought the idea of photos being taken by cameras mounted on automobiles, was pretty incredible! Most of them went on the hunt for their own homes… creative minds have to wonder, sometimes!

In the coming weeks, the Grade 3s will continue to explore Google Earth. They will be shown how to take screen captures within the app, and then open them in a secondary app: Explain Everything. Explain Everything is basically an infinite canvas/whiteboard. Students will insert their Google Earth images and add annotations and text to describe the types of land use they see, as well as how human needs and wants are being addressed. Students will also be able to record their thoughts, sharing their understanding in “real-time”. Questions to be addressed may include things like: “If we went on a walk around our neighbourhood, what types of land use would we see? What types of needs do they meet? What is the purpose of commercial areas?”


Students will also be using a similar approach to compare and contrast their municipality with others. They will be encouraged to look at things like the number and size of roads; the size and location of commercial areas; the location and types of housing; the proximity of residential and commercial/industrial areas; the size and number of parks and other recreational spaces; the amount of agricultural land in the area; the amount of open space.

Stay tuned, as we hope to share some sample student work with you!

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