Keeping students engaged through the holiday craze

Google Earth
Nov 12 · 3 min read

By Emily Henderson, Program Manager, Google Earth Outreach

The days are growing shorter and the holidays are approaching fast, which means many of us are anticipating catching up with family and friends and taking time off from work. The fall transports me right back to the restless energy that I felt in school: one part of my brain focused on an upcoming final exam, and a much larger part of my cerebrum ready to zip off and think of anything but the subject at hand.

As we all deal with short attention spans, finding ways to remain engaged and active in our work can be challenging. Fortunately, I get to work on Google Earth every day — can it slow productivity? Yes! But will I learn something? Absolutely! (And it’s work, right?!)

In the spirit of the holiday season, I wanted to share how Google Earth might help rein in a classroom’s focus before the holiday breaks — subtly keeping instructional time on track, but also allowing curious and restless minds to travel to the places that they want to go.

Here are some of my favorite recent Voyager stories, broken down by subject, that are easy hooks into inquiry and exploratory learning.

Arts and social studies

Latino Murals in the USA: From legendary masters to cutting-edge contemporary artists, students can dive into some of the most beautiful Latino murals in the United States and discuss how art influences their own community and beyond.

Celebrating Diwali: Expose your students to the vibrant colors and traditions of Diwali, a celebration of good conquering evil, and light overcoming dark. The religious festival originates in India; however, it’s marked around the world by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists in their own local communities.

Quiz: Holiday Traditions: With the holiday spirit and anticipation of vacation filling the air, why not test your students’ knowledge of the traditions that are commonly celebrated at the end of the year? Do you know what country holds the record for the most Santas surfing at one time? Take the quiz and find out…

Science and math

Exploring Earth’s Keystone Species: This story, authored by our partner HHMI Biointeractive, introduces students to animals that play an outsized role in determining the types of animal and plant species found in their habitats. How can an ecosystem change when a particular organism is introduced or removed?

We Are “Go” for Launch: Science Friday created a story that explores NASA’s storied launchpads and the efforts being taken to upgrade and preserve them in the face of flood conditions and structural degradation.

Circular Structures: Media4Math explains how geometric concepts can be found in architecture across the globe, inspiring students to investigate how geometry influences the buildings that they see every day.


Interactive Quizzes on World War I and World War II: Almost every student will cover these two devastating wars in history class, given their global scale and impact. They can test their retained knowledge, but also see and firmly understand where in the world these events took place with these short games.

Following da Vinci: Join the celebration of 500 years of genius by delving into the places meaningful to artist and engineer Leonardo da Vinci. By exploring the regions of Italy where the artist worked, students can draw connections to his influences and inspirations.

With over 500 Voyager stories to choose from, it won’t take long for you or your students to uncover a story that resonates with your personal flavor of distraction. Happy Holidays!

Note: If you want to connect with other educators on how they use Google Earth and mapping tools in the classroom, check out the new Google Earth Education Community Forum, and continue to follow Google Earth on Twitter and Facebook.

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Google Earth and Earth Engine

For developers, scientists, explorers and storytellers

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