I love maps. I love Google. I love messing around with the brains of students to help them learn to ask better questions. What better way to start the school year than combine all three?

Google just published a new website called Treks. Using their awesome and weird StreetView gathering tools, they created Streetviews of places such as the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, and the Great Barrier Reef. And uploaded those views to Treks. It is an awesome way to view a particular place.

Treks is a natural continuation of Google’s extensive “off-road” StreetView collection. Be sure to head over here as well to get close-up views of places like Notre Dame, the St Louis Arch, the Eiffel Tower, or highlights of a whole range of European countries.

Google Earth Treks

So what can you do with this sort of stuff? Mess with kids, of course. Ask them questions that they may struggle with.

Maybe start in the Grand Canyon on one of the trails. Ask them where they are. Ask them how they know. If you’re teaching a geography class, ask them to identify geographic features. Perhaps put them in groups to brainstorm. Give extra credit to the group that solves the problem first. Have them use their Google Earth or Google Maps tools to do research. You can provide rough coordinates that they have to enter to provide clues, then perhaps more specific coordinates if they struggle.

You may want to start with a different (yet similar) sort of activity to warm them up. I earlier described another Google Earth activity that I call “Where Are We?” that might help students think about place.

Because maps, Google, messing with kids, and the start of school seem like perfect partners.