This lesson was developed by Dr. Cynthia Annett. You can view, print or download the slide presentation from Google Docs Presentations by clicking here The student activity can be found at Paddle Down the Kaw
Overview: Students will learn how to use Google Maps and Google Earth to develop a map of the Kansas River. The imaginative journey that they take down the river will be recorded in a blog or other format, including illustrations and maps.
Suggested grades: 6-9
Objective: Create a sense of “ownership” of the river by exploring the geography of the region. By understanding that the river is a complex ecosystem that is integral to human communities in Kansas, students will understand that they have a personal stake in reducing pollution and improving the ecological functioning of the Kansas River.
Materials: A computer with Google Earth installed and access to the internet. Note: iPads and Android tablets have limited functionality with Google Earth and Google Maps, which means that you may be able to view and explore maps but not build your own maps.
You can download Google Earth for free. Google Earth for Educators provides a variety of resources to help you incorporate Google Earth into lessons. We provide a basic Google Earth tutorial **
Google Earth help resources and tutorials
If you are unable to install Google Earth on your computer, we provide you with a Google Map embedded in the student activity page. This map can be viewed as a full-sized map with additional tools by going to Google Maps through this link click here You do not need a Google Account to view the map, but you will not be able to create a map with your own content (icons, pictures, etc.) without a Google Account. We provide a basic Google Maps tutorial If you would like a map with more details about what is on the river, you can use the Google Map from our Kids 4 the Kaw curriculum This map can be used as an example of the type of maps that students might make for their imaginative exploration of the river (substituting drawings for photographs).
Google Maps help resources and tutorials
We provide additional lessons using Google Earth in Map Your Connections to the Kaw and Froggie in the Wild, as well as on our High School curriculum website that can easily be adapted for Middle School students.
Lecture: The Kansas River (which is known locally as the "Kaw" after the original Native Americans of the region) begins at the confluence of the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers near Junction City. It flows more than 170 miles to Kansas City where it joins the Missouri River.
You may wish to discuss what the word "junction" might mean in the name Junction City, given that two rivers unite at this point. Here are some interesting accounts that you can use to add historical materials to the discussion:
It might also be interesting to discuss why it was so difficult to get a steamboat up the river (especially before levees and dredging deepened the river) and compare boat traffic on the Kansas River, Missouri River, and Mississippi Rivers. Here is an interesting historical account with photos of early boats on the Kansas River. You can also find interesting resources on the Steamboat Arabia website and historian's blog.
There are a number or resources you can find in our Life on the Kaw, Critter Corner, and our detailed city and county almanac. You can show students a photographic tour of the Kansas River using resources in our photo map
Activity: This is meant to be fun and adventurous. Encourage students to find interesting ways to imagine their trip. There are many ways of using Google Maps and Google Earth to explore, including flight simulator, Panoramio, street view, time slider.
Students should come up with a project to tell the story of their adventure. Encourage students to be creative in developing their avatars (drawings, clay models, photos, all different media can be used). It is easy to create digital files by photographing student drawings, etc. You can also take screenshots of Google Maps and Google Earth to insert into their written accounts. It is a good idea to reduce the size of photos and screenshots to make them easier to handle (reduce them to around 400 Kb or 400 pixels).
If you wish to have students work offline, you can have them create a Microsoft Word or Powerpoint document for their pictures and narrative. Students can use Powerpoint to embellish their photos with shapes, clip art, or combining images from different photos.
If students have assistance from an adult and can upload their photos, they can add their photos directly to Google Earth or Google Maps and they can create their story within Google Earth or Google Map. You can even create your own tour
We use Google Earth for this lesson for a number of reasons- the program is downloaded onto your computer and does not make your maps public, which improves online safety for students; it does not require a Google Account which allows younger students to create their own maps without requiring an adult to provide a Google Account; and it contains a tremendous amount of content and advanced tools that will allow students to explore the world. We have found that Middle School students will enthusiastically use Google Earth to learn geography as if it were a video game, and will continue to explore places that they are curious about on their own time. Exposing students to Google Earth allows them to gain experience using a simple form of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). In fact, Google Earth Pro can be used to manipulate GIS files created by more conventional GIS programs (in GIS jargon these are SHP files which can be converted to KML files). This is an important "21st Century" skill for career development.
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