We’ve used the cool virtual map Google Earth to get a bird’s eye view of our house, Disney World, and my mother’s tiny hometown in Europe. And now there is a really neat history book for kids, History of the World with Google Earth, that puts the technology to use in a sort of digital lesson that will take them far beyond the pages of the book.
On its own, this an interesting book for kids who are (or you wish they were) fascinated by historical periods like Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, or World War II. The illustrations remind me of a cross between Where’s Waldo? and Horrible Histories, with lots of kid-friendly details and prompts to search the photos for things in the picture. Kids are also encouraged to seek out the historical or geographical “misfits” that don’t belong in the time period or region shown.
But where it really gets interesting is when you go beyond the pages, and download a free copy of Google Earth to your computer. The book offers prompts for you to enter the given coordinates for each historical site into the search box–then, just watch the globe spin you right to the destination you’ve been reading about in the book. It brings learning to life in such an incredible way.
While it’s neat to suddenly see Great Pyramids appear from above, be sure to click a little yellow person icon so you’ll be brought down to Google’s Street View. It’s available for more and more locations every day and I don’t know a kid that isn’t fascinated by it.
Of all the things you can do, from checking out photos others have taken of the sites to seeing 3D Building models, my favorite is the ability to click any red “360″ bubble that appears on the map. This will zoom you right to a significant locale, so you can pretend you are perusing the terraces of Machu Picchu in Peru or wandering the Forbidden City in Beijing. It’s almost like you are standing right there, craning your neck up to look at the top of a building, or spinning around to see what’s behind you.
What a great way to get kids excited about the world beyond our backyard, without having to leave it. Yet.