Framing a Field Trip with Google Earth

Having written a few days ago about What is in a Field Trip?, it was time to put the theory to practice.

Gail Lovely ‘ s quote about “framing a field trip” resonated with me

framing the event in learning before and after – & give them something to do while there!

Our third graders go on an annual field trip that drives them around the city of Jacksonville, Florida. They learn from a tour guide on the bus about historical places, buildings and about architecture.


How to FRAME this field trip, so it does not become an isolated few hours of being outside the school building for the students?

I created a Google Earth Flight map that included all the landmarks, students would visit on their tour around Jacksonville. Each stop is marked with a Placemarker, that has a pop up balloon with further information.


Here is what I did:

Create a folder in Google Earth BEFORE you create placemarks in that folder. Right click on “My Places”, then choose “Add” and click “Folders”. Name your folder.



Then enter all stops for the tour as placemarks in Google Earth. Type the address in the “Fly to” Search box and click on the placemark icon to place it on the map.


Once you add the placemark, another window pops up and you are able to enter a title, description and an icon among other things.


I chose to make the balloons a little fancier by adding an image of the landmark or building. In order to get the image, I took a screen shot from Google Maps’ StreetView, then uploaded these images. Make sure you know the URL of each image, since you will need it for the HTML code.  When there was no street view available, I went to Flickr and did a search for the address or building (most of them historic), then contacted the owner of the image to ask permission to use it in an educational setting. Permission was granted every time.


Here is the code I used. You can tweak it with your own information:

<table width=450>

<tr><td colspan=2 bgcolor=darkblue><font size=5 color=white>Old YMCA Building</font></td></tr>


<img src=”” width=250> <br><font size=1>407 North Laura Street</font>



<!——-Do not edit above this line —————————————–>

<b>Did you Know?:</b><br>

The building had a swimming pook in the basement.



How many meters is this building away from the Jacksonville Landing?

<!——– Do not edit below this line —————————————>

<p></td></tr></table><font color=white>

Credit to original placemark code goes to Jim Holland and Susan Anderson from Curriculum Magic. I attending one of their session at TCEA in Texas.


If you already have created your placemarks, you can edit them by right clicking on the placemark (on the map or in the “Places” list)


Each placemark has a “Did you know” tidbit information about its particular building or landmark and an “Activity” for students to do.

The curriculum integration the classroom teachers chose was for math (shapes and measurements). So activites ranged from:

  • Identifying shapes
  • Counting shapes
  • Measuring circumference of a shape
  • Measuring parking lots, roof tops, distances to other locations (in yards, feet, meters, kilometers, etc.)
  • Addition

When it is time for students to explore Jacksonville virtually, they will have 3D buildings and Borders and Labels checked off on their “Layers”. Make sure to have them do this first, so they do not get distracted with too many added placemarks.


Jacksonville has several 3D buildings available in Google Earth, especially in the downtown area. Some of the activities require the students to actually zoom in and around a building in order to answer the questions.


Next Step:

Actually go on the field trip!

  • Do you think students will have a different mind set when on their excursion?
  • Do you think they will be more engaged and able to connect to WHAT they are seeing to WHAT they have explored in Google Earth?

Last Step:

What to do when students return from the field trip?

  • Reflect
  • Make further connections to content studied in the classroom
  • Edit Google Earth with more activities, tidbits of information and questions for students who will do this field trip the following year


  • Jacksonville Tour kmz file (will open up in Google Earth, if installed on your computer)
  • Jacksonville Tour ( pdf file)
    Stops with address, Did you know? and Activities
  • Framing a field trip in Google Earth How- to-Guide (pdf file)