Michael Robinson, our 2019 West Tennessee Teacher of the Year and high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in Germantown, shares this third article in a three part series on resources for geography instruction.
“Everything has to do with geography.” -Judy Martz, former governor of Montana
Students like games, puzzles, and competing against one another, and I’ve found that you can use activities like these to make geography fun. Here is a list of websites to help make learning geography a little more fun and interesting.
Google Street View
Below is a screenshot using Google Street View showing a famous house in Tennessee. Can you name it?* Using Google Street View is a great way to introduce students to places all over the world.
If you have never used Google Street View, then use this link to learn more.
This website may already be familiar to some teachers. It provides quizzes and games for geography as well as art, math, world leaders, and flags. It is an excellent resource for students to use to quiz themselves. This is a site that can be used by students and teachers in almost all grades.
This simplistic website has students compare the sizes of two geographic areas. Which is bigger, Tennessee or Ireland? With this website students can find the answer very quickly by selecting Tennessee in the red box or Ireland in the blue box. When they compare, they learn that Tennessee is 1.55 times as big as Ireland. This is a quick and extremely easy website to use. (The main challenge in using this website is the pop-up ads.
This is a website from the United Kingdom, and many of the activities are geared for the UK. However, there are puzzles and games that are mostly geared for elementary and middle school that could be used in any country’s classrooms. In addition to the games there are geography quizzes as well as an excellent explanation of GIS.
When you click on this website you will need to click “Single Player,” and then you will be taken to a map from Google Maps Street View. The object of the game is to click on the world map identifying your best guess as to where the Street View photo was taken. Before guessing, students can click on the Street View map and explore to find clues as to where the photo was taken. Clues can include street signs, car tags, names on buildings, languages on the signs, the climate, and landscape. It is a fun way to have students explore the world.
In the example below, the top photo is the location students are trying to identify. As students move the arrows around the area, they may see street signs, and in the bottom left, photo signs written on buildings. In this example students would be able to research the words on the building to determine the language is Portuguese. Since the landscape is tropical they may guess the location in the top photo is somewhere in Brazil. Once students make their best guess they will see the correct location, like in the bottom right photo.
(The main challenge about using this website is the pop-up ads.)
This website does not have games, but it might be the most interesting of all the websites I have highlighted. The website has videos on population, economics, and public health. There is a section called Dollar Street that compares how people in 50 different countries around the world live. The highlight of the website has to be the Toolssection. When you click on “Tools” you will be sent to an interactive chart. You can change each of the axes to compare different indicators, such as indicators on energy, economy, environment, health, infrastructure, population, etc. The default comparison is between life expectancy and income. When you click the “play” button you will see how each country’s life expectancy and income have changed since 1800. This powerful tool can be used in many classes with a wide range of lessons.
In the sample screenshots shown below, you can see the visual impact the graph can have in showing how life expectancy and income have improved dramatically for all countries in the world since 1958.
If you enjoyed these sites and want to look at more, then click on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog, where he has multiple lists of geography-related websites. More geography game websitescan also be found on his blog.
As President Barack Obama said, “The study of geography is about more than just memorizing places on a map. It’s about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exists across continents. And in the end, it’s about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together.” So no matter what you teach, you can help your students think better by helping them think geographically.
*Answer to where the photo was taken: Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, in Memphis, Tennessee