How Your Kids Can Have a Global Scavenger Hunt Without Leaving Home
Would you like to take them around the world without the cost?
Get ready for a scavenger hunt like no other.
Your kids discover fascinating facts about places like Antarctica, the Seven Wonders of the World or a real castle!
Looking all over the globe for unique and unusual places is as easy as a few clicks of the mouse or a few taps on the touchscreen.
In this article I’ll show you how to “visit” some of the world’s most famous and beautiful landmarks with your kids using Google Earth, keep a personal travel journal of your discoveries and make a tasty international treat to celebrate the return from your “travels.”
Why Use Google Earth to Teach Kids About the World?
The world is a wide and varied place. Media and technology are making it smaller, bringing people together like never before. It’s important for kids (and adults, too) to learn about the people, places and cultures that are now so accessible to them.
And there are so many incredible places to see!
It would take a lifetime (and a whole lot of money) to visit them all, but Internet sites like Google Earth make it possible to see real sights around the world that even the most experienced travelers may never visit.
If an around-the-world vacation isn’t in your plans or budget, the great Google Earth scavenger hunt is a fun alternative—a way to use technology to expose your family to places far and wide and have an international adventure together from your own home.
A Little Bit About Google Earth
Did you ever sit and look through National Geographic magazine as a kid? For me, it was a fascinating way to learn about faraway places I’d never heard of—in vivid color.
Now there are many more tools to learn about the world like this one.
Check out some of the places that can be discovered with Google Earth.
There is really nothing online as unique and detailed as Google Earth. It is a virtual globe, map and geographic information program that was originally called “EarthViewer 3D.” It was created by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—your kids will love that it’s a “spy” thing!—and funded and acquired by Google in 2004, who called it Keyhole, Inc.
When Google made the program available free of charge for personal computer users in 2005, it opened up amazing opportunities to teach children about the world and every place in it.
Google Earth maps the earth by superimposing images it gets from satellites, aerial photography and geographic information system (GIS) 3D globe. It gives you vivid pictures of places all over the world that make you feel as if you’re standing right there.
Translation? Yes, your kids will love it!
This global scavenger hunt is a lot of fun and it can also help kids in school. The ability to see places around the world in 3-D can open their eyes to subjects ranging from natural sciences to social sciences, history, art, engineering and any other topic that has a geographic component.
If there is a place they hear or read about—whether it’s a landmark, ecosystem or entire city, they can look it up on Google Earth to deepen their knowledge.
This scavenger hunt is a good place to start.
Start Your Google Earth Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt always begins with a list of things to look for. The great Google Earth scavenger hunt starts with a list of places all around the world to discover and learn about.
But this is more than just playing around on the Internet. You and your kids will also make a travel journal filled with photos and facts about places you may have never seen before. And continue the adventure with a treat you make together that will take you back to one of the locations you discovered.
Buckle your seatbelts. It’s time to embark on your Google Earth around-the-world scavenger hunt.
#1: Plan Your Itinerary
I’ve set up a list of 11 places on every continent for you and your kids to find. These are the locations you’ll “visit.”
To get started, print out the printable scavenger hunt list and read it with your kids.
2. Iguazu Falls
3. Neuschwanstein Castle
4. Golden Gate Bridge
5. Big Ben
6. Taj Mahal
7. Mawson Station
8. Mount Rushmore
9. The Great Sphinx of Giza
10. Statue of Liberty
11. The Great Wall of China
Ask your kids if they’ve heard of the places on the list and what they know about them.
I’ve purposely left as much information out as possible so you, the parent, can play along and be surprised where some of these things are located. I bet you’ve never heard of some of these places. Put your learning caps on, too!
When you’re through with the scavenger hunt, you can use the printout as the table of contents in your travel journal.
#2: Make a Travel Journal
Grab a blank notebook or several clean sheets of paper stapled together to make a special travel journal for your around-the-world adventure!
You can make one journal as a family or each person can make his or her own. It’s up to you.
Fight the temptation to make everything perfect on the computer. The book is a great chance to let the kids practice their handwriting and use their creativity, so stand back and let them lead.
First, create a cover for your book.
Find or draw a picture for the cover. You can simply type “Google Earth” in the Google bar and look at images.
Write or type a title for the cover of your journal. “The Great Google Earth Scavenger Hunt” or something similar will work well.
Next, create a page for each location in your hunt.
Write the name of the location from the scavenger hunt list at the top of the page (one location per page). It helps to label the pages for each location on the list before you get started.
Leave plenty of space for photos and facts about each place you discover.
Get ready to fill out all of the pages because there will be a few tasks to complete for each location.
#3: Start Searching
Now it’s time for your adventure to begin. Fire up Google Earth and start searching!
If you haven’t already done so, download the Google Earth plugin, which enables you to view the 3-D images. You’ll also need to download either Google Earth Desktop or Google Earth Mobile, depending on where you’ll be doing this activity.
It might be fun to start your scavenger hunt from your own doorstep. Type your address into the search box and watch as the screen zooms from outer space straight to your house. What were your kids’ reactions to that?
Learn to navigate. If you move the icon (from the panel on the right side of the screen) that looks like a person onto the location of your house on the picture, it will place you on the street so you can look around your neighborhood.
Play around with the controls until you and your kids are comfortable looking in different directions, rotating, zooming in and out, etc. (Click on Help/Navigating in Google Earth to learn how).
Then move on to the first location on the list.
For each destination, find the location by typing it in the search box in the upper left-hand corner.
#4: Learn About Geography
Look at the left-hand side under the box where you typed the location to find the city, state (if applicable) and country the site is in.
Write that information at the top of the page beside the name of the location in your journal.
Take a look at the land around the site you found. Is it in the mountains, a big city or near some form of water? Note the terrain in your journal, too.
See if you can find the same place on a world map or globe at your home, too. It helps you learn where things are in the world when you have to locate them on a map.
This will enhance the learning experience even more and give everyone a break from looking at the screen.
#5: Print a Picture of Each Place
Print out a picture of each location. See all of those little blue and green squares around the landmark? Those are photos taken from those exact locations.
Google Earth will also suggest some pictures along the bottom of the page or you can do another image search.
Cut out the photo and paste it in your notebook.
#6: Take a Walk Around the World
Look around the location you’re visiting. You can use the tools on the right to “walk” around the location, just as if you were really there.
One benefit is that you can zoom in beyond the barriers that keep live visitors away.
Walk around and see what you can find. Explore the neighborhoods around the landmarks you visit.
#7: Find Fun Facts
See what else you can learn about each place you’ve discovered. List 2-3 facts about each site in your journal.
Think about each location: What is this? Where is it? Why is it significant?
Do an Internet search or check Wikipedia directly.
If it’s too hard to narrow down all of the information about a place, establish a couple of questions or facts to find about every location on the list: What language is spoken here? When was this built or discovered? What kind of weather do they have here?
Work your way down the scavenger hunt list together.
When you make it to the end of the list, you’ll have a notebook full of pictures and facts about places you visited and a worldview that’s a bit wider than before.
It’s time to celebrate and talk about what you’ve learned.
#8: Bonus Activity—Make a Special International Treat
You’ve arrived at the Great Wall of China (the last site on the list).
“Nǐ hǎo” means “hello” in Chinese and it’s pronounced “nee haOW.”
Let’s celebrate and review where we’ve been by making fortune cookies!
Let’s Make Fortune Cookies (adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes.com).
Note: Making fortune cookies with your kids is another great adventure all by itself. If you’re short on time, make the cookies another day.
First, print out the name of each place you visited on small strips of paper for the fortunes. Fold them in thirds so they are ready for the fortune cookies when they are ready.
Gather your ingredients:
- 1 egg white
- 1/8 t vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- Fortunes (destinations from your scavenger hunt list on strips of paper 4 1/2″ long by ½” wide (12 x 1 cm)
Prepare the Cookies:
Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
Grease two cookie sheets very generously. (Your kids will love to get their hands dirty doing this!)
Mix egg white and vanilla until foamy, but not stiff.
Sift flour, salt and sugar and blend into the egg white mixture.
Place teaspoonfuls of the batter at least 4 inches (10 cm) apart on one of the prepared cookie sheets.
Your batter will be slightly bigger than a quarter on the cookie sheet. It will spread during cooking. (If it doesn’t spread enough, add a few drops of water to the batter for the next batch.)
Be careful to make batter as round and even as possible. Since they spread, put only 2-3 cookies on a cookie sheet.
Bake each sheet for 5 minutes or until cookie has turned a golden color 1/2-inch wide around the outer edge of the circle. The center will remain pale.
While one sheet is baking, prepare the other.
Remove from the oven and quickly remove the cookies with a wide spatula.
Place the fortune close to the middle of the cookie quickly and fold the cookie in half.
Then, fold in quarters.
Caution: The cookie will be very hot during this process. (This step is not for little fingers to do!)
The key is to fold the cookies into shape before they cool off.
Place folded cookies into the cups of a muffin tin to hold their shape until firm.
Let the cookies cool for approximately 30 minutes. You can put them in the refrigerator to speed up the process.
They should be hard, not warm or cake-like when they are done.
#9: Open Your Fortune Cookie… See Where You Return!
The fortune cookies are a fun way to revisit the places you explored on your Google Earth scavenger hunt (and reinforce what your kids learned).
Once the cookies have cooled, crack one open and see what the fortune says.
Where should you return to review your trip highlights?
Your fortune will guide you. Go to your notebook and look at the location the cookie contained.
Where did your fortune have you revisit?
Some final thoughts…
Are you tired after your “around the world and back” journey? What was your favorite place? What new facts did you learn?
Don’t stop after you’ve done this scavenger hunt! Is there a place you have always wanted to visit, but never been able to? Type it in the search box on Google Earth and start a new journey!
Or draw up your own list of locations to explore and keep discovering new places with your kids.
What do you think? Is there a place in the world you’ve always wanted to see? Go take a look at it on Google Earth and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear the reactions your kids have to the great Google Earth scavenger hunt. Please leave a comment or photo and let me know what your family discovers!