This is an activity I've been wanting to do for a while now, after being first inspired by @tombarrett's blog post on doing a similar piece of work with his then class of Year 6 children using the Quikmaps service (see examples).
Our Year 6 children were just coming to the end of a unit of work all about the impact the Victorians had had on the local area, and so this felt like a perfect opportunity to teach them how to create their own mashup of Google Earth aerial photography and their own historical research.
I am very fortunate that the town my school is in still has a very lot of old Victorian buildings in use, thus giving me plenty of places where I could ask children to annotate in Google Earth. In addition, the local newspaper also has a superb Nostalgia section on its website containing: old photographs, anecdotes and news clippings from days gone by.
After doing some initial research however, I soon discovered that the information in this section was unfortunately quite patchy before the 1st World War and that the way the photographs were presented made it very difficult to find out their URLs. Not deterred though, I decided to have a go at creating my own mini website about the history of Victorian buildings in Middleton. After a quick walk around town with my camera, a good couple of hours finding out what details I could on the newspaper's site and half-and-hour of coding later, I thus managed to produce this:
Although pretty basic, it did cover a good number of buildings and contained all the information that the children would need (and often a little bit more besides to encourage them to pick out just the key facts), including: buildings designed by a locally famous architect, the arrival of the railway, the Queen's Jubilee celebrations in 1887 and the opening of our school.
The children had already had a number of lessons using Google Earth so they were pretty confident in using its various navigational tools to find Middleton (with some opting to zoom in gradually and others choosing to type the school postcode into the search box). After a quick demonstration on how to add a placemark on top of a building, they then went away and spent some time labelling up several of the Victorian places that they had read about on my Victorian Middleton website with growing confidence, and adding a sentence about the history of each in their 'Notes' sections.
Having done this, I then taught them how to add the necessary HTML code to insert images into their placemarks and also showed some of the more confident children how to change the icon style and/or label colour to make their placemarks look more attractive.
Finally, saving the completed maps was fairly straightforward - children simply needed to right-click on their 'My Places' folder in the side window and choose 'Save Place As...'. Some of the completed maps can be found on this page on my school's website - downloaded KMZ files will open up automatically in Google Earth.
In the end, I found the project to be very successful (as expected) and thought that it certainly succeeded in teaching the children yet another new method of presenting their Internet research in a creative way.