Using Google Earth in Religion Class

Presented to the WELS Northern Wisconsin District Teacher's Conference

Sturgeon Bay, WI • February 15, 2008


Who says the Geography teacher should have all the fun?  Try using Google Earth in Bible History and Religion class and see the world that God made open up to your students in a whole new way!

Biblical Geography Links 

Bible Geocoding The location in Google Earth of every identifiable place mentioned in the Bible! This is an incredible site that will save you hours and hours of time trying to find all the Bible locations yourself.  The work has been done for you already!  Included in this site are:


The Complete Bible–One KMZ file for downloading into Google Earth that contains all the identifiable locations mentioned in the Bible!  Wow.  This is amazing!  This KMZ file contains the same information as the individual books and chapters files do which follows, so download one or the other.

Individual Books and Chapters–KMZs arranged by book and by chapter with previews in Google Maps! These files are a subset of the complete Bible KMZ file listed above, so don't feel that you have to download both to have everything.  Just download what you need.

Bible Atlas–An atlas lists all the places alphabetically, complete with thumbnails, verses, and photos (when available).


Overlays for Google Earth let you see how maps of ancient and modern Jerusalem fit satellite imagery.


Bodies of Water–Download a KML with outlines of the most of the bodies of water in the Bible.


Photos–About 10,000 photos of places in the Bible. These photos use the Flickr and Panoramio APIs and are thus of varying quality—many of them just happen to be of people or places near the ancient locations. But a lot of the photos are quite helpful: see Beersheba, Capernaum, and Ur, for example.

Herod's Temple–A 3D model built in Google SketchUp for use in Google Earth.


Other Ideas for using Google Earth in Religion Class

Besides just looking up every city, town, river, and body of water, try making placemarks and drawing paths to show the following:


1. Paul's Missionary Journeys

2. The Stages of the Exodus (Numbers 33)


3. The Countries of Pentecost Worshipers (Acts 2:8-11)


4. The Call of Abram (Genesis 12:4-9)


5. The Table of Nations (Genesis 10)


My Google Earth Files 

12 Tribes of Israel–This KMZ file is the first idea that I had when staring to work on this presentation.  So frequently we talk about places in the Bible without (a) knowing where they are, or (b) being able to picture them in relationship to other locations.  I wanted to create polygons for each of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  So I found a map of the 12 Tribes to use as an overlay and drew each tribe over the top of the overlay.  Drawing these polygons was a little more challenging because I couldn't just point and click straight lines.  I had to free hand draw each tribe's borders.  I've just started to add links to the info windows.

Google Earth for Teachers and Students–The first presentation I gave on Google Earth to the WELS Northern Wisconsin District Teacher's Conference, Tomahawk, WI, February 9, 2007.  The main point of this presentation was an explanation how my son and I put the Gold Rush Diary of George Bonniwell into Google Earth.


The Gold Rush Diary of George Bonniwell–This huge file is the result of a rather innocent question: "I wonder if we can plot the route that this Gold Rush 49er took from Milwaukee to California using Google Earth?"  The research that followed that question became an obsession for my son and I as we tried to make sense of not only George Bonniwell's diary, but also tried to find the locations that he wrote about as he and his wagon train traveled across Indian Territory and in places where only mountain men and a few other gold seekers had gone before.


WLA Association Churches–I actually created these placemarks in Google Maps and then imported them into Google Earth.  I have them linked to my choir blog so my Traveling Choir students and parents can get accurate directions to the 39 churches we sing at every two years.  The information in each church's info window comes either from the WELS Locator or from that church's website.

Fond du Lac County–My first attempt at using 3D polygons in Google Earth.  This one was easy because of all the straight lines.

Sherman's March to the Sea This is a project about General William T. Sherman that my son did in 5th grade.

All Things Google


Google Earth Home Google Earth combines the power of Google Search with satellite imagery, maps, terrain and 3D buildings to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips. Since Google Earth was launched, users have been exploring our world and creating content overlays (KML files) to share their explorations with others. We're now highlighting user-created KML files each week in the new Google Earth Gallery. You can also choose to add the gallery's Google Gadget to your iGoogle page.

Google SketchUpGoogle SketchUp 6 is a 3D modeling software tool that’s easy to learn, simple to use, and lets you place your models in Google Earth. Are you remodeling a kitchen, landscaping your back yard or adding a deck to your home? Google SketchUp makes it faster, easier and a lot more fun. From simple to complex, from conceptual to realistic, Google SketchUp helps you see your vision before you build it. Once you've built your models, you can place them in Google Earth, post them to the 3D Warehouse 


KML Gallery Google Earth is a geographic browser -- a powerful tool for viewing, creating and sharing interactive files containing highly visual location-specific information. We call these files KMLs (for Keyhole Markup Language): what HTML is to regular Internet browsers, KML is to geographic browsers. You can open KML files in both Google Earth and Google Maps, as well as in many other geographic browsers. This KML Gallery contains some interesting examples of KMLs that organizations, communities, and users just like you have created using both Google Earth and the "Create a map" feature in Google Maps.


KML Samples KML is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile. If you're new to KML, explore this document and the accompanying samples files (SamplesInEarth and SamplesInMaps) to begin learning about the basic structure of a KML file and the most commonly used tags. The first section describes features that can be created with the Google Earth user interface. These features include placemarks, descriptions, ground overlays, paths, and polygons. The second section describes features that require authoring KML with a text editor. When a text file is saved with a .kml or .kmz extension, Earth browsers know how to display it.


Google Earth Community An online forum of Google Earth users who want to share what they've found. Start looking for KML or KMZ files here before you try to create them yourself. Someone may have already done your work for you!


Tours and Tutorials

Google Earth User Guide This user guide describes Google Earth Version 4.2 and later. See Five Cool, Easy Things You Can Do in Google Earth. You can view a printable version of the user guide (free Adobe Reader required, English only).


Google Earth Product Tour See Google Earth in Action Ready to dive in? Watch the videos to get started on your virtual tours around the world.


This set of tutorials can help you understand how to use the fun, powerful features of Google Earth. Each tutorial provides a hands-on lesson using the application. Tutorials topics include: 

Google Earth FAQ Got a question about Google Earth?  Check here first!


Google Earth Help Group Still got questions about how to use Google Earth?  Check here next! 

Google Earth Tutorial Videos on YouTube Tutorial videos from the Google Earth Help Group.


Lesson Plans and Activities 

Google Earth Outreach Hundreds of millions of people now use Google Earth and Google Maps to explore the world around them. Google Earth Outreach gives non-profits and public benefit organizations like yours the knowledge and resources you need to reach their minds and their hearts.  Make sure you check out their tutorials page!


Google for Educators–Tools for Your Classroom–Yes, Google wants to help you, not just bury you in information.  See how they suggest to use their services, from Google Earth to Blogger to Maps to News,to Documents to Notebook to Book Search to...well, you get the idea!


Google for Educators–Earth–Not just ideas from Google, but activities and lesson plans using Google Earth from real teachers!


3D Stuff

View 3D Buildings Millions of users create 3D models and share them through the Google 3D Warehouse. To view these 3D models in Google Earth, download the 3D Warehouse network link. When you open this file in Google Earth, you'll see house-shaped icons that indicate where 3D models are located; watch the video on this page to learn how to use these icons to view models.


3D Warehouse The Google 3D Warehouse is a online repository of 3D models. Anyone can search for and download models, but to publish your own, you'll need to sign in using your Google account. Publishing your models to the Google 3D Warehouse is a great way to showcase your work. If you model 3D buildings and would like to share them with the world, you can do so through the "Best of the 3D Warehouse" layer in Google Earth. Only the very best models are selected for inclusion in this layer, but here are some helpful guidelines (pdf) that will improve your chances. Learn more about getting added to this layer.

Cool Stuff


Google Earth Flight Simulator–You did know that you can fly through Google Earth like you are in a F16 Viper or an SR22 four seater airplane, didn't you?  Make sure you know the keyboard commands for the flight simulator if you don't have a joystick for your computer. Check out this YouTube video to see the flight simulator in action.


Google Sky– You can explore the sky with Google Earth too! Whether you’re an astronomer or stargazer, Sky in Google Earth brings millions of stars and galaxies to your fingertips.  You just need the latest version of Google Earth to switch on Sky Mode.

Google LatLong-News and notes by the Google Earth and Maps team.  This is the horse's mouth!


Google Earth Troubleshooting


Where did Google Earth come from?

A company called Keyhole, a Mountain View, CA based digital mapping company, developed and delivered the world's first 3D digital model of the entire earth via the Internet. Google announced that it acquired Keyhole Corporation on October 27, 2004 and turned their product into what we know today as Google Earth.


Other People's Google Earth Sites and Blogs

Google Earth Blog (Unofficial)–The information on this blog is so good, you'd think it was the official blog of the Google Earth team.

Google Earth Library–The Google Earth Library contains content that created for Google Earth and some of the more interesting content that others have created for Google Earth.  Much of the content you will find here contains very large data sets that push the limits of what Google Earth can do.  Many contain several gigabytes of data. Make sure to check out this site's blogroll!


Google Earth Add-ons, Downloads, Visualizations–Includes many Google Sky files and very interesting animations. 


Google Earth (Wikipedia)-An online encyclopedia article describing all the many features of Google Earth.


Juicy Geography's Google Earth Blog is about teaching with Google tools, particularly Google Earth. The blog includes ideas for lessons, user guides, essential files and more. Feel free to leave comments and ideas for others. 


Using Google Earth–Learn tips and tricks to explore your world more effectively in Google Earth.