Google Earth Exercise: Mountains, Their Environments, and Human Activity

Learning Objectives

The purpose of this lab is to increase student knowledge of Appalachian mountaintop removal coal mining and the ecosystems of mountain areas in Africa.  

Standards Addressed

S.8.D.1.2 - Describe the potential impact of humanmade processes on changes to Earth's resources and how they effect everyday life

Preparation Time Needed

No preparation time is necessary, as the necessary information is already contained in the Google Earth program

Class Time Required

The exercise will take approximately one hour to complete, with the option to add more time with additional critical thinking questions designed by a teacher along a particular focus

Activity Description

Students are directed to open specific pre-existing layers under "Global Awareness" in Google Earth - Appalachian Mountaintop Removal, and UNEP: Atlas of Our Changing Environment.  No additional Google Earth files are required, as students can complete the exercise using the available Layers in the Google Earth program (available as a free download from

Students are required to read passages and view videos presented in Google Earth, then respond to ten questions that require synthesis of the presented information.  Students are introduced to U.S. and African geography and environments through the exercise.

The attached worksheet requires students to focus their responses on the geologic/environmental impacts of human activities.  Additional questions can certainly be added to the list, or used as a prompt for classroom discussion, focusing on the human impacts of human activity in these environments in the present and in the future.