Geography, Fun, & Remembering Family History

Geography, Fun, & Remembering Family History

Over the past 10 years, we’ve moved from coast to coast in the US and it’s been fun, exhausting and at times stressful on our family and friend connections. I’ve written previously about ways to enhance connectedness within our immediate family and wanted to also offer up something which helps to enhance connectedness with the various places you (and your family) have been. At the same time, I want to provide a fun and interactive way for your family to get to know their history, community, town, city, state, country, continent, and the world (and even solar system and universe) which they live within. Enter Google Earth.

You are here

As we raise our kids, we try to introduce stories about the people and places we’ve been exposed to not only to teach our family about the people in their lives but also about the places where they’ve lived and thrived. From the story of the raspy voiced uncle to the vitamin-C toting great grand parent, each of these stories rich with personalities and places which have brought us to where we are today…as a family. In our home, we’ve created a Playroom which is a centerpiece to our Learning Home for our family. The computer we have in this room typically has a parade of family pictures and videos which play via a simple screensaver (as part of our Home Tone). We also make use of the great “Tour” feature of Google Earth which we also use as a screen saver by letting it run in the background. This Tour feature does an automated fly-by around the planet earth on the screen and, following a user defined list of locations, will stop and hover over any place you’d like. Included with Google Earth is an already created list called “Sightseeing” which jumps from the Grand Canyon to the Eiffel Tower to other great wonders of the world. That in itself is a fun and interactive way of bringing the globe to life for your kids and our whole family.

Geography, Fun, & Remembering Family History

Where are you from?

Using this as a starting point, we’ve added our own destinations to the Sightseeing list in Google Earth (which, by the way, is only on our machine…it’s not something which is published to the Internet). One part of our family comes from Washington State so we add “Space Needle”. Another part comes from Europe so we add “Big Ben” and another comes from Australia so we add “42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” (well maybe not). Along with adding the places our grandparents are from and the family and friends we visit up north and down south, we add some of the memorable vacation spots we’ve been to from the local seashore to the location of the 2nd largest ball of twine. Now when the Google Earth tour is running it gives us opportunities to point out, “Hey, that’s where nana lives, and that’s where you were born,” and, along with smirks and rolling of eyes, jogs the memory and reminds us where we are from… something worth remembering from time to time.

Where do you want to go?

Though it may seem that the tour is just another form of a context-specific video stream, there are much more dynamic interactions it enables. Just the other day while it was running, one of our kids asked, “Where is the North Pole?” and that lead to a discussion about continents and some further realization by them that the Earth is indeed quite round. We, parents and kids, type in different locations that we may have discussed at work/school or heard about over the course of the day and the great way Google Earth zooms in from outer space to the specific location does a great visual job of showing how the big picture and little picture really relate (and subsequently, rely upon one another). Our home address is one of the destinations on our tour and so when the kids take a field trip or we travel, we start from home, zoom out and “globe trot” around to show the relationship of where we are to where we’ve been and, with a lot of fun in tow, where we may be going someday (or at least would like to go). By the way, we’ve also used the features in Google Earth to look at where our Earth fits into our solar system and what are some of the constellations in the winter sky but that I’ll save for another time. Also, if you are an educator, take a look at how this might be incorporated into an existing curriculum.

Get there from here

In this world of motorcycle GPS navigation, geo-caching, world news, and rosetta stones, the world continues to become an even smaller place. At the same time it is now so much more accessible to those who it is still a new place. With this, it is not always easy to determine where one fits, so any tools and activities which help to demystify even the simplest things like the land we stand upon and the waters we swim within (simple… right) can be lots of fun and enriching and give us a clearer view of from whence we came and confidence about where we are headed.

G. Manto profile picG. Manto snowboards a little, runs a little and writes a little. When he’s not thinking about how to help seniors and kids, he puts his energies into helping communities use technology to do small great things. Some of these can be found at and

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