Measuring the World

'Zoom around the Earth and discover just how far you have travelled' 

Around the World in 3 years like Ferdinand Magellan, 80 days like Phileas Fogg or 23 hours like Concorde,…Discover how fast they travelled by making calculations about the Earth’s size using Google Earth.  Measurement of distance and location using lines of longitude and latitude will make this possible.


  • Students will need computers with Google Earth installed and internet access.
  • Full instructions and the whole activity can be found here  Around the World
  • A help video for instructions on how to use Google Earth for this activity is provided
  • The following Teacher instructions  Around the World TN will help teachers find out how best to make the most of this activity in the classroom


  • A great way to start this activity is to put it in context.  Here is a short video from Vendée Globe yacht race from 2008-9 showing the route and the excitement of the race (the real action starts 1 minute in!)

  • The teacher may wish to demonstrate how to use Google Earth to make measurements or students could watch the short video tutorial.
  • Students should work through the activity worksheet and will be guided through the following sections
  1. Longitude and Latitude - fly to different locations on the globe to learn about how we describe their positions.
  2. How Big is The Earth? - estimate the distance around the world using angles of longitude and the line measuring ruler on Google Earth.
  3. How Big is The Moon? - take the investigation a step further by using Goggle Moon to make calculations about our moon and making comparisons with Earth.
  4. How Fast? - Many records have been set about circumnavigating the globe.  Compare the speeds of Ferdinand Magellan, Phileas Fogg, Concorde and the rotation of the Earth.
  5. Extension - The circumference of the Earth at different latitudes is related to the angle of latitude.  Find the rule.
  • Students should be encouraged to record their results digitally.
  • They may wish to work individually or in pairs.  It is important to encourage discussion so that students can share their findings.
  • Taking screenshots of the Google Earth images can really help provide a visual reminder of the learning experience.

 'Help Using Google Earth'

The functions required on Google Earth for this activity are very simple.  However, if you have had little or no experience with this software you might find the following 3 ½ minute video tutorial useful.

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