Real World Math: Project Based Learning - Community Building

Once students become more adept with the SketchUp application they are ready to create models for Google Earth. 

A great sense of accomplishment can found when you have added structures from your community to the virtual world.  Recently my class and I modeled a collection of 33 buildings from a local shopping village.  Project-based learning activities such as this can be rich learning experiences because they are multifaceted.  Creating GE models not only requires measurement, digital photography, and SketchUp, but a variety of other problems to solve.  Communication and cooperative goals are important aspects to consider throughout the project. Each student or group may have a different set of obstacles to unravel.  The teacher’s main role in this activity is to facilitate the project and provide support to the students.

I chose our modeling location primarily because it consisted of a group of similar buildings in one area.  This allowed for commonality in the directions and evaluation of tasks.  The number of units was sufficient for each student to have an assigned building of similar design, and the sizes were small enough for a tape measure.  The students visited the site on several Saturday mornings to view their assigned building and to take photos.  Throughout the project, the location’s manager was notified and kept informed of the progress.  The students also needed to write descriptions of their buildings to accompany the model in Google Earth.  Eventually, the models were submitted to Google for review and added to the 3D Building layer.

This activity is a long term assignment.  It was completed in addition to the usual course work, mostly outside of class.  I stretched our project over a quarter of the school year.  Students need to have specific goals set for them and their progress should be closely monitored.  Set aside some class time at least once a week for students to work in class.  This will keep them focused on the goal and give them an opportunity to receive assistance from you or, even better, their classmates.

Designing 3D models requires practice.  There is an array of tools that students will need to learn how to use.  Project Based Learning encourages students to be actively involved and find solutions to their problems.  Teamwork, time limits, and self evaluation should be part of the assignment.  Those students who become experts should be asked to help others in the class.  Like Google Earth, SketchUp offers a number of tutorial videos and help pages.  A free version of SketchUp is available for download below.

Note: There is no lesson file for this activity but a Google Earth tour of my students’ project can be downloaded here. (Model tour.kmz).


Technology Topics
3-D Modeling, GPS & Satellites, Online & Software Tools
Math Topics
Social Studies Topics
K-6, Middle School, High School, Educator
5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade

What are you looking for?


Real World Math

Website URL

Type of Resource

Lesson Plan

Assigned Categories