Some ideas for using SketchUp in the geography classroom

 Google Earth, ICT, Teaching resources  Comments Off on Some ideas for using SketchUp in the geography classroom
Jun 292012

As I mentioned in the previous post, I played a little with SketchUp when it first appeared. Having learned how efficient the process of simple geo-modelling is, with the help of  Beryl Reid and Allyson McDuffie, I thought about how I might use the application with students, possibly in conjunction with Design Technology or ICT colleagues.

The first step would be to teach the basics of Sketch Up with a view to getting students to create a 3D model of the school. Maybe getting them to model their own house is a good place to start. It worked for me!

Rewarding though this activity may be for some students, I’d want to be sure that geographical thinking remains integral to the learning. With that in mind I came up with a couple of ideas:

Environmental improvements: 

Using Sketch Up components students could populate an existing 3D model of the school with ideas for environmental improvements, for example, new trees, litter bins and furniture. This would be a great introduction activity. (Actually the 3D model is not a pre-requisite now that the UK is entirely covered in high resolution imagery.)

Plotting spatial data as polygons / SketchUp components:

Once a 3D model has been created, there are opportunities for studying spatial phenomena like micro-climates, weathering processes, ecology etc. These results can be displayed directly in Google Earth using proportional polygons to represent data, or by plotting data inside place marks using Rich Chart Live or GE Graph (Windows only) I believe that Tom Biebrach of Pencoed School was first to exploit this idea. Of course, it would be possible to use SketchUp components to generate complex pictograms drawn precisely to scale.

Building redesign:
Students could redesign existing buildings, maybe to visualise the impact of solar panels, alternative lighting or different exterior renderings on buildings.
Here’s our Sports Hall with added renewable energy features…

The impact of a new building on the surroundings can also be evaluated using the shadow tools.

I’ve mentioned before that my Visualizing A Safer City lesson using Google Earth as a GIS to identify the site for a new hospital could be extended by modelling the proposed building in SketchUp. This activity would lend itself to an homework extension activity for 3D enthusiasts.

Finally, it would be great to make a 3D model of the school that can be shared on the public website. Extra information could be added to the building place markers, and linked to department web sites, video clips etc.

An excellent series of video tutorials for geo-modelling in SketchUp can be found at this Google site.