Human Use of Resources—Land Use and Land Cover

Summary: Students use Google Earth to make land use maps, and compare current and historic land uses.

Concepts to teach: Land use, land cover, Google Earth, historical changes in land use

Goals: Students become familiar with using Google Earth mapping software to learn more about and identify land use practices in the local community.

SS.HS.GE.02, SS.HS.GE.07

Specific Objectives:

  1. Define land use and land cover and provide examples of land cover classes.
  2. Understand how to create a simple land cover map using Google Earth.
  3. Compare current and historical land use for a local area.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Understanding Land Use and Land Cover—This lesson plan from AmericaView gives detailed instruction about how to use Google Earth to make land use and land cover maps for the local area. Student computer access required.
  • Discuss how local land use impacts the environment locally, regionally, and globally.
  • To find current maps of your local area, contact your local:
    • City Planning Department
    • School District (keyword search: facility plan)
  • Identify changes in land use that have occurred over the past 100 years.
    • Use historic maps, photographs, and interviews with community elders and other experts to find out what the area was like in the past.
    • Illustrate the changes by making timelines and comparative maps.
  • Oregon Coast Quests
    • Yaquina Head Tale of Two Hills Quest—This self-guided place-based activity located in Newport tells the story of land use changes at Yaquina Head over 100 years. Featured human impacts include burning, livestock grazing, rock quarrying, golfing, residential development, and modern electrical towers.
    • Make a Quest or other interpretive guide that features the human impacts that students have identified in their local field site.


  • Worksheet and map from Understanding Land Use and Land Cover lesson plan.