Posted in Social Studies

Where in the World…A Way to Engage Kids at the End of the Year



Where in the world is…(go ahead….say it, or sing it, you know you want to)…Carmen Sandiego?  Now there is a blast from the past!  The geography game (circa 1985) and show, of the same name, was all the rage in the mid 1990’s.   The show came out as a response to a National Geographic survey that showed that Americans had very little knowledge of geography.  So…what does this have to do with engaging kids at the end of, what seems like a crazy long school year?  Lots!  If you loved Carmen Sandiego, want to engage kids, help them become better at geography and at the same time want to build their problem solving and critical thinking skills then you need to check out GeoGuessr!

I have to tell you that my teenager introduced my husband and I to this nifty game a month or so ago and we’ve been hooked ever since.  Geoguessr can be played from the website as well as from the downloaded app or any device.  You can play as a single player (which we do but we tend to play it together) or compete against others.  The premise of the game is simple…you are dropped in the middle of google earth and you have to figure out where in the world you have landed!  You can use your ipad or keyboard keys to navigate in the google maps…traveling as far in any direction as you like.  Along the way you look for clues as to your location.  When you think you know your location you open the world map and drop a pin.  Then it calculates and scores you points based on how close you are to the location.  The closest we have been able to get is 13 meters.  The closer you are…the more points you gain.

Now…my husband and I believe that smart people use their resources and tools…so when we see things we use another device to look up more information to help us.  My teenager thinks this is cheating.  Regardless, you learn a lot about geography and problem solving skills no matter how you play the game.  Sometimes it is very tricky…you might be dropped in the desert or if you are lucky, in the middle of a city where there are lots of road signs.  We use geographical features to help us, languages on signs, and even things written on the sides of vehic

There are a couple of differences between the app and the website.  If you play the app, you will need to gain points to unlock specific regions.  If you play online, you can choose locations without gaining points.

If you decide to use this in your classroom there are lots of options.  The first time I would suggest that you play as a whole class with the site projected on a screen so the whole class can see it and interact together to learn how it works.  I would also suggest making a process chart of “clues to look for”; things like geographic features, road signs, the language on signs, street and route names, etc…    Then you could have students play in teams or compete against each other.

I’ve made a quick little screen cast to show you what this looks like in real time.  I hope I’ve peaked your curiosity enough to check out this little gem!  If you use it, be sure to tell me about your classroom experiences.  I would love to hear what happened in your classroom!