Introducing GIS & Satellites Data To The Next Generation Of Geographers

If you are a geography teacher or student and want to get into the world of GIS and satellite imagery, this article is for you. In it, we’ll go through what you need to know about the fundamentals of GIS and how your students can learn more about space and Earth Observation satellites.

A lot of information is covered in a geography training accross the world, and while the basics of the discipline are of great importance, it is always a good idea to expand the knowledge you or your students have by exploring new things to learn, especially in the era of innovations and technological development.

Below you will find a suggested curriculum structure that covers topics from both the world of GIS and Earth Оbservation .

Introduction to Geospatial Technologies

Digital Cartography, GIS, and Earth Оbservation

This first part could provide an overview of GIS and Earth Observation, explaining what they are and how they are used in geography and other fields. It could also introduce all the free and open source tools that will be used, for example:

  • Google Earth (web)
  • Google MyMaps
  • QGIS

The content could be structured as follows:

  • Definition of GIS

A brief explanation of what GIS is and how it is used to analyze and visualize spatial data.

GIS stands for Geographic Information System. It is a system of software, hardware, and data that is used to analyze and visualize spatial data.

  • Definition of Earth Observation (EO)

A brief explanation of what EO is and how it is used to collect data about the Earth from satellite imagery and other remote sensing techniques.

  • Overview of open source tools

An overview of the open source tools that will be used in the course, including QGIS and any other relevant software.

  • Introduction to spatial data

A brief explanation of the different types of spatial data, including vector and raster data, and how they are used in GIS and EO.

Spatial data is data that has a geographic component, meaning it is related to a specific location on the Earth’s surface. This can include things like maps, satellite imagery, and geospatial datasets that contain information about features on the Earth’s surface, such as roads, buildings, rivers, and land cover.

  • Overview of geospatial applications

A brief overview of the various fields and applications in which GIS and earth observation are used, such as environmental monitoring, disaster management, and urban planning.

  • Introduction to QGIS (practice)

A brief introduction to QGIS, including how to download and install the software and how to navigate the user interface.

  • Basic GIS concepts and techniques

GIS allows users to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and present spatial data. It can be used to create maps and visualizations, perform spatial analysis and modeling, and solve problems related to geography and the environment.

GIS is used in a wide range of fields and applications, including environmental science, urban planning, public health, transportation, and disaster management. It is an important tool for understanding and solving complex problems that have a spatial component.

This part could cover fundamental GIS concepts and techniques, such as map projections, coordinate systems, and spatial data types. It could also introduce the basics of QGIS, including how to create and edit vector and raster data.

  • Working with spatial data

This part could cover how to import and export spatial data in various formats, as well as how to manipulate and analyze spatial data using QGIS. It could also introduce concepts such as spatial queries and spatial statistics.

  • Visualizing spatial data

This part could cover how to create maps and other visualizations using QGIS, including how to customize map layouts and use symbology to represent spatial data. It has to be focused on the basic cartographic theories and principles.

The logic behind this structure follows the contemporary workflows that geospatial data specialists and map makers follow:

1) Find data

2) Clean, edit, prepare for visualizing

3) Make maps, diagrams or other data visualization artworks

At the end, you could summarize the key concepts and techniques covered in the course structure and provide suggestions for further reading and resources for those interested in pursuing GIS and EO further.

My favorite places in the whole world: Google MyMaps tutorial and lesson plan for beginners

The learning outcome

In this activity, you will make a map using Google MyMaps, that contains ten of your favorite places in the whole world. These should be 10 point objects added to one map layer. You will also choose a basemap that suits the design of the objects the most.

These objects could be:

  • your favorite meeting place;
  • your favorite café, shop, or mall;
  • your favorite place to go on a holiday
  • the place where you went last summer and fell in love with

First, think about these 10 places. Use a piece of paper to brainstorm and make the list. It is a good idea to have the objects listed before you start making the map.

The theory behind this activity

What is a layer in GIS?

In GIS, a layer is a group of objects from the real world, that have something in common. They don’t appear one by one on GIS maps but are grouped so we can easily work, edit or visualize them, for example, a layer of rivers, a layer of cafes, a layer of shops, etc. Depending on the way these geographical objects look, layers can contain points, lines, polygons, or data represented as pixels (for example satellite images).

What is a basemap?

A basemap is a map layer that provides a basic background of geographical data for a scene or map.

The objective of this activity

is to create a point layer in a web GIS map with a basemap that suits the overall design.

Software and hardware setup

To be able to do the exercise, please create a Gmail account if you don’t have one. Instructions for this can be found here on YouTube or in the Google Help Center.

Step-by-step guide

  • Click “Untitled map” to change the name of your map

  • Type “My 10 favorite places” or choose another name (mapping is a creative process, so you have a freedom 🙂 )
  • Click the “Add a description to help people understand your map” field. This will add a detailed description to your map, so the users looking at it will understand what it is. You can include here your name, affiliation, class or other important information.

  • Click “Save”

  • Click on the name of the layer to change it.

  • Type “My 10 favorite places” or other name that you like. Click Save.

  • Click in the upper menu, on the button that looks like a pin to add your first object to the map.

  • Navigate to the first object you would like to add. Use the mouse to zoom in or out and click to add the first pin. Here the example is showing the Colosseum in Rome.

  • Fill the name and the description of the object.

  • Close the popup.
  • Zoom out and look at the map – you now have one object!
  • Look at the layer on the left side of the screen – there you will see the name of the object and the symbol that represents it. Let’s see how we can change it.
  • Click on the pin that you just added and then on the edit button that looks like a pencil.

  • Choose the symbol and color you like the most. Click on More icons and explore the gallery.

  • Use the filter to search for specific types of symbols that suit your map and object.

  • Click OK and close the popup.
  • Now we will add the second and the third object on the map by using Google search. Start typing the name of the second object in the search bar in the upper part of the screen:

In this example our second object will be the Eiffel tower in Paris, France.

  • When you find the object you want, click “Add to map”.

  • Close the popup. Zoom out and look at the map and the objects in the layers list – the second object is there, listed. You can change the symbol and its color in the same way like in the previous step.
  • Add all the objects from your list on the map.
  • When you are ready, it is time to select the basemap. Click on the label Base map on the left side of the screen, just below the objects of the layer.

  • Choose the one that you like the most.


  • Click “Preview” to see what the map will look like when other users are opening it – now you are seeing it in an edit mode and you like to be sure that it will be nice and tidy.

  • Click “Share” to change the visibility and make your map public.

Congratulations! You just have created your first map in Google MyMaps. It is a web map that contains one layer and one basemap. The layer contains point objects which represent your 10 favorite places in the whole world.

Download this activity as a printable PDF

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