Google My Maps Project – Mapping my local area

In this lesson, you will map land use in your local area. To do this you need a Google account. If you don’t have one through school, simply head over to and click the sign-in button. Then click create an account. Go through the process of setting up an account.

What is land-use?

Land use is the function of land – what it is used for. Land use varies from area to area. In rural areas (countryside) land use can include forestry and farming. In urban areas (towns and cities) land use can include residential and business.

Land in urban areas is used for many different purposes:

  • leisure and recreation – may include open land, e.g. parks or built facilities such as sports centres
  • residential – the building of houses and flats
  • transport – road and rail networks, stations and airports
  • business and commerce – the building of offices, shops and banks
  • industry – factories, warehouses and small production centres

In rural areas land can be used for:

  • agriculture – growing crops and rearing animals
  • forestry – growing trees
  • military training
  • recreation
  • water supply
  • mining
  • quarrying

The Challenge

Your challenge is to map land use in your local area. You will use online satellite images and maps to create a land-use map of your local area. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to create a land-use map in Google Maps.

  1. Go to Google My Maps
  2. Click Create A New Map
  3. Click Untitled Map (top left corner) and give your map an appropriate title e.g. land use in my local area.
    Naming your map in Google My Maps

    Naming your map in Google My Maps


  4. Next, find your local area by typing in the name of your street in the search box. When it is displayed, click it, then the map will zoom into your local area.
  5. You can share your map and work with other students at the same time. To do this click Share, in the Add people box add the email address of the person you want to share the map with. Then click send.
  6. You can switch between the map view and other views, including satellite images, by clicking the drop-down menu next to Base Map. This will help when looking at different land uses.
    Choosing a base map

    Choosing a base map


  7. You can use layers to on your map to organise different features e.g. one layer for residential (housing) areas and another for industry (e.g. factories). You now need to create layers for each different land use that you can include on your map.To do this you need to start by naming the first layer that is already on your map. This is currently called Untitled Layer. Click this and name it Leisure and Recreation.

    Naming a layer

    Naming a layer

  8. Next, click add layer and name this layer Residential.
  9. Repeat this until all the land use types are included from the list at the top of the page.
  10. You are going to use the polygon tool to draw shapes over land use areas on your map. To get started, find an area of the same land use in your local area e.g. a housing estate, industrial area, shops etc. Click on the correct layer e.g. residential to map an area of housing, so you can draw on it. The layer will have a blue line next to it to show you have selected it. In the example below the Leisure and Recreation layer has been selected.
    Selecting a layer

    Selecting a layer

    Next click on the Draw a line icon and select Add line or shape.

    Draw a line tool

    Draw a line tool

    Next, draw a polygon around the area you are going to map. To do this click every time you get to a corner. The final click should be on the dot where you started. In the example below a polygon has been drawn around a public park. You will notice it is called Polygon 1. The layer needs renaming to something such as a public park.

    Drawing a polygon

    Drawing a polygon

  11. Next, click the fill button and select a colour you will use for all areas of Leisure and Recreation on your map. In the example below, Leisure and Recreation have been filled green.

    Fill a polygon

    Fill a polygon

  12. As you can see in the image above the park covers an area of 4.04k㎡
  13. Spend some time exploring your local area on the map and add any other Leisure and Recreation in the area in the same way as above. Remember to fill the polygons the same colour.
  14. Once you have done this, click on the next layer e.g. Residential, and map the housing in your local area.
  15. Repeat this for all other land uses in your local area.

Taking it further

Compare land use in your local area. This could include adding together the total area of land covered by each land use. You could present this on a graph and describe what the data shows.

8 ways to use Google Maps in geography

Google Maps has been around for over 10 years now. The free GIS software is easy to use and allows students to collaborate in real-time. We’ve pulled together 8 ways of using Google My Maps in the classroom.

1. Case study maps

Case Study Map in Google My Maps

Google My Maps is a great way of collating and displaying case studies in one place. They are a great tool to use for revising case studies. Students can collaborate on revision maps and add text, images and videos to pins for each case study. We’ve put together a tutorial that students can use to create a case study map.

2. Presenting coastal fieldwork data 

Completed map

Completed map

Presenting data collected during a coastal fieldwork study is really simple on Google My Maps. For example, data collected as part of an investigation into the impact of groynes on longshore drift, can be easily presented on a satellite image. The up-drift and down-drift height of a beach can be plotted on pins to illustrate changes along the beach. Students will be able to see geospatial patterns in the data which they can then analyse. Take a look at our guide to presenting coastal fieldwork data.

3. Presenting river fieldwork data 

map with data on

map with data on

As with coastal fieldwork data, it is really easy to present river fieldwork data on Google My Maps. Data such as wetted perimeter, discharge and velocity can be displayed at appropriate locations along the course of a river. Check out our guide to presenting river fieldwork data.

4. Landuse maps

Landuse map tutorial

Landuse maps are easy to create in Google Maps. Using the polygon tool shapes can be drawn on a layer over satellite images of your study areas. Find out how to create a landuse map in Google My Maps.

5. Measuring Distance

Google My Map has a powerful measurement tool that can be used to investigate distance on maps. It can be used in a range of ways including:

  • identifying locations that are equal distances apart for fieldwork e.g. river sampling locations
  • measuring the impact of coastal erosion
  • calculating the length of lava flows
  • calculating distance between places, both straight line and following a route

Take a look at our guide to using the measuring tool in Google My Maps.

6. Map your photographs

Using Google Images and Google Maps you can easily create a map using an album of geotagged photos. Geotagged photos are those that include data on the location they were taken. Most modern mobile phones have this feature as do some digital cameras. If you are not sure a quick search on the Internet will tell you if this option is available and how to enable it. Take a look at our guide to mapping photographs using Google My Maps.

7. Go on a scavenger hunt

It’s possible to search for locations using longitude and latitude. Why not give students a list of points via latitude and longitude and have them use Google My Maps to find out what each point is. You could also provide 3 locations and ask the students to work out what they have in common. They could examine each location using the satellite image layer to work out the physical and human characteristics the places have in common. Turn it into a game: the first student to figure them all out wins. Do this in small groups or as an independent activity, in class or for homework.

8. Plan a route

Students could use Google My Maps to plan a route. The purpose of the route could be to create an interactive tour to show the human and physical characteristics of an area.

Garmin eTrex vs iPhone for GPS accuracy

During a CPD session at Hornsea on Friday 21st June 2019 I recorded the location of the cliff edge adjacent to Longbeach Leisure Park using an iPhone and a Garmin eTrex 30 GPS device. I was keen to find out how the iPhone and the dedicated GPS device compared. 

The map below shows the routes recorded by both the iPhone 7S and the Garmin eTrex. On the map below the Garmin route is plotted using a blue line and the green line shows the route recorded by the iPhone. It is clear that the iPhone GPS is, in some instances, around 5m out compared to the Garmin eTrex. In some cases the route is recorded over areas of cliff that no longer exist. The start location of the iPhone is out by quite some distance despite starting the routes at exactly the same time. The iPhone records waypoints more often I’m sure there is a setting in the Garmin to adjust how often waypoints are recorded (I’ve just started playing this). 

It is possible to display the recorded route of the coastline that I recorded on the same iPhone back in March. Comparing the two routes recorded on the iPhone, there are clear inconsistencies where the cliff edge appears to extend outwards since the last recording! 

It is worth noting that both devices were held in the same hand at the same time. I’m not sure if GPS signals from different devices can interfere with each other, further reading to do on this. 

As expected the dedicated GPS device is considerably more accurate at recording routes than the iPhone. However, the iPhone is perfectly adequate for regular leisure use. 

Anthony Bennett

Map your photos using Google Maps

Using Google Images and Google Maps you can easily create a map using an album of geotagged photos. Geotagged photos are those that include data on the location they were taken. Most modern mobile phones have this feature as do some digital cameras. If you are not sure a quick search on the Internet will tell you if this option is available and how to enable it.

Below is a map showing the location of a number of images taken in and around Hornsea on the Holderness Coast using an iPhone and a drone.

Looks complicated? Don’t worry, it’s not! Just follow the steps below.

To begin with, you will need to upload your geotagged photos to a new album in Google Photos. To do this login to your Google account and go to Next create a new album by clicking +Create in the top right corner, then select Album.

Give the folder a title then upload the images you want to map.

Next, go to and select +Create New Map (top left corner). Your new map will open and be called Untitled map. Give your image a suitable title by clicking untitled map in the top left window.

Rename your map

Rename your map.

Click Save.

Next click Import (under the first layer which is called Untitled layer).

Click import

Click Import

Click the Photo albums tab. Next, locate the album where your photos are stored. Select all the images you want to import onto the map.

Select images you want to import

Select images you want to import

Next, click Select. The photos will then be copied onto your map.

This will create at least one layer containing your images and an icon of each image will be displayed on the map.

Imported images and new layers

Imported images and new layers

You will notice that each photograph has been given a title based on the location it was taken. You should go through these and rename them as appropriate. Once you’ve finished you can share your map with others by clicking Share > Change > On. You can then share the URL. You can also embed the map on a website by clicking the three dots next to the map title. Then select Embed on My Site.

Creating a case study map in Google My Maps

Creating a case study map in Google My Maps

Google My Maps is a great way of collating and displaying case studies in one place. Below is an example that includes some of the case studies on Internet Geography.

To get started on your map log into your Google account then head over to Google My Maps. Click New Map and give it a suitable title and description.

Edit map title and description

Edit map title and description

In this map, we are going to create a series of layers. This is so that we can group case studies by themes. By doing this we can filter case studies by type and display them on a base map.

Rename the Untitled layer that has been automatically created. In this case, we will name it Natural Disasters. To do this click the icon showing 3 dots and select Rename This Layer.

Rename Layer

Rename Layer

Give your layer an appropriate name.

You are next going to add a marker to show the location of a natural disaster. In this case, we will add the Sendai earthquake and tsunami in Japan. To get started, locate the place where the natural hazard occurred. Then click the marker icon (it looks like an upside down droplet) then click the location where you want to place it. You can then rename the marker as shown below.

Adding a marker

Adding a marker

Next, you can add images and videos (such as those on YouTube) to the marker. You can also include hyperlinks to web pages that could be used for revision. Below is an example of a marker with a Youtube video embedded and a hyperlink to a case study on Internet Geography.

Marker with embedded YouTube video and hyperlink

Marker with embedded YouTube video and hyperlink

You now need to repeat this for all the case studies you want to include in this layer.

You can then create another layer and repeat the process. You can edit the colour and style of markers by theme. This will help differentiate the different markers. To do this click the bucket and select a colour of your choice, then click more icons to choose an appropriate icon.

Edit marker style

Edit marker style

You can filter your map by turning layers off to show the location of a particular category of case study. To do this de-select the tick next to the layer name.

Once your map is finished you can share it by clicking the Share icon. Then click Change. Select an appropriate option. Once you’ve done this copy the link and share.

Link sharing options

Link sharing options

How can coastal fieldwork data be presented on Google My Maps?

How can river data be presented on Google My Maps?

How do I share Google My Maps?

Using the measurement tool in Google My Maps

Create a landuse map in Google My Maps