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Supported by Raspberry Pi

Interactive map

Create a custom map using Google Earth and the programming language KML. Which locations will you share?

You will need

  • Access to a computer
  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencils
Notes and handout (Interactive map)
PDF – 2.0MB

Before you begin

  • Don’t panic if you’ve never used (or have never even heard of) KML before. There’s plenty of info below, and this activity’s a great way for everyone to learn. It’s a good idea to spend some time reading the information and practising before you lead the activity, though.
  • If you don’t have enough computers for everyone to work in pairs, you could run this activity as one base, so groups visit one at a time. You could also look in to visiting a local library or school to use their computers.
  • If you have internet access, you’ll be able to use Google Earth online.
  • If you don’t have internet access, don’t worry. You can download Google Earth to use offline here. There are more instructions in the ‘Notes and handout’ pack.
  • If you’re working offline, you’ll also need to download the project KML file from here before you begin.
  • This activity includes the option for people to create their own icons using PiSKEL. If you don’t have internet access, it can be downloaded and installed for offline use here, but people won’t be able to host their images online.
  • It’s up to you whether people ‘Gather your information’ at home or during the same session.

Gather your information

  1. Everyone should chat about Google Earth – anyone who knows what it is should explain. Google Earth’s an application that shows a 3D representation of the earth based on collected satellite imagery, aerial photography, and GPS data.
  2. The person leading the activity should explain that KML (Keyhole Markup Language) was originally developed in 2004 for Google Earth (which was then called Keyhole Earth Viewer). It’s used to display geographic data in mapping software such as Google Earth or Google Maps. It’s similar to HTML.
  3. The person leading the activity may show everyone a finished example of an interactive map, for example, by loading this code for Gilwell Park into Google Earth.
  4. Everyone should get into groups.
  1. Each group should choose at least for important places to mark on their map. They should jot them down on a piece of scrap paper.
  1. Everyone should research and collect information about and pictures of their important places. There’s more guidance on page five of the ‘Notes and handout’ pack.

Code your custom map

  1. Each group should gather around a computer. The person leading the activity should give each group at least one ‘Notes and handout’ pack.
  2. Each group should open Google Earth and the demo project.
  3. Each group should follow the instructions in the ‘Notes and handout’ pack to code custom markers, enter information, and test it by loading their updated file.
  4. Each group should follow the instructions in the ‘Notes and handout’ pack to add custom icons. It’s up to them whether they create their own in PiSKEL or use the ones that have already been created for this activity.
  5. Once each group’s finished their code, they should reload it into Google Earth to see it displayed.


This activity was all about developing skills, for example, using KML in mapping software. Was it easier or more difficult than people expected? Had anyone used KML before?

How else might people have shared this information, if they couldn’t use KML code? Would it have been easier or more difficult than the digital version? When else might people use these skills? People may think about wanting to share places they visit on a trip, or even sharing local landmarks with people who live far away. Digital skills are really useful for everyday tasks, and can be used to share stories in a different way too.


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe.

For more support around online safety or bullying, check out the NSPCC website. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.

As always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card reporting processes.

Make it accessible

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.