I want students to build volumes in Sketchup 8 of buildings in the neighborhood. I know I can have them trace these shapes from a map and then scan them into S/U to work them up. What about bringing in a section of a Google map and working that up directly? Would that be easy? What should I look out for?
One of the beautiful things about SketchUp is its integration with Google Earth. Not only can you easily import any terrain with the satellite imagery, you can export your 3d model into Google Earth (if you have it installed).
This tutorial is a little dated, but it is a good start:
After you get your location imported, you can re-orient your axes to line up with the building you are modeling.
Using the geolocation feature in SketchUp (Window menu>Model Info>Location) does just that: It opens a Google Maps window where you can select your location, select a site to bring in, and SketchUp imports both the satellite image and the 3D terrain into your model.
Great! And then I can just draw forms on top of the map? Do I need to separate with Layers or anything?
The Add Location feature brings in a Google Earth Snapshot and Google Earth Terrain 3D model.
Each is a Group (locked) and already assigned to its respective layer.
Enable the Google toolbar … View > Toolbars
There you’ll find the Toggle Terrain button to toggle between terrain and snapshot.
Add Location: Adding a location — SketchUp Help