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Thematic Teaching


global population: activity ideas

Activity Ideas | Related Resources

  1. Population Trends

    Grade Level: 3-5; 6-8
    Subject: Social Studies; Math; Health & Fitness

    Have students Visit the U.S. Census Bureau and United Nations Web sites for world population statistics. With data found at these two sites, provide students with blank world maps and have them locate, shade, and label the countries identified in the questions that follow.

    • What is the current population of the world?
    • Rank, in descending order, the 10 countries with the largest population.

    Than ask: What proportion of the world's people live in Africa? In Asia? In North America? In Latin America? In Europe? Can students estimate what area will experience the largest growth over the next fifty years.

    Have students construct a bar chart showing the regional distributions of the world's population for the current year, 2025, and 2050 or have students create a color-coded map of the five main regions.

    Discuss with students how a growing human population has a variety of consequences. What are these consequences, both negative and positive?

    It might help for students to think of a more crowded classroom. Have them imagine that the number of students in your classroom has doubled. Have them list the effects of this change. Make sure that both positive and negative impacts are discussed. Have students vote by secret ballot on whether they would like to have more, fewer or the same number of students in the class as they have now. Tally and announce the results to the class.

    Ask the class: What services are easier to provide for an area of high population density? What qualities are desirable about areas of lower population density? How do they characterize their own community?

    Online Resources

    NOVA: "World in the Balance": Human Numbers Through Time:

    Journey to Planet Earth: State of the Planet:

    U.S. Census Bureau: World Population Clock:

    World Almanac for Kids:

    PBS Lesson Plans/Activities

    PBS Mathline: What We Do Adds Up:

    NOVA: "World in the Balance": Classroom Activity:

    Print Resources

    If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World's People by David J. Smith and Shelagh Armstrong

    More Recommended Resources

  2. Less Developed Countries

    Grade Levels: 6-8; 9-12
    Subjects: Social Studies; Health & Fitness; Math

    Ask your students if they can define Less-Developed Country and More Developed Country. (See a definition at Wikipedia.)

    Less developed countries include all countries in Africa, Asia (excluding Japan), and Latin America and the Caribbean, and the regions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. More developed countries include all countries in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

    Discuss with your students what causes some countries to suffer from poverty while other countries (such as the U.S. and many western European countries) prosper and possess great wealth.

    Have them conduct research to compare population trends in developing countries compared to developed countries. Visit the World Resources Institute Web site and the Earth Trends Web site's section on Population, Health and Human Well-Being for data from selected countries. Have students use the following categories as guidelines for their research:

    • birth and death rates
    • life expectancy
    • literacy rate
    • school enrollment
    • population density
    • population growth rate
    • access to water and sanitation
    • poverty
    • nutrition
    • immunization rates

    After comparing the data for various countries, consider the political, social, and environmental repercussions of these trends.

    Have each students -- or teams of students -- select a less developed country as a focus. Ask them to develop a presentation to the class, using charts, art or a multimedia presentation, to talk about the challenges confronting their selected country. They should address the hardships the people are facing, the causes of these hardships, the possible solutions and specifics for implementing them, and the positive effects these solutions would have on the country, its residents, and the world.

    Online Resources

    RX For Survival:

    NOW: Global Health:

    Wide Angle:

    PBS Lesson Plans/Activities

    RX For Survival (Teacher's Guide):


    NOW: Women and Global Poverty :

    The New Heroes: Making a Difference:

    Affluenza: What the Rest of the World Consumes:

    Print Resources

    It's All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources by James Ridgeway
    Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe

    More Recommended Resources

  3. Human Migrations

    Grade Level: 6-8; 9-12
    Subjects: Social Studies; The Arts

    Since the dawn of human evolution, humans have migrated across continents. According to the Population Reference Bureau, international migration is at an all-time high. About 145 million people lived outside their native countries in the mid-1990s, and the number is increasing by anywhere from 2 million to 4 million each year.

    In the mid-1990s, the largest immigration flows were from Latin America and Asia into North America, and from Eastern Europe, the countries of the former Soviet Union, and North Africa into Northern and Western Europe. The Middle East draws migrants from Africa and Asia and hosts millions of refugees from within the region. There is considerable migration within Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

    Ask students why people choose to move from one country to another. What are the "push" factors (i.e. persecution) and "pull" factors (i.e. economic opportunities) How do large migrations change countries? Write the answers on the board.

    Have students investigate their own family history and develop an "immigrant family tree" or map tracing their ancestors and their travels to other countries or areas of the country. Students should include the motivations that caused the movement of family members. This information could be gathered by interviewing or looking at old letters, diaries or journals of family members.

    Ask students to interview a person who migrated (e.g., emigrated from another country, moved from another state, or moved from a rural area to an urban area or vise versa). Have them develop a series of questions to gather background information on the subject as well as push/pull factors that motivated the person to move. Have the student create a written report or oral presentation with the results.

    Online Resources

    Migration Information Source:

    Migration Policy Institute:

    PBS Lesson Plans/Activities

    Ancestors in the Americas:

    Art in the Twenty-First Century: Migrating Viewpoints:

    The Blues: Blues Geography:

    P.O.V.: A Panther in Africa:

    More Recommended Resources

Published: November 2005