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The Wilds of Madagascar
Population Dynamics

Lesson Objectives
By the end of this activity, students will be able to:
  • understand the population dynamics of Madagascar.
  • compare and contrast the population dynamics of Madagascar to those in the United States.
  • predict some consequences of the youthful age distribution in Madagascar.
  • be able to calculate percentages of given population numbers.
  • represent population age data in pie-chart and bar-graph form.
  • know some basic information about the history and people of Madagascar.

Related National Standards
National Science Education Standards (National Research Council)

Grades 5-8
Science Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Populations, resources, and environments
  • When an area becomes overpopulated, the environment will become degraded due to the increased use of resources.

  • Causes of environmental degradation and resource depletion vary from region to region and country to country.

Grades 9-12
Science Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Population growth
  • Populations can grow or decline through the combined effects of births and deaths, and through emigration and immigration. Populations can increase through linear or exponential growth, with effects on resource use and environmental pollution.

  • Various factors influence birth rates and fertility rates, such as average levels of affluence and education, importance of children in the labor force, education and employment of women, infant mortality rates, cost of raising children, availability and reliability of birth control methods, and religious beliefs and cultural norms that influence personal decisions about family size.

Materials needed for each group
  • copy of Population Dynamics activity sheet
  • graph paper
  • red and blue pen
  • access to library and Internet for reference information
  • calculator
  • compass
  • ruler
  • copy of Madagascar's Society activity sheet

Estimated Time to Complete Lesson
The activity should take one class period to complete. Procedure Step #5 can be assigned for homework, which would mean a second class period for each group to report on its findings and discuss the implications of the information.

Teaching Strategy
Background Information
Almost half the population of Madagascar is under the age of 15. It is estimated that the population will double by the year 2025. These population dynamics are placing a severe strain on the economy and the environment. Seventy five percent of the population lives in rural areas and 25 percent in urban areas. The official languages are Malagasy and French. Fifty-two percent of the people hold indigenous beliefs (which have a significant ancestor worship component), 41 percent of the people are Christians and 7 percent are Muslims.

Madagascar was a former French colony that became independent in 1960. It is presently a multiparty democracy. In the past 40 years Madagascar has had despotic socialist and military governments whose policies largely failed to meet the peoples' needs.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. The per-capita income is $230. Malnutrition in children is a major problem to the degree that approximately half the children under the age of three have growth abnormalities due to lack of proper food. Agriculture is the mainstay of the population, yet the intense slash-and-burn agriculture methods are destroying the environments that support the people. Soil erosion is also a major problem. Seasonal problems include cyclones and flooding. As observed from space, it has been said that Madagascar looks like it is "bleeding" from the rains that wash away the red, iron-rich soil.

In the early 1990s the Malagasy government and some international organizations (such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and CARE International) formed a coalition to preserve the island biodiversity and meet the peoples' needs. The coalition identified significant biologically diverse areas and sheltered some of that land as natural preserves and parks (totaling now about 2 percent of the land area). Coalition members encouraged the people to adopt more sustainable methods of farming and harvesting trees and find ways for new industries, such as tourism, to take hold. It will take an unwavering, continuous effort by the Malagasy government, the Malagasy people, and the international community for Madagascar to realize its growth potential and protect the many unique life forms the island harbors.

  1. Divide the class into groups and give each student a copy of the Population Dynamics activity sheet. Have each group fill out the chart.

  2. Have students calculate the population age data in terms of percentages.

  3. Give each student a piece of graph paper and a compass. Have each student make two pie charts: one representing the age distribution in Madagascar and one representing the U.S. population. Each pie chart should have a title and the percentage numbers written in the pie wedges. Have students represent the data in bar-graph form using red and blue pen to distinguish the two countries.

  4. Students should complete Part III on their activity sheet, which asks them to analyze the information in terms of what actions each government should take to meet the challenges that the population dynamics in their country present.

  5. For the second activity, divide students into seven groups and provide each student with a copy of the Madagascar's Society activity sheet. Assign each group one of the topic areas (1-7) to research. Have students present their findings to the class. The research can be done as a homework assignment or an in-class activity. After the research is completed, have students take notes on each group's presentation so that at the end of the lesson each student has a completed thumbnail sketch profile of current Madagascar society.

Helpful Web Sites
Population Reference Bureau
Provides timely information on population issues, including a 1999 World Population Data Sheet that includes information on births and deaths per 1,000 for Madagascar and the United States.

The Center for International Health Information
Offers statistics on the Population, Health, and Nutrition sector in developing countries assisted by US Agency for International Development.

Assessment Recommendations
Students may be assessed through:
  • the accuracy of their research in terms of completing the Population Dynamics activity sheet.

  • the accuracy of their percentage calculations.

  • the quality of their pie charts and bar graphs.

  • the thoughtfulness and completeness of their responses to the questions in Part III of the Population Dynamics activity sheet.

  • the depth, organization, and clarity of their verbal presentation of the Madagascar's Society activity.

  1. Find out what the Madagascar government and U.S. government have planned to address the needs of their respective peoples. For example, what are the plans for Social Security and Medicare in this country? What are the plans to reduce infant mortality and provide better child nutrition in Madagascar?
  2. Create a bulletin board depicting the information that they learned in this activity. Include as many statistics as possible and encourage students to find creative ways to display their work.

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