Lesson 3: Why You Count

Grades 5–6

words to know

Strand: Community Participation

Skills and Objectives

  • bullet Organize and display data using tables
       and graphs
  • bullet Distinguish between private life and civic life
  • bullet Collect and tabulate data for a class census

Before starting, print and copy the student worksheets and hang the wall map.

Materials: Fleetfoot Census Student Worksheet 3a, It’s About Us Student Worksheet 3b, drawing supplies

Time Required: Two 40-minute class periods

    Getting Started

  1. Remind students that the United States takes a census of its population every 10 years. Accurate population information is needed to allocate funds for many federal, tribal, state, and local programs and community services.
  2. Write the phrase "It’s About Us" on the board and ask students to share what they think it means. Record some of their ideas.
  3. Using the Student Worksheets

  4. Give students an opportunity to learn what happens when some people are not counted during the census. First, divide your class into two groups. Tell students they will be conducting a census where everyone will be asked about his or her favorite sport. Information from the census will help decide the official sport of the town of Fleetfoot. Ask one group to be census workers and the other half to be town residents.
  5. Distribute Fleetfoot Census Student Worksheet 3a to all students. Review the instructions and have the census workers ask the other students the three questions.
  6. Tabulate the totals for each sport and have all students mark the results on their data charts. Ask: What should be the official sport of Fleetfoot?
  7. Ask: What do you think would happen if some of you didn’t respond to this census?
  8. Distribute a second copy of Fleetfoot Census Student Worksheet 3a to all students. Have students conduct the class census again. Randomly select a handful of citizens. Privately instruct these citizens to decline to answer the questions because either they are: a) not at home; or b) they think that the census workers are invading their privacy.
  9. Instruct students to record the new responses on the chart. Ask: What became the official sport as a result of this census? Engage students in a discussion about what happened and which census is fairest.
  10. Wrap-up

  11. Inform students that, for one reason or another, not everyone participated in Census 2000. Ask: What could be the effect of not counting all the people in our community in 2010? Make a list of the services in your town that depend on data from the census (community centers, parks, schools, hospitals, senior centers, police and fire departments, etc.).

Extension Activity

Tell students they will be creating an exciting multimedia presentation to promote the 2010 Census. Divide your class into small groups and distribute It’s About Us Student Worksheet 3b.

Using the technology that is most appropriate for your class, have each group create a census-education campaign to encourage people in your local community to participate in the 2010 Census. The presentations can include presentation software, a web page, a radio or television announcement, or a newspaper advertisement. Students can also post their presentations on their school’s Web site. Have them present their projects at a PTA/PTO meeting or on Parents’ Night.

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