Lesson 1: Map Data and the Census

Grades 7–8

words to know

Strand: Map Literacy

Skills and Objectives

  • bullet Understand how demographic and
       economic information can be displayed
  • bullet Compare and contrast local and 
  •    national data
  • bullet Use thematic maps for deeper understanding

Before starting, print and copy the student worksheets and hang the wall map. Then download the It's About Us Census Fact Sheet to aid classroom discussion.

Materials: Map to the Future Student Worksheet 1a, Counting Your County Student Worksheet 1b, United States Demographics wall map

Time Required: 40 minutes

    Getting Started

  1. Divide students into five even groups. Ask an uneven number of representatives from each group to stand near you (such as three members from one group and only one from another), and tell students that these representatives will be part of a special class council. Discuss whether or not your system is fair, and if not, challenge students to brainstorm a solution.
  2. Now divide the students into various uneven groups. Ask your students to determine how many representatives from each group should join the council. Explain that the U.S. government awards states representatives to Congress based on population.
  3. Write the definition of census on the board (an official count of a population). Ask: What does official count mean? (a final and approved number, not an estimate)
  4. Remind students of your discussion about the class council and discuss why it is important to know exactly how many people live in the United States.
  5. Using the Wall Map

  6. Explain: Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a national census to count every person living in the country. This allows the government to send the right number of representatives to Congress. The census also collects other data about age, gender, and race. Let's explore why.
  7. Draw attention to the United States Demographics wall map and point out Median Age, Median Family Income, and Average Family Size inset maps. Explain that students will use these maps to understand the census questions.
  8. Distribute Map to the Future Student Worksheet 1a. Divide students into small groups of three or four. Have groups take turns using the wall map to answer the questions.
  9. Once students have completed the worksheet, compare answers as a class. Ask: How would accurate age, income, and population information benefit your community? Discuss how this also applies to race and gender.
  10. Using the Student Worksheets

  11. Ask: Do you think that our county's information is the same as our state's? Let's find out.
  12. Separate students into pairs and distribute Counting Your County Student Worksheet 1b. Review the instructions and give students time to do research either in class or as homework.
  13. Wrap-up

  14. Discuss the results of Counting Your County Student Worksheet 1b.
  15. Brainstorm a list of different community improvements that your county could use based on your local data.

Action Extension

Now that students understand what the census is, challenge them to encourage participation in the 2010 Census. Invite them to design special posters, bumper stickers, or buttons featuring slogans they create.

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