Karen A. Beitler
Since World War II, the global population has nearly quadrupled and it is estimated that the earth is now home to 6 billion people. This increase is attributed to many factors. The agricultural revolution that taught people how to produce more food contributed to sustainable societies. The discoveries of germ basis of disease and subsequent development of vaccines, antibiotics and sterilization techniques have contributed to increased life expectancy. Individuals, who had little or no chance of survival fifty years ago, live productive life’s today thanks to technology (Environmental Literacy Council, 2008). To examine human population growth and the factors that determine it, students will first examine population pyramids using gourmet jellybeans. This activity helps students in grouping and estimating populations, displaying data in a physical graph, and interpreting change in a population pyramid.
The next lesson focuses on human populations and how to represent real world data from tables and charts. Students learn the details of a population pyramid, what each axis represents and how to interpret a human population pyramid. Some factors affecting human populations are health, labor force, education, government, religion, housing, transportation, space, and climate of a particular area. Influences on populations are availability of resources such as food and water, space to live and grow and movement in and out of the population. Humans may have influences that are more specific and complex, such as a where to reside, buy groceries, and obtain an education or medical care, employment, and access to transportation and leisure activities. Outside factors such as immigration, emigration, government policies, new ideas, technology or negative influences such as war, plagues, and natural disasters shape the ways in which a society can evolve. The many internal aspects of culture can influence developed countries: religious conviction, politics, historical past and finances. The size and type of subcultures also influence a population. The more diverse the types of subcultures in a population, the more varied the accommodations that have to be made for them. As human populations grow, they have a profound affect on the environment. Most organisms adapt to the habitat in which they live and over time have evolved into unique organisms. Humans have made more of an impact on the ecosystems of the earth because they are continually changing the world to suit themselves.
The advent of agriculture completely changed how human beings have thrived. In addition, the rudiments of technology were the beginning of the enormous changes that would affect the life of countless other organisms in diverse ecosystems throughout the world. No longer nomads, human beings build homes, roads and sidewalks, fenced the lands and herded domesticated animals to slaughter for food. What is certain is that we must continue to ask questions about the source of the goods we use and consume. Children must love the earth in order to save it. An important goal of any education is teaching environmental stewardship of the earth.
The extraordinary decrease in mortality worldwide had much to do with the availability of antibiotics, vaccines, and pesticides but most notably to the agricultural revolution. Life expectancy more than doubled. The expectation is that the population will continue to grow over the next two decades, because a great percentage of the population in the most populated countries will reach childbearing age during this period. By contrast, in developed countries, the total fertility rate, an average number of children a woman has in her lifetime, is declining. People are having fewer children and are living longer. The average age of the population is increasing worldwide. It is not clear how nations will cope with a large elderly population. In developed countries, the needs of the elderly and the young will put considerable strain on the working middle age group. In undeveloped countries, lack of food and clean water has more acutely affected fertility rates. As teachers and students work through this unit, many questions will be asked that have no easy answers. Whether population control is reasonable and necessary is being tested in countries like China. Some people feel that population control is unnecessary, that in nature exists a means of controlling populations. Others feel that humans have the ability to manipulate their environment and therefore should control population growth so that a selection of humans will get the best use out of the resources that are available. There are valid arguments for both sides, too lengthy for this unit but resources are provided for further research. As students present their work, teachers may want to explore these issues.
The last lessons in Lesson Plan III helps students prepare a presentation that fulfills the stated embedded task, Human Population Dynamics. Students will examine US Census Bureau population pyramids, chose two countries that have very different pyramids and compare them in their presentation. Through the lessons in this unit, students should now be prepared to interpret the population pyramids and make informed interpretations and predictions. Students are given a rubric that they can use to organize their presentations. The rubric guides students through the format and encourages them to make presentations that show they have learned to compare graphic displays, interpret data and make valid predictions.
Lesson Plan IV is an optional plan to further student exploration of the use of data and graphing. Teachers could present data from various sources to students and stimulate conversation about why the author displayed the data as they did.
Teachers can also now use the data collected through use of the
sheets to make a table of real world data for students to analyze.
Students have learned about the use of graphs to display data and tell a story through the exercises in this unit. One promising way to help student retain the knowledge, practice and presentation of this information is to have them research a career of their choice and discover how data is used in that career. Students are sure to find multiple uses of data collection and graphing skills in most any career. A few examples are ; in medicine, when a patient needs a medication the doctor consults a chart showing the amount of medicine to prescribe in accordance with the patients body size. In architecture, an architect uses graphics to display the amount of stress they can expect a specific material to withstand. In statistics, graphs show trends or comparisons, city planners use this information to determine where to build roads or allow commercial buildings. Manufacturers use data to decide when or where to release a product and athletes use data and graphs to improve performance. The examples are countless. The final project could be a graphic display of data from a student’s choice of career and an explanation of how the data is important.
This unit has not discussed the many ways data can be displayed or the ways in which data can be manipulated to tell different points of view. The resources provided will help teacher prepare further lessons on statistical, qualitative and quantitative analysis of graphic displays. The intent of the writer is to give teachers background for instruction of students to understand and complete the Connecticut state embedded task with clear interpretation of the population data from the US Census Bureau. The subject of data and graphic display is vast and the reader is encouraged to research further and enjoy the beauty of design, simplicity of method and wealth of information that is displayed in a single picture.