Teaching World Population Growth Trends


I’ve found in my teaching of geography that one of the best ways to begin a new topic that requires some level of background knowledge is to use minimal lecturing and instead use an activity to get students thinking. In particular, an activity that has students use data to draw simple conclusions about a condition or situation is useful in achieving this goal.

Here is how I tackled introducing a unit on population issues with my Level 3 World Geography students.

The purpose of the outcome is stated clearly at the top of the page and, while this is something students will learn to do over the course of a few classes and they may not yet “be there” in terms of knowledge, the activity sets them in the right direction.

Understanding data and using it to draw conclusions, fuel future learning, and scaffold inquiry is an important part of social studies education. Here students use historical population data to plot a line graph illustrating trends over the last 2,000 years.

The second side of the page is dedicated to early analysis of the data that allows students to determine for themselves two primary population trends:

  1. a population explosion occurred globally after 1600, and
  2. since 1980, global population growth has begun to slow down.

These inferences from the data then allow students the opportunity to brainstorm reasons why population might increase or decrease, and how these changes can influence quality of life. These factors are the meat of the early part of the unit and will eventually lead into an exploration of possible responses to issues resulting from population change.