28 Learning Activities & Lesson Plans for Students’ Distance Learning at Home

We know that a lot of teachers and families are looking for free educational resources for distance learning. And we’re excited to add to the body of distance learning resources, available at no cost, with a selection of lessons pulled from Population Education activity libraries.

These learning activities are great for at-home learning because they use few supplies or supplies commonly found at home, and are fairly self-directed for students with minimal support needed from parents. Links to the lesson plans are provided below, and lessons are divided by grade band and subject-focus (though most are interdisciplinary).

We’ll be sharing additional resources in the coming weeks and months to help all of our students through these tumultuous times. To stay connected and receive more activities and suggestions, join us by email (newsletter sign-up), Facebook, twitter (@PopulationEd), and Instagram (@pop_education).

Elementary, Distance learning for grades K-5

Social studies lesson plans

  • Family Roots: By interviewing adults they know, students learn about diverse backgrounds and consider reasons why people migrate from one place to another. Materials: a phone or way to reach adults remotely, a map of the world.
  • Look It Up!: Students use easy-to-find reference materials (print and online) such as almanacs, encyclopedias, atlases, and dictionaries to find data on population and the environment. Materials: internet access, provided worksheets.
  • Our Town: Students think of the people and places that make up a community, construct an imaginary town, and then explore how communities change when population grows. Materials: either a large piece of paper/poster or small boxes of various sizes, and art supplies like markers crayons, colored paper, scissors, tape, etc.

Science lesson plans

  • Catching Pollution (part 1): Students “catch” pollution (particulate matter) on prepared cards to see the environmental and health-related consequences of our transportation habits. Materials: white index cards or white paper, construction paper, Vaseline or a clear oil like veggie or olive oil, tape, glue, or staples, and provided worksheets.
  • Wanted Alive: Students research an endangered species and then create an informational report and a poster to inform others about the importance of protecting their animal. Materials: internet access, art supplies, and an optional, provided ‘wanted poster’ template.
  • Waste-A-Weigh: By weighing or measuring and recording their lunch waste every day for a week, students learn how conservation efforts can reduce the total amount of trash generated. If students do not have a scale at home, they can use a measuring cup to approximate the volume of the waste. Materials: a digital scale to weigh waste or a large measuring cup to measure waste volume.

Math lesson plans

  • Adding Armadillos: Students become acquainted with the concepts of doubling time, exponential growth, and biotic potential by completing math activities. Materials: provided worksheets.
  • A World of Difference: Madagascar: Students compare the biodiversity of a temperate forest to that of a tropical rainforest and explore the role humans play in forests’ diversity. Students should have an understanding of probability for this lesson. Materials: various types of dried beans or pasta, or various colors of paper, dice, and provided worksheets.
  • Double Take: Students listen to a mathematical folktale and mathematical riddles and solve related word problems. Materials: One Grain of Rice by Demi (an online search shows several videos of the book that can be streamed online), provided worksheets, and a calculator.

Middle School, Distance learning for grades 6-8

  • Student Video Project: Students conduct independent research and think critically about the connection between one global topic (ex: climate change, biodiversity) and human population growth. Students are challenged to develop a sustainable solution to the their topic and present their findings in a one-minute video. All information about the video project, as well as topic ideas, grading rubric, background readings, and activity ideas to develop background knowledge can be found at www.worldof7billion.org.

Social studies lesson plans

  • If Money Won’t Buy It: Students participate in a budgeting activity to weigh everyday actions against their environmental impact. Materials: provided budgeting worksheets.
  • Market Research: Students visit their kitchens and investigate products’ containers and packaging options to determine which products would produce the least solid waste. Students can use items in their kitchen or search for prices online. Materials: food items like soda, canned goods, dairy items, meat, and (optional) internet access.
  • Power of the Pyramids: Students construct and interpret population pyramids for six countries to analyze differences in the population growth rates of each. Materials: provided worksheet with data sets and two colors of pens, markers, or crayons.

Science lesson plans

  • Fracked or Fiction: Students analyze information about fracking and their sources for bias and ultimately take a stance arguing for or against fracking. Materials: provided data set and student worksheets.
  • People and Climate Change: The Data Is In: Students interpret various forms of data (graphic, written, and visual) and identify relationships between population growth, greenhouse gas emissions, temperature rise, ice melt, and sea level rise. Materials: provided worksheets and data bank items, and internet access (optional).
  • Scraps into Soil Lab: Students complete a lab activity to observe how organic and inorganic waste decomposes over time in a natural setting. Materials: containers for mini compost bins like Tupperware, old soda bottles, or milk jugs, soil from outside, items to decompose, provided compost tracking worksheets.

Math lesson plans

  • Double Feature: Students use mathematical formulas to calculate growth rates and doubling times, and to determine the difference between arithmetic and geometric growth. Materials: provided worksheets and a calculator.
  • Measuring A Million: Through riddles and math activities, students work through problems to calculate and visualize millions and billions of things and people. Materials: provided worksheets, a calculator, measuring tape, stick, or ruler, and a map of the United States.
  • Pop Ecology Files: Students graph and interpret growth curves for six mystery species and humans. Materials: provided worksheets with data sets and graph paper.

High School, Distance learning for grades 9-12

  • Student Video Project: Students conduct independent research and think critically about the connection between one global topic (ex: climate change, biodiversity) and human population growth. Students are challenged to develop a sustainable solution to the their topic and present their findings in a one-minute video. All information about the video project, as well as topic ideas, grading rubric, background readings, and activity ideas to develop background knowledge can be found at www.worldof7billion.org.

Social studies lesson plans

  • The Global Goals: Students research and create a visual display summarizing a United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) then consider the role of social progress in meeting the SDGs. Materials: student worksheet and graphic organizer provided.
  • Secret Life of Tees: Students conduct guided research and perform a life cycle analysis on a t-shirt and then create a proposal to reduce the t-shirt’s environmental, social, and economic impacts. Students can perform group work solo or collaborate online. Materials: paper bag, t-shirt with legible tags, provided student LCA worksheet.
  • The Human Made Landscape: Students will interpret land use trends by analyzing anthropogenic data, draw connections between historical trends, and present their conclusions by creating a comprehensive Story Map Journal using ArcGIS. Materials: student worksheet provided and websites www.WorldPopulationHistory.org and storymaps.arcgis.com.

Science lesson plans

  • Generating Heat: Students graph carbon dioxide emissions and population growth over time and discuss trends they observe from correlations between human activities and C02 emissions. Materials: graphing worksheet provided and graph paper or access to Microsoft Excel.
  • Watch Your Step!: Students take an online ecological footprint quiz to determine their resource use and test how changes to their daily actions impact its size. Materials: student worksheet provided and access to the internet.
  • Energizing Policies: Students research an energy-related issue in the U.S. or Canada while evaluating source information and weighing pros and cons of alternative solutions. Students write a paper communicating their position, using evidence and reasoning to support their recommendation. Materials: assignment sheet provided.

Math lesson plans

  • Demographic Facts of Life: Students calculate the rate of natural increase and corresponding doubling time or half-life for several countries while exploring and summarizing factors that
    influence mortality and fertility rates within a specific country, citing statistical evidence. Materials: student worksheet and optional calculator.
  • Generating Heat: Students graph and analyze the correlation between human population growth and activities over time and methane production. Materials: graphing worksheet provided and graph paper or access to Microsoft Excel.
  • Methane Matters: Students graph and analyze the correlation between human activities and methane production over time. Materials: cause and effect worksheet provided and graph paper or access to Microsoft Excel.