How Census Activities Can Be Used for Back-to-School Introductions

Do you want to make back-to-school introductions count? Want to throw in math skills and social studies content? Population Education offers census-taking activities that can do just that. Though written for different grade levels, both lessons described here have your students conduct their own census of their peers. It’s a fun and engaging way to introduce classmates while also exploring an important demographic tool used around the globe.

People Count – Census-taking Activity for Elementary Students
People Count introduces upper elementary students to census-taking through data collection and analysis. First students interview eight of their peers to learn more about each student’s household and record their findings. Teachers can decide how large of a scope the census will take, ranging from a single class, to a full grade level, to the entire school. Then, students chart and graph the data and answer questions based on their findings. The Common Core standards in Math require that students in grades 1-5 be able to “represent and interpret data” – this lesson will meet those Common Core standards.

Everything Counts – Census-taking Activity for Middle School Students
Everything Counts is a more in-depth look at counting populations, though the lesson also starts off with students collecting demographic data from their peers. More time is spent on data analysis as students consider what information they can, and cannot, glean from their census. In the second part of the lesson, students explore three other ways of finding population size (gross estimation, direct estimation, and capture/recapture). Follow-up the interactive estimates with a discussion: What are the pros and cons of a census versus other counting methods? When is each of these population counting methods appropriate?

In both lessons, students are getting to know their classmates. First by engaging one-on-one while collecting data. Then by working in small groups to interpret the data. So use census-taking as a fun way to continue introductions this school year, and get counting!