Hi, I’m Lindsey and I’ll be sharing with you the lesson, Food For Thought.
In this lesson, students act as residents of five regions of the world and compare statistics that affect people’s health and well-being.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to name factors that can determine the well-being of a country or region, identify impacts of inequitable resource distribution, and draw connections between population growth rate and quality of life indicators like wealth, health, education and energy use.
This lesson has strong ties with social studies, specifically geography, economics, and government. It also can be used with statistics, and earth and environmental science. Teachers of AP Human Geography and AP Environmental Science are especially big fans of this lesson because of how closely it aligns with their respective CEDs.
There are two versions of this activity, one for middle school and one for high school. The procedure for both versions is the same, but the high school version has some additional higher level questioning.
You’ll need to gather some materials before getting started: yarn in five different colors, individually wrapped candies, matches or birthday candles, and 10 sealable sandwich bags.
This is a really robust lesson that can take one to two class periods to complete in full, so I will be sharing just an overview in this video.
When you’re ready to start the lesson with students, lay the five yarn circles on the floor – each circle will represent a different region – North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. You’ll notice that the yarn circles are different sizes, to illustrate the relative sizes of each region.
Next, you’ll need to “populate” each region with students. The lesson plan will tell you how many students to put in each circle, based on the regional population size and the number of students in your class.
Lastly, choose one person from each region to be the Regional Ambassador, and give those students the provided “Ambassador Card”
That completes the set up of the lesson, and we’re ready to explore some statistics!
The lesson has 4 different sections. For the first three sections, follow these steps: First, define all of the vocabulary terms in the section. Second, read the World statistics aloud. Then, have the Ambassadors read their region’s statistics aloud to the class. Finally, you’ll go over some discussion questions as a class. You may want to remind students that the stats shared in this lesson are averages that cover entire regions. Within each region, there is large variation among individual countries and individual lives within those countries.
Section 1: Demographics
The first section of statistics covers demographics, and includes data on total population, birth rate, death rate, rate of natural increase and doubling time. Remember, the yarn circle “regions” are populated with your students in proportion to the actual global population distribution. So students have a concrete representation of the large differences in population size between regions. We suggest discussing things like which region is growing the fastest, what it would mean for a population to double, and what would be needed in terms of resources and infrastructure in order to provide for a rapidly growing population.
Section 2: Quality of Life
Next, students explore Quality of Life statistics. Some of the statistics they look at include: Literacy Rate, total fertility rate, infant mortality rate, and life expectancy. In this section, it’s important for students to start making some connections between the data. One connection you may specifically want to point out is the relationship between literacy rate and total fertility rate. As you can see, these two stats have an inverse relationship – the higher a regions literacy rate, the lower the fertility rate, and vice versa. Ask students to consider why this might be? The fact is, that educated women stay in school longer and marry later, so tend to have fewer children over the course of their lives. There are more relationships to explore with this data (for example between infant mortality rate and fertility rate), and the lesson plan will help you discuss these with students.
Section 3: Arable Land
In the next section of data, students explore the topic of Land Use, and look at statistics for Urban Population and Arable Land. We suggest discussing things like how population growth might impact the amount of arable land per person, as well as the causes, and pros and cons, of urbanization.
Section 4: Energy Consumption & Wealth
Now let’s move on to the last section of data.
In this last section, students use the props you gathered at the beginning to visually represent data for energy consumption and wealth.
First, let’s look at energy consumption stats. Explain to students that each birthday candle illustrates one barrel of oil and represents the amount of energy consumed by each individual in a year. Ask each Ambassador in turn to hold up their baggie full of birthday candles and read their regions per capita annual energy consumption. Students will immediately notice vast differences in per capita energy consumption around the world.
Next, distribute the baggies full of candies which illustrate per person Gross National Income. Each candy represents $1,000. Again, students will see the inequality around the world.
There is a lot to discuss in this section of the activity: like if the smoke from each region’s birthday candles will stay within their regional borders, why students think there are such differences in relative wealth, and what could potentially be done to create more equality.
Thanks for watching this explanation of the lesson, Food for Thought. For more great lessons on population and demographics, visit PopulationEducation.org. Bye!