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Making Census 2000 Count for Kids

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Map literacy. Community involvement. Data management. The U.S. Census Bureau and Scholastic Inc. have used those three themes to create Census in Schools teaching materials -- including a 4- by 6-foot U.S. map, in color -- that are available to teachers throughout the United States. Included: How to order your Making Sense of Census 2000 kit!

In Edward Bonne's U.S. history classroom, students explore population shifts throughout the United States from 1950 to 1990. They examine major population trends, such as the growth of suburbs, the shrinking of cities, and the explosion of the sun belt states.
This year, though, the teacher at Lakeview Public (High) School in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, is integrating into his history classes a striking new element -- Making Sense of Census 2000. The free teaching materials kits created by the U.S. Census Bureau and Scholastic, Inc., are available for grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.

"The kit does an excellent job of providing lesson plans in social studies and also math and geography," Bonne said in a telephone interview with Education World. "The lessons are great in the classroom."

WHAT'S IN THE CENSUS 2000 TEACHING KIT?

The Census 2000 teaching kit includes a 24-page Teaching Guide full of grade-appropriate activities and corresponding lesson plans and a giant 4- by 6-foot color "We Count!" map of the United States.

The 24-page Teaching Guide at all three levels contains six lessons.

  • The K-4 guide includes, for example, a lesson called Greater States, tailored for grades K-2, that teaches the concept of comparison as well as how to use a map key.
  • In the 5-8 guide is, for instance, a Where We Live lesson that enables students to read special-purpose maps and analyze population density and population shifts.
  • The 9-12 guide features a lesson called District Decisions in which students use a timeline to learn about reapportionment and redistricting. Students also debate redistricting based on municipal boundaries versus population counts.

Lessons in all three Teaching Guides are tied to the appropriate standards: the NCSS Social Studies Standards, the NCTM Math Standards, and the Geography Education Standards Project Geography Standards.

A separate mailing to teachers, which will arrive in March 2000, will contain

  • a set of Student Take-Home Guides,
  • a Teacher Lesson Guide that augments the Student Take-Home Guide, and
  • a letter to parents or caregivers encouraging them to participate in Census 2000 and complete their census forms. (The letter will be available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Korean.)

Educators can find information about the Census in Schools project on the Census Bureau Web site at the United States Census 2000 site; click on Census in Schools. Most of the teaching materials in the Census 2000 Teaching Kit can be downloaded from the Census Bureau's Web site.

'A TEACHABLE MOMENT'

"One intent of Census in Schools is to make Census 2000 a teachable moment," said Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt at an October news conference.

"Only 65 percent of households responded to the census in 1990," Prewitt explained. "We plan to increase that through our outreach. It is important to create the census as a civic ceremony. We've got to think of the census like the Pledge of Allegiance, as a moment when we can connect with our country in a serious way.

"Half of those left out of the Census in 1990 were under 18," Prewitt added during the news conference. "In 2000, we want to see that no children are shortchanged."

The goal behind the Making Sense of Census 2000 kit is to "educate students about the purpose of the census and why it is important for their families to participate in it," said Kimberly Crews, manager of the Census in Schools project, part of the overall Census 2000 push.

April 1, 2000, is Census Day.

"The short-term objective is to remind parents or caregivers to complete the census and be sure to include children," Crews continued. "Many families in the past have failed to count children for many reasons, ranging from the assumption that children shouldn't be counted at all to confusion over which census form they should be included on, that of their parents or other caregivers." The answer, Crews says, is that children need to be included on the census form being filled out where they live most of the time.

"The long-term goal of involving children in the census," said Crews "is so that when those children become adults, they will be more likely to participate in the census."

Accuracy in the census is vital because census results determine how many representatives each state has in Congress. In addition, Crews added, whether children are counted and where they are counted in the census helps determine the amount of funding for schools in various areas.

CENSUS RESOURCES

Census Director Prewitt said the promotional material that invites teachers and principals to order the Census 2000 Teaching Kit was being sent to 111,000 schools attended by 52 million children. The Census 2000 Teaching Kit is free. To order it, call 800-296-5923 or fax 212-343-4867.

Census 2000 Launches Largest-Ever Outreach Campaign The site contains news releases, in English and Spanish, about Census 2000, general information about the census, information about the advertising campaign, and audio news. Click on Census in Schools.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) The U.S. Census Bureau answers questions such as "Why should people fill out their census forms?" and "How is the privacy of respondents respected protected?"

Article by Sharon Cromwell
Education World®
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