Lesson Plan: Show Me the Growth!

Written By: Susie Fracassi
Grade Level: Ninth Grade

Time Allotment

50 Minutes (with extensions)


This lesson serves as an introduction to a unit based on population growth. Key vocabulary words used throughout the unit are defined and utilized in this lesson. Students will interpret a PBS interactive on world population and make connections to regional population growth. Students will also be introduced to a mapping tool from maps101.com, called Map Sketch.

Supplemental Material
Download Lesson Plan
Human Numbers Through Time
ND County Population Statistics Report Guidelines

Subject Matter

World Geography

Learning Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate their knowledge of the following terms: doubling time, growth rate, population density, and population distribution.
  • Students will gather information on world population and plot data on a timeline.
  • Students will identify factors that impact where people choose to settle.
  • Students will create a report analyzing population data on two North Dakota counties.

Media Components - Video/Web

  • “Human Numbers Through Time” – Interactive created by NOVA, made available through PBS.
  • “Map Sketch” – Mapping tool created by maps101.com.


  • 6 jars, each one filled with one of the following numbers of M&M’s: 32, 62, 64, 165, 252, 606
  • One world map representing population density
  • One world map representing population distribution
  • Computers, one per student (or one per group of students)
  • Worksheet: Timeline Activity (one per student)
  • Handout: ND County Population Statistics Report Guidelines (one per student)

Teacher Preparation

Distribute M&M’s into the appropriate jars, reflecting ND state population over time and world population over time.
  • Arrange jars so that one set has three evenly spaced jars with 32, 62, and 64 M&M’s in each one, respectively. This set should have a sign in front saying: 1 M&M = 10,000.
  • The other set should have three evenly spaced jars with 165, 252, and 606 M&M’s, respectively. This set should have a sign in front saying: 1 M&M = 10,000,000.
Bookmark the following websites:

Introductory Activities

M&M’s in respective jars, world population density map, world population distribution map

PRAIRIE PUBLIC MASTER TEACHER STRATEGY: Introduce Activities before viewing media to set the stage for learning. Teachers should provide background information and teach new vocabulary words.
  1. As students enter the room, have the M&M’s in respective jars sitting in the front of the classroom. Write on the board, “What do these two sets of jars have in common?”
  2. As a class, discuss the commonalities between the two sets of jars. Ask students what they think may be represented by each set of jars. Use guiding prompts and yes/no questions to arrive at the point that one set represents world population growth and the other represents North Dakota’s population growth.
  3. Use the jars to show the meaning of the following terms:
    • Doubling time: the amount of time required for a population to double in size
    • Population growth rate: the rate at which the number of individuals in a population increases in a given time period
  4. Use the maps (and projector) to show the meaning of the following terms:
    • Population density: the number of people per square unit of land (an AVERAGE)
    • Population distribution: shows the pattern of where people live

Learning Activities

MATERIALS: One computer per pair of students, Worksheet: Timeline Activity (one per student)

PRAIRIE PUBLIC MASTER TEACHER STRATEGY: Direct students’ focus to a specific task to complete during the video.
  1. Assign each pair of students to a computer, hand out the worksheet: Timeline Activity, and direct students to the Human Numbers Through Time interactive (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/global-population-growth.html)
  2. Allow time for students to work through the interactive and record the requested data on the supplemental worksheet.
  3. When students are finished, discuss the following questions as a large group:
    • Where are people choosing to settle?
    • Why are people choosing to settle in those locations?
    • Do we do the same on a local level? Explain.
(Possible Responses: land use/resources, climate/temperature, accessibility/transportation, physical geography)

Culminating Activity

MATERIALS: Computers with internet access (one per student), access to maps101.com, Handout: ND County Population Statistics Report Guidelines (one per student)

PRAIRIE PUBLIC MASTER TEACHER STRATEGY: Use culminating activities to help reinforce, apply, review, or extend the information in the video clip.
  1. Direct students to the Map Sketch tool found on the webpage, http://www.maps101.com. Once in “Map Sketch,” follow the steps:
    1. Click on “Map Collections”
    2. Click on “Thematic Map Sets”
    3. Click on “State Thematic Maps”
    4. Click on “North Dakota”
  2. Students will use the handout, ND County Population Statistics Report Guidelines, along with the Map Sketch tool to create a report comparing and contrasting two North Dakota counties of their choice.

Cross-Curricular Activity

Potential cross-curricular activities include:
  1. Math – Using population statistics to calculate growth rates
  2. English – Focusing on mechanics when writing the report on North Dakota county population statistics
  3. Science – Researching the environmental issues associated with rapid population growth

Community Connections

  1. Conduct interviews with citizens in different age categories living in the counties that you chose to analyze. In your report, include anecdotes on citizens’ views on population growth in their home county.
  2. Visit the North Dakota counties studied to enrich report with specific details on items that may contribute to population growth in their county today.

  1. Utilize the National Geographic Education mapping tool, MapMaker
  2. Interactive “Earth in Perils” created by NOVA, available through PBS
  3. Interactive Quiz “Be a Demographer” created by NOVA, available through PBS
  4. Explore population-related issues at Population Connection (http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer)
  5. Video Clip: The State of the Planet, found in PBS Learning Media
  6. “The World at 7 Billion: A PRB Interactive Map,” available through the Population Reference Bureau (http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2011/world-population-data-sheet/world-map.aspx#/map/population)