Linking to learning

Help your students help their families stand up and be counted

Online school program teaches kids all about 2010 U.S. Census

The U.S. Constitution requires a national census every 10 years to count the population and determine the number of seats each state will have in the House of Representatives. To improve the overall response to the 2010 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau established the Census in Schools Program called “It’s About Us.” The aim of the program is to educate youngsters about the importance of the count that will begin in March.

With that goal in mind, the U.S. Census Bureau created a Web site (www.census.gov/schools) that contains grade-appropriate, standards-based education materials to introduce the subject in schools. Printed brochures and guides should have arrived in schools in September 2009, and an online guide posted in August contains 16 standards-based lessons.

The American Federation of Teachers believes that it is important to get an accurate count so that traditionally undercounted groups like minorities and low-income families are included. Handouts about the importance of supporting the Census Bureau in its effort to create awareness of and participation in the 2010 census were available at the UFT’s Dec. 16 Delegate Assembly.

“There is a persistent underfunding of immigrant, Latino and African-American minority communities and schools because their numbers are largely undercounted,” said Anthony Harmon, UFT special representative and member of the AFT Civil and Human Rights Committee.

“By educating our children we can, by extension, influence the adult members of their households. That should go a long way in promoting a more accurate census count,” he said.

The Census Bureau Web site includes materials for teachers, younger children and teens as well as resources for schools. The link to the For Teachers section presents a list of resources such as lesson plans, teaching ideas, a history of the U.S. Census, broadcast, photo and radio resources, facts and a compilation of daily reports that highlight “firsts” in U.S. history and popular culture.

The lesson plans are grade- and geographically specific. There are lessons for grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 and appropriate maps for each grade. The lessons cover the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The lessons and maps are in PDF format, so you need to have a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader) installed on your computer to view and print them. Each lesson includes a scope and sequence, national standards and benchmarks, maps and a “how to” guide to help teachers get the most out of the resource. Included is a preview of the questions that the census will ask in March 2010.

The resource called “What High School Teachers Need to Know” helps secondary educators get the most out of the American Community Survey issued in December 2008. This 66-page online booklet explains how to use the wide array of data about the nation, states and local communities to help teach statistical literacy, social studies, geography and mathematics. It includes information on how to access the latest data online and offers specific examples of how teachers can incorporate the data into their daily classroom lessons. And because the ACS offers facts and figures that can be used to examine a variety of social issues at the state and local levels, it is a good vehicle to help make learning more meaningful for your students.

The teaching resource “Broadcast, Photo and Radio Services” includes photos, videos and “Profile America,” a popular daily compendium of 60-second stories celebrating key observances or monthly commemorations using information collected by the Census Bureau. The daily reports include such tidbits as: the first outdoor electric Christmas lights were erected in 1914 in Denver; the first successful organ transplant occurred in 1954; and the first U.S. skyjacking occurred in 1971 — the skyjacker parachuted from the plane over a wilderness area south of Seattle. The culprit and the $200,000 ransom never were recovered.

Other unions are joining with the UFT in collaborating with the Census Bureau to help spread the word about the importance of the census. The census data does not only help determine how many seats each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. The results also influence decisions affecting funding of public health, neighborhood improvements, transportation, senior services and our schools. These online resources will help educators help students understand the importance of the decennial census for our communities.

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