Investigating World Population

Maps are wonderful things. As the children in Form 3 have been discovering recently, there is virtually no limit to what you can learn from a map.

In 3PF’s Geography lesson this week, the focus was on population, but what exactly does this word mean? Erran suggested that it must have something to do with being popular, a very sensible idea as the Latin root of both words is the same. Once it had been established that the objective of the lesson was to use maps to understand why more people live in some parts of the world than in others, it was time to open the atlas. The children found a map covered with tiny pink dots. Each dot, amazingly, represented one million people, and it was immediately obvious that, in some places, the dots were so close together they appeared as a solid mass.

Everyone headed up to the Computer Room to open up an interactive map, where they used the shading on the map to find four highly populous countries and a further four with small populations. Remembering what they had seen in the atlas, the children quickly identified countries such as China and India, and the ingenious geographers in the class also managed to find countries with populations less than one million, too small to register on the scale.

Grace identified Bangladesh, as it was heavily shaded on the map, although she was puzzled to find that its population was considerably smaller than neighbouring India. She realised that, because it is a small country in terms of area, the people there are more squashed together. This enabled the class to broaden the discussion and consider the significance of population density. A country taking up a lot of space on the map, such as Russia, might have a large population numerically, but that does not mean that everywhere is crowded. As Ali explained, using her own experience, places in the USA like Chicago and New York might be very busy, but in Wisconsin there are few sizeable cities and lots of countryside. Henry TC noticed that the population of China is overwhelmingly concentrated in the east of the country around Shanghai. Further west the cities are more evenly spread, and some places there appears to be virtually no-one living. Miss Freeman encouraged the children to explore the reason for this difference, which they realised was explained by the presence of the Gobi Desert.

Back in the classroom, the children compared the population map with other maps to help them understand why the population of Australia is relatively small for such a large land mass, and why it is concentrated around the coast. On the map, they found the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts. Similarly, a concentration of pink dots in the north of Africa can be explained by the location of the city of Cairo and the fertile Nile Delta area.

As the lesson drew to a close, Miss Freeman asked the children where they would prefer to live. Although Henry C favoured the idea of living in a densely populated place to enable him to enjoy a wide circle of friends, by and large the class thought it would be preferable to live in a more rural area. Roman liked the idea of having more space to build a very large house, whilst Daniel didn’t want to be too close to his neighbours. Finlay realised that, in a sparsely populated area, there would be fewer cars around, and thus it would be safer for him to play outside.

Miss Freeman also encouraged the children to reflect on the factors that motivate people, particularly in developing countries, to move from the countryside to the already crowded cities. They suggested that the prospects of finding a better job, and making more money, are the most tempting reasons. They were also left to ponder whether such a dense concentration of people is a good thing, bearing in mind the possibility of traffic problems and pollution. Grace was also concerned that lots of houses built close together could lead to the more rapid spread of fire. Speaking afterwards, Miss Freeman and Mrs Burnett decided that there is such scope here for a broad and worthwhile discussion that they may well return to this topic in a Philosophy lesson in the New Year.