ARTICLE

Demographics Activities

Involve your students in the debate over race, class and integration.

  • To begin a brainstorming exercise, write "integration" and "segregation" on the board. Ask students to call out words and thoughts they associate with each term. Guide the discussion so that the students address racial and socioeconomic issues. For example, how are people defined by class in addition to their race? Are there strong class divisions in the U.S.? With both perspectives in mind, what are students' thoughts on the current state of integration? In your community? In your school?

  • The 2000 Census revealed that the United States is a much more racially diverse country than it was in 1990. Visit the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site with your students. On the page called "American Factfinder," students can locate specific census information about the racial/ethnic demographics of their city or town.

    In the early grades, help students interpret local census data for race and ethnicity. Use photos of students of various racial/ethnic identities to create "collage graphs" that show census percentages. Older students can create a chart comparing national, state and local data. What do the numbers reveal about racial/ethnic diversity in your community? How well does the population of the school reflect the demographics of your town or city?

    Have your students survey the school. They may want to interview the principal and other officials about the diversity of the student population. Are they satisfied with the racial/ethnic/socioeconomic balance of the student population? What about other schools in the community?

    Ask students to write a one- to two-page paper summarizing their findings about the demographics of their school and community. They may want to condense their thoughts into a Letter to the Editor and send it to a local newspaper or magazine.

  • Have students create a time line of important events over the past 50 years that affected school integration. Items on the time line should include court decisions, famous demonstrations and laws. Looking at the finished time line, what are students' perceptions of where school integration stands politically and legally in 2001?

  • Organize a class debate around the following statement: "Socioeconomic integration is a legal and effective way to promote academic achievement and racial diversity in public schools."
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