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Statistics in Schools Program Offers New Activities for 2020 Census

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The U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools (SIS) program provides free activities and resources for teachers to help bring statistics to life in the classroom and prepare students for a data-driven world.

This upcoming school year, SIS activities will be more topical than ever. They will teach students and their parents why everyone should respond to the 2020 Census and how it will help shape the future of their communities for the next 10 years.

When it comes to schools, the 2020 Census will determine funding for special education, teacher training, technology, school lunch assistance, Head Start and after-school programs.

SIS is launching a series of new teaching materials about the 2020 Census.

Among them:

  • 67 classroom activities.
  • Updated classroom maps with census statistics.
  • Three videos for students in grades K-12.
  • A singalong song.
  • A new activity book for children ages 2 to 5.

With these materials, teachers can incorporate Census Bureau statistics into subjects such as English language arts, math and social studies. The materials are free and developed by educators and subject experts from across the country.

Stressing the Importance of 2020 Census

The new SIS materials underscore the importance of everyone who will be counted in the 2020 Census next spring.

They also make clear how responses are used to make decisions that benefit students, families and schools. Each activity includes a section that students can do at home, which is one way children can talk to their parents or guardians about how important it is to respond to the 2020 Census.

“In a day where data are ubiquitous, computation is cheap, and software to analyze data is cheap or free, people need to be able to start thinking like statisticians think, and better analyze data to see their world,” said Rob Gould, undergraduate vice chair of the department of statistics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He praised SIS for making statistics accessible to school children.

“Any chance we have to help people better understand how statistical thinking is used to reason about our world and our democracy, the better off we are,” Gould said.

How the 2020 Census Helps Schools

The 2020 Census is a count of everyone who lives in the United States and its territories. Most of the counting will start in mid-March. The 2020 Census questionnaire asks a few simple questions like the age, sex, and the number of people living in your home.

People should count all children who live in their homes, including newborns and others too young for school.

That’s important because responses to the census help schools plan for the resources they will need when the new generation of children is ready for school.

You can respond online, by phone or by mail. Individual responses are confidential and cannot be used against you by any court or government agency.

“This is a great way to get people aware of what’s happening,” said Sarah Calhoun, a kindergarten teacher at Matthew Maury Elementary in Alexandria, Va., who wrote activities for the program.

“It’s natural for families to talk about what’s happening at school with their kids, and kids can say, ‘I learned about the census today’,” she said. “It is exciting for students to come home and share with their families what they have learned.”

Some of the federal funding based on census statistics is for services that influence students’ readiness for learning, including maternal and child health programs, and housing, heating and food assistance.

When it comes to schools, the 2020 Census will determine funding for special education, teacher training, technology, school lunch assistance, Head Start and after-school programs.

Alaska’s Teacher of the Year Values SIS

Lem Wheeles, the 2018 Alaska History Teacher of the Year, is especially excited about new writing activities in the 2020 Census SIS program.

A social studies teacher at A.J. Dimond High School in Anchorage, Wheeles likes the activities for middle and high school students because of their historical perspectives.  

“We look at historical data, such as the types of questions that have been asked about demographics going back to 1790 in the first census to the 2010 Census, and what the questions were for race categories and how that has changed over time,” he said.

Gould, of the University of California, said such activities help teenagers realize how data relate to their everyday lives.

The 2020 Census Statistics in Schools program “provides a nice opportunity for students to have a personal connection to a very big data collection and analysis project,” he said. “Students begin to see the data as something collected by real people, under real circumstances, and that drives home the relevance.”

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Page Last Revised - October 28, 2021
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