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Population Education for the 21st Century Classroom

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Since the dawn of the 21st century, technology has revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives -- from shopping to traveling, and the way we keep in touch with family and friends. The same goes for education. Technological advances have transformed classrooms around the world at lightning speed, providing teachers and students with exciting new ways to interact with knowledge.

Educational technology tools -- like websites, videos, apps and software -- are enabling teachers to enrich their curricula and lesson plans for ultimate impact. Gone are the days of flat text and dull, one-dimensional images. Learning new information can now be an engaging experience for students rather than a monotonous process.

The advancement of technology has also opened the door to new data, which have influenced society's priorities and the knowledge that gets passed on to young people. Just ten years ago, the topic of human-induced climate change was shunned from virtually every classroom across the United States. But after several alarming reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of impassioned warnings from scientists around the world, most states are now expected to adopt new science standards that incorporate the teaching of climate change.

Like climate change education, population education -- the study of human population trends and their impacts on natural resources, environmental quality, and human wellbeing -- has been recognized as a crucial pathway for the development of global citizens and a more sustainable world. Educating students about the side effects of unsustainable population growth will inspire future generations to take better care of our delicate and finite planet.

With all of that in mind, my organization, Population Connection, decided to launch It's an interactive website featuring innovative educational tools that allow visitors to explore human population growth through multiple perspectives--historical, environmental, societal, and political. The website provides insight on how moments in time have contributed to an expanding population and looks at the ways population growth will impact the future of the planet and humanity.

High school educators and students, in particular, will find the website useful for learning about topics related to demography, geography, world history and much more. Once on the site, teachers can download six lesson plans specifically designed for high school science and social studies classes and several Advanced Placement (AP) courses. All of them meet current national and state standards.

One of my favorite features on the website is a video -- aptly nicknamed "the dot video" -- that creatively displays the history of population growth through dots that light up a world map. Another great tool on the site is an interactive world population map that is linked to a historical timeline representing the journey of human civilization. It presents eye-opening links, like the population-related connection between the invention of the magnetic compass and the current climate crisis.

The website is also home to fun, light-hearted activities, like a world population knowledge quiz that students can use to test their "population I.Q." and an application that assigns a "population number" to visitors based on their birth date.

While there are many wonderful educational technology tools out there today, students and teachers around the nation and across the globe who are interested in learning more about our planet will find a visit to to be a unique and enriching experience. It's time to bring population education into the 21st century classroom, because a better future depends on an enlightened youth.

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