If the World Had Only 100 People…

Wrapping one’s head around a number as large as the world’s population can be a daunting task, as the reality of 7 billion people globally is inherently hard to visualize. Seventh grade history teacher Anthony Shaker recently led his 7th grade students through a curricular exploration that combined social studies, math, art, empathy and more to help them better understand who we are as a species while making sense of big numbers.

To begin, Shaker introduced the concept of using math to reduce the world’s population to a representative sampling of 100 people to aid in understanding differences. He presented students with a range of social science-based data points based on this world of 100 inhabitants, including:
  • 50 would be female and 50 would be male
  • 26 would be aged 0–14, 66 would be aged 15–64, and 8 would be 65 or older
  • 33 would be Christian, 22 would be Muslim, 14 would be Hindu, 7 would be Buddhist, 12 would believe in other religions, and 12 would not be religious or would not identify with any one particular religion
  • 1 would have a college degree and 99 would not
  • 7 would own computers and 93 would not
After their exposure to these data points in the context of 100 people, Shaker asked his students which statistics were or were not surprising and pressed them for other questions they might have. He also asked students to think about categories and topics they didn’t see in the materials that they might like to know more about and the rationale behind their interests.

With this groundwork established, Shaker led students in taking a closer look at the many types of infographics that exist in our media-filled daily existence. Defining infographics as visual representations of information, data or knowledge that aim to present information quickly, Shaker reviewed a range of samples with his students, noting that the most effective ones featured compelling graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.

Shaker stoked all four sections of his 7th grade history class to action by asking for their help in sharing some of the more compelling data they had learned about their species with the school community via their own independently developed infographics.

Students worked in pairs on this assignment. First, they selected the topic they wanted to learn more about and then did research to determine the data they wanted to share. After properly converting their calculations to the “World of 100 People” model, the students then brainstormed as to the best way to visually represent their findings in an infographic and used artistic skills in ways that suited them best as learners.

Some students developed their infographics on computers or tablets, while others broke out their pencils and markers. Shaker assigned each section their own floor of the school to hang their completed pieces and share their newfound learnings with older and younger students. Taking their understanding one step further, students paid close attention to situational awareness when choosing locations for their pieces—sharing facts about hunger and food scarcity near the cafeteria and information about clean water access near drinking fountains to help fellow students think about these powerful statistics in context.

Click here for examples from this project.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.