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School census ties into national head count

It happens only once every 10 years, so area teachers jumped to take advantage of a unique learning opportunity.

As parents had U.S. Census questionnaires to fill out at home, students at Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School conducted their own census on National Census Day, April 1.

"It was interesting and fun," said eighth-grader Ronquavious "Qua" Moore. "You get a better grasp of how it works."

Georgia Studies teacher Melissa Fogarty said social studies teachers talked about the census in their classes. Her eighth grade class passed out census forms to every student in the school, then compiled the data.

Compiling and comparing the data also became a graph lesson in math, Ms. Fogarty said. But the main goal of the project applied the lesson to social studies -- how the population count is used to apportion the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and how census statistics are used to determine federal funding for social and economic programs.

The lesson that students found most interesting was the social behavior aspect. The questions on the junior high census included name, residence and age, sports participation, arts involvement, pet ownership and favorite school subject, ice cream flavor and pizza topping.

"I was surprised at how many people liked math. I expected everybody to say lunch was their favorite subject," student Danielle Churchey said, adding that language arts was her favorite.

Ms. Fogarty said many students told her they filled out their family's national census form at home, and others said their parents tossed it in the trash.

According to the national census Web site, "the Census Bureau has never been able to count every individual, leading to controversy about whether to use statistical methods to supplement the numbers for some purposes, as well as arguments over how to improve the actual head count."

If the form is not returned by mail, a census worker will visit the residence up to six times to collect the information. That is where the eighth-graders drew the line.

"Not everyone turned their forms back in," Ms. Fogarty said. "But, unlike the real census, we didn't go knocking on classroom doors looking for those who didn't turn them in. ... Most of the social studies teachers had the students do it in their class. ... it only took about five minutes."

Web posted on Thursday, April 29, 2010

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