Population Change in Vermont, 1990-2000
LESSON PLAN, Grades 4-8, Adaptable/or Higher Grades
Castleton State College
[Revised and updated December 2001]
Introduction: According to estimates released last summer by the Vermont Department of Health, the population had grown to 608,827 in 2000, a net increase of 46,069 over the 1990 census figure of 562,758. Understanding the geography of Vermont's population distribution and recent growth seems especially important with the recent passing of the 2000 census. The results of this census decides the accuracy of recent estimates and the geographic inferences about such things as planning, reapportionment, trend analysis, and marketing.
Objective: The students will improve their mapping skills and knowledge about population distribution and change in Vermont at the county level.
Geographic Theme: Place
National Geography Standards:
- Number 9 (the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface)
- Number 18 (how to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future)
State Geography Standard:
Number 6.7.a (describe the physical and cultural geography and spatial organization of the time and place under study, and explain changes over time)
(1) two county base maps of Vermont for each student group (get map here)
(2) a copy of the population change chart shown below for each student group
Get Chart Here
(3) calculators and magic markers for each student group
(1) Divide the students into groups of two to four. Give each group two county base maps and the population change chart, and make sure they have calculators.
(2) Tell the students that they will produce two thematic maps of Vermont, one showing the distribution of the 2000 population by county, and the other showing the population increase between 1990 and 2000.
(3) For the map of 2000 county population, have the students use one standard size dot (such as from a magic marker pressed straight down) for every 10,000 people. For the maps of population change, have students use a person symbol ( * ) for every 1000 people. Students may need help determining the correct number of symbols, or portion of a symbol, to place in each county.
(4) Use the completed maps to spark discussion about what might be responsible for the patterns of spatial variation in population distribution and recent growth.
Geographic Inferences for Discussion from the Vermont Counties Population Data
1) Recent population change and growth has been very uneven throughout Vermont at the county level (and the city and town level). While none of the 14 counties lost population between 1990 and 2000, some counties experienced very large increases (e.g. Chittenden increased by 14810 persons or 11.24%), while other counties increased only slightly (e.g. Essex increased by only 54 persons or 0.84%.)
2) For the period 1990-2000, population growth has become more geographically concentrated. Over one third of the state's population increase came from just Chittenden County alone. Nearly two-thirds came from the three contiguous counties of Addison, Chittenden, and Franklin.
3) The regional contrast in growth between Vermont's seven northwestern counties and the remainder of the state became sharper. During the decade of the 1980s, the seven northwestern counties contributed 62% of the state's total population growth, while during the first eight years of the 1990s, that share increased to 80% of the growth.
(1) Have students look at population change from 1990-2000 on-line at different scales using the Vermont Center for Geographic Information website. Using your web browser, go to http://crs.uvm.edu/indicators/. Click on the MAPS tab at the top of the screen. Now in the COUNTY LEVEL section click on population, on the drop down menu that appears click on ABSOLUTE POPULATION CHANGE then click on the flashing yellow button and choose percentage change 1990-2000 and click on the flashing yellow button. Compare the map which results with your hand drawn maps and discuss the similarities or differences. From this page, additional data tables and ranges of dates can be displayed and so the exercise can be repeated using different ranges of years. If you do it, tell us about it! Comments and extensions will be printed on the page!
Now go one step further. On the same page, click on population under the TOWN LEVEL section and choose ABSOLUTE POPULATION CHANGE then click on the flashing yellow button. Then choose 1990-2000 and CHITTENDEN COUNTY. What do you see? How does this compare with information at the county level? Repeat this for several regions. Which towns are growing or shrinking fastest? What policy issues do different counties and regions within Vermont face as a result? Discuss with your class why the map looks the way that it does.
One other feature of this website offers is under the PROFILES tab here profiles can be displayed of each town and some on-line graphs of trends can be displayed. For example, I chose Williston (revealing my Chittenden County bias!) and clicked on the report button. On the resulting page I scrolled down to the population number for 2000 which was 7650 and clicked on the number. The result, a bar chart of population from 1790 to 2000. This could be useful for comparing towns.
Note also that the VGA has provided some on-line data in raw form (derived from exactly the same source but in raw form for in-class manipulation by students.) If you right click on the following link and then open the file or save it to disk you will have the data available http://academics.smcvt.edu/geography/vga/popvt.xls
* Revisions on this lesson plan and extensions were completed by student associate Sean Quinn and co-coordinator Richard Kujawa.