Census in Schools gives knowledge and voice to youth

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Recently, Dr. Groves, U.S. Census Bureau Director commented on the 2010 Census in Schools program. Dr. Groves stated, "local school districts choose to teach Census in Schools lessons to help children learn math, geography, social studies, and science as well as the fact their Constitution was the first in world history to use a census to empower the governed over their government. The Census is the one civic moment that involves each and every one of us, especially the children, who are historically undercounted in every census since the first in 1790. Census in Schools enjoys strong bipartisan support from Congress and educators because it teaches children about the American Constitution. Article I, Section II of the Constitution mandates a decennial census to ensure the fair and equitable apportionment of political representation. We are raising awareness of every person in America -- adults, children, and the elderly included -- that the census is coming next March and that it is one of the shortest in history. It is just 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes."

Perhaps it is because most youth do not fill out the census questionnaire, that children are undercounted. But the US Census Bureau's Census in Schools program, http://www.census.gov/schools/index.html, is designed to help eliminate the youth undercount by direct outreach to the classroom. Every K-12 principal in the nation, in every public, private or charter school, and every superintendant, has received a letter announcing the program and a sample lesson plan. The Census Bureau has printed 100,000 kits and even more maps for distribution to every school across the nation.

This is the second time the Census Bureau has used the Census in Schools program, with the 2010 Decennial Census taking full advantage of the Internet. The Census in Schools page, aimed at teens, has an advanced quiz, shows how education relates to earning power and has fun facts on the U.S. Indeed, the most engaging parts of the program are the many online games and coloring programs for younger children that can be found at: http://www.census.gov/schools/census_for_kids/. Of course teachers are on the frontlines of the Census in Schools program. They are supplied with lesson plans, background information and all of the relevant data that will help them to peak student interest.

It is our job to deliver the most accurate population count possible so that each community gets its fair share of more than $400 billion dollars in federal funds that is distributed annually. Communities also get political power since representatives seats in state legislatures and US House of Representatives are based on population size. An added benefit of everyone being counted in the decennial census is that those who provide services for young people will have an accurate count of our youth. Those numbers can be used to give information to community organizations, school administrators and private sector for adequate support of youth services.

We will revisit the Census in Schools program after the semester is in full swing and explore how students and teachers are taking advantage of the lesson plans.

We invite every student, parent, teacher and community member to preview the 2010 Census in Schools website, listed above. Use the site to engage and spark conversation with young people. There are many great lessons to be learned there. Perhaps the most important lesson is that when it comes to the census, we all count.