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Image courtesy United Nations

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Every two years the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs releases updated estimates and projections of the urban and rural population of every country in the world. According to the 2009 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects, slightly more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, but the distribution of major urban centers is uneven.

(See World Urbanization Prospects, the 2009 Revision.)

Surveying the Data

a) Distribute copies of Activity #15-Handout 1 to the class. Review the definition of “urban agglomeration” found on page 2 of the handout. Have students survey the data in the table and make observations about changes in urban population from 1950-2010, as well as projections for 2025.

i. How many urban agglomerations had a population greater than 10 million in 1950? Where were these urban areas?

ii. Ask students to describe the changes in the number and location of urban agglomerations in 1975; 2000; and 2010.

iii. What changes does the United Nations project for 2025?

Mapping the Data

b) Distribute blank world maps and atlases to the class. Have students work in pairs or small groups to locate and label the urban agglomerations for each time period included in the handout.

c) Encourage students to think about the best way to represent this data. For example, they might make five separate maps, one for each time period. Or they could develop a system of colored symbols to reflect population size and year. Remind students to include a descriptive title, key, and source on their maps.

Graphing the Data

d) Provide students with graph paper and have them create bar graphs for each continent, with a bar for the number of urban areas in each time period in the handout.

Extending the Activity

e) Have students write an essay that discusses changing patterns of urbanization from 1950-2025, using the handout, their maps, and their graphs as resources.

f) Have students choose one urban agglomeration from the 2025 list and research causes and challenges related to its projected growth.

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