George Lucas Educational Foundation

Getting to Know Them: Paring the World Population Down to Basics

What if it is a small world after all?
By Naheed Attari
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Two beautiful women in traditional wear sitting on a bench in Kyoto

I was in high school in 1979 when Iranian students took the staff of the U.S. embassy in Tehran hostage. Even with maps of Iran all over the news, I still had to mention Persian rugs, the shah, or the international oil supply to get any recognition of my parents' homeland.

Two decades later, with daily news focus on that region, Iran is better known in this country, but ignorance about many of the 6.4 billion inhabitants of our world and the lands they live in persists. Vivid ways to give students a global and cultural awareness exist, however. Notable among them is a project-based lesson plan from the 100 People Foundation.

Photographer Carolyn Jones and filmmaker Isabel Sadurni launched 100 People: A World Portrait to illustrate metaphorically our planet's population by showing visually what it would look like if there were only 100 people instead of an unimaginable 6 billion. What does a quick glimpse of those 100 Earth dwellers look like? Half would be female, 61 would be Asian, 50 would suffer from malnutrition, 1 would have a college education, and, for all the talk of the Internet binding the world together, just 1 would own a computer.

Credit: Carolyn Jones

To come up with a representative sample of the world's population, Jones and Sadurni turned to children. "Children are born color blind when it comes to people," Jones says. "They are without prejudice." Through the project, students, acting as interviewers and photographers, nominate people from their communities who inspire them. From the nominations, the project will winnow the list to a final 100 corresponding with the statistical model.

Opening their eyes to their own communities, learning about geography, statistics, and nature mapping, the project can provide students many lessons, not a few of them about the stark realities of a crowded world. Seventeen of 100 people have no safe, clean water to drink, for instance, and half don't have enough to eat. But as a powerful means to broaden global awareness, the project offers many points of entry to craft a curriculum. To get started, teachers can download a lesson plan from and begin their own journeys.

"I've spent my entire career telling stories, taking photographs, and talking to people who have inspired me," Jones says. "I believe we learn from one another." Especially when we look beyond our own backyards.

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SusanGBryant's picture
Head Teacher, Ganderia Middle School, Norway, ME

The Population Connection has a lot of great activities that help students understand population statistics and dynamics in todays world, which also meet Math, Social Studies, and Science standards and get students out of their chairs.

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