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Population Demographics and Levels of Access   Tags: urban studies  

This unit would build students' understandings of differences that can exist within the population in terms of access to resources, using GIS tools to examine these differences in terms of spatial and demographic factors.
Last Updated: Jul 22, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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need and access

1. The instructor will lead students in a discussion of what a population needs and think about how people get these things.

   a. The instructor will prompt the class to brainstorm “things people need” and then list the responses on a whiteboard, blackboard, or smartboard for the class to see. The instructor should encourage the students to be creative but also to really think about what they truly feel is a “need.” It will be helpful for later parts of the lesson and unit if food and education are identified as needs.

   b. The instructor will then prompt the students to think about how people who live in cities are able to meet these needs. The instructor may ask students which institutions or aspects of the built environment serve needs.

      i. institution: An established organization of foundation, as one dedicated to education or culture (American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd ed., 1997)

      ii. built environment: human-made components of the environment, including buildings and sidewalks

   c. Finally, the instructor and students may engage in a discussion about barriers people might encounter when trying to meet their needs in an urban environment.

   d. As an assignment following this lesson, students may be asked to read Urban Health: A Look Out Our Windows (Fleischman, 2004). Questions for a discussion following this reading could include: “What needs are discussed in this article?”, “What sorts of barriers to getting needs met does the article discuss?”, “Who is negatively affected?”


mapping need: food access

1. The students and instructor will read a few articles and engage in a discussion about food justice in Philadelphia and some of the ways it can be examined. Students will explore GIS maps that help visually represent food access issues and will use these to reflect on their own experience of food access.

   a. Students will read the following articles and engage in a follow-up discussion about the issue of food security in Philadelphia, ways in which they have seen or experienced food insecurity, the importance of food security, and what they think of the solutions being offered to address food insecurity issues.

      i. option=com_content&id=177%3Athe-food-trust-and-the-fresh-food- financing-initiative-eliminating-food-deserts&Itemid=35&limitstart=1

      ii. philadelphias-experiment-in-eradicating-food-deserts- work/2012/06/08/gJQAU9snNV_blog.html

   b. The instructor will present and explain the following GIS sources that can be used to examine food access geographically. Students should be prompted to discuss why such tools would be useful and then allowed to explore these maps on their own and ask the instructor questions as questions come up. Students should also read about what goes into determining what "low access" or "limited access" means on each map. For this lesson students would require computers with the internet in order to have access to these maps.

      i. phillys-food-deserts/

      ii. to-the-atlas.aspx#.U6sUZPldWSo

      iii. atlas/about-the-atlas.aspx#.U6sizvldWSo

      iv. mapping-tool/

      v. content/uploads/2013/07/SearchingForMarketsSummary.pdf

   c. For the next assignment, students will be assigned to use the maps to assess their own neighborhoods in terms of their neighborhoods' residents' access to food. Students should use the online maps (above) and worksheet (in materials).



Thank you so much to Ian Van Wert for providing inspiration and guidance for this unit from his Upper School Environmental Science course!


final project: revealing access

1. For this final project students may be charged with researching and presenting on another resource and how accessible it is to the population. As a group, students may pick a resource (such as schools or housing) and research different components of its accessibility. Students may be broken into groups and charged with different pieces of the puzzle such as deciding what it means to have “access” to this resource and what might limit someone's access, researching the distribution/location of this resource within a particular area or set of areas, researching ways of evaluating the quality of the resources available, and researching potential solutions to problems of access to this resource.

>Note: there most likely won't be many "right" answers in this project but students should show that their project is creative and well-researched.

   a. The following interactive maps may be useful:

      -Policy Map:

      -Philadelphia Resources:

      -Greater Philadelphia Geohistory Network:

      -Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission:


         >population info:


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