Real World Learning Objects: Science Print...
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Population Growth & Urban Sprawl

As we enter the 21st century, the human population finds itself in the midst of exponential growth and struggling with all the problems that classically occur with exploding numbers. Although there are many concerns that must be dealt with, this Real World Learning Object focuses on constructed human environments. With urbanization a clear trend, we must learn how to build livable and sustainable cities that nuture the needs of the present while insuring the security of the future.

Print and use the following worksheet to record your work as you progress through the following observations and analyses.

Population Growth & Urban Sprawl Student Worksheet:


I. Patterns of Evidence

  1. We begin this investigation with a look at the human population numbers in the United States. The following online resource provides a progressive look at population changes, and distribution over the past two hundred years.

    US Population Growth 1790-1990

  2. You should now have an clear picture of our population growth. Continue your investigation with a look at forty years change in Phoenix, Arizona. Located in the southwest, metropolitan Phoenix is in the heart of the most rapidly growing part of the United States.

Metro Phoenix Land Use - 1955 to 1995

  1. Next, take a look at population density changes recorded from 1990 to 1995.

    Phoenix Population Density - 1990 to 1995

  2. If the population density map didn't clue you in on where people are moving, study this Phoenix map showing where the fastest population growth is occuring.

    Metro Phoenix Growth Rate Map - 1990 to 1995

  3. Believe it or not, 24 municipalities compose metro Phoenix.

    Metro Phoenix Regional Cities

  4. You might believe that urban sprawl is a common phenomenon, that its happening everywhere. Take a look at some comparisons.

    Phoenix with Other Cities Comparisons

  5. Cities and towns in the southwestern states has been explosive. Observe and analyze the effects of just 20 years of growth in Albuquerque, NM.

    Albuquerque Aerial Photos 1935-1996

  6. As urban environments replace the native plant and animal life, entire ecosystems are destroyed being replaced by concrete buildings and asphault. The following animation shows the "urban heat dome effect" over Atlanta, GA. The animation shows both the local effect and how the effect has increased as the city has grown from 1973 to 1997. The final sequence shows how the urban heat dome has altered weather patterns.

    The Heat Dome Effect in Atlanta

II. Alternative Strategies

You have just examined how our cities and towns have developed to accomodate 200 years of population growth. Our development patterns are not only destructive to natural ecosystems, but they are destructive to our own quality of life. The question is, how do we accomodate our population within a livable and sustainable urban environment? This section of the exercise examines some possibilities.

  1. Examine the city transformations. These models show how typical "sprawl" city blocks can be transformed into "people friendly" spaces while reducing outward growth on the edges.

    Community Transformations

  2. Explore the following "New Urbanist Neighborhood." This interactive animation provides a great deal of information as you "mouse over" and click on the city attributes. Make certain you look to the right and left as you work you way "around town."

    New "Urbanist" Neighborhood

  3. The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is a non-profit environmental action organization. They use law, science and the support of more than 1 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things. Worth Magazine has named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities, and Charity Navigator has given NRDC four stars (out of a possible four). The following is a virtual tour of their "Green Designed" headquarters in Santa Monica, CA.

    NRDC "Green Design" Santa Monica Office Complex Tour

  4. In summation, read the following poem. Although it is entitled "Twisted Motivation", it provides some closure to our past and a vision of our future.

    A Poem for Reflection