Archived Story

Getting schooled on the 2010 census

Published 9:54am Monday, March 8, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

It’s the biggest story of 2010.
Like 120 million households big.
The U.S. Census Bureau said last week that it expects those 120 million households nationwide to receive their 10-question census forms to arrive by the middle of this month.

An estimated 58,000 census workers began delivering those questionnaires by hand that week to 12 million addresses, a majority of those in rural areas.

As the country waits to be counted, state and local officials keeping fingers crossed on any possible benefit to stem from them, students in schools nationwide, including Niles High School, are getting a first-hand education that comes around only once every 10 years.

Sara McLaren, social studies and civics teacher at Niles High School, is teaching the importance of the census to her students and taking it one step further.

“Civics always does a research project and we try to make it service-based,” McLaren said.

Students spending time after school working on a project of informing the public on the difference made through filling out their form and participating in the count of the nation’s population.

“We teach civic involvement,” McLaren said. Through the project, students are now demonstrating that involvement.

“What we have done is, we’ve already produced three radio show public service announcements,” McLaren said.

Those radio service announcements, one done as a rap, another as a father-son “March Madness” skit and the third informational, have already aired on radio shows in Detroit and Lansing.

McLaren said she hopes to see those spots aired on local radio as well. Students are also working on video public service announcements McLaren hopes will be seen prior to feature films at Wonderland Theater.

And her students are hitting the pavement as well, making an effort to get ads out in area businesses.

“I knew I wanted to do something with the census only because I was in college when the last census was going on,” she said.

Superintendent Doug Law said most buildings in the district had activities going on to promote the census and the district was helping the bureau recruit workers.

McLaren recently took part in a radio interview with the Michigan Education Association.

Students learn three core concepts about the census, McLaren said, starting with civic involvement.

“It’s our duty,” she said of filling out the questionnaire. “It’s in the constitution to count the population.” Through the project, students get to, in a sense, live out that duty.

“Two, with the economic times that we are in, Michigan really needs as much as we can get,” she said, adding, “the census allocates money” that could go to hospitals, schools police and fire departments.

Local and state governments are also impacted by the results of the census.

“We could lose representatives in the house or we could gain representation in our government,” McLaren said.

About 25 to 30 students are taking part in the project, spending most of their time on it outside of class. The students meet once a week after school, limited to the amount of class time they can spend on the project.

And they’re getting help from those taking interest in their project, teachers and fellow students. McLaren said Alyse Hoyt, who also teaches at Niles High School, has helped with the technological aspects of producing the radio and video spots.

Up next? McLaren said she’s hoping to get students to write their own editorials about the importance of the 2010 census for area newspapers.

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