India Pop Pyramid

If you were to ask my students what lesson has probably been their favorite from this school year, my guess is most would say the one I’m about to share with you all. For this lesson, my students built population pyramids out of LEGO for 20 minutes and explored Google Expeditions for the other 20 minutes. It was a hit and many students were telling me after class how much they enjoyed these activities.

I got the idea of building population pyramids out of LEGO from my friend and fellow #worldgeochat moderator Jen Garner (@jmgarner2003 ). I have had students build with LEGO before in class as a closure activity and have had great success. I also am always trying to find new ways to incorporate LEGO into my class since reading Play Like A Pirate by Quinn Rollins (@jedikermit), which is filled with ways to integrate LEGO into your classroom. Jen was kind enough to share the idea and her handout for this lesson with me. Jen teaches AP Human Geography so these directions would be a little too much for my 7th graders who had yet to encounter a population pyramid. I quickly realized that I would need something more accessible for my students to start with.

I then found this great TED-Ed (@TED_ED ) video on Population Pyramids. This would be a great intro for my students on what population pyramids are, as well as why they are useful. TED-Ed videos are great not only for the engaging videos themselves but also each comes with supplemental materials too. This lesson includes 6 multiple choice questions and 3 open ended questions about the video, 2 guided discussion questions, and these “Digging Deeper” resources:

U.S. Census Bureau International Data Base

World Population Clock (Worldometers)

NPR’s (@NPR ) 7 Billion: How Did We Get So Big So Fast? video

Population Reference Bureau’s World Population Data Sheet

National Geographic’s (@NatGeoEducation ) Seven Billion: Are You Typical? video

The good news of the decade? TED-Ed Lesson for the Hans Rosling video

Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box (TED Talk Video) (@TEDTalks)


A video about Malala Yousafzai speaks out about the importance of girls becoming educated.

Seriously TED-Ed lessons are fantastic and it is always worth while to check to see if there is one available for the topic you are addressing.

After my students viewed the TED-Ed video on population pyramids they next were going to create a population pyramid out of LEGOs. I selected 5 different pyramids (China, Bangladesh, India, Japan, and Indonesia) from the CIA World Factbook website, my go to statistics website. I made the images large enough on the page so that students could easily replicate them out of LEGO. As they built the pyramids I circulated around and asked them the questions at the bottom of the handouts. You can see some of the types of questions I asked in the image above.

Half of the class worked with me on this lesson for 20 minutes while the other half of the class worked with our Library Director Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher ) exploring 2 different Google Expeditions. The students took the Expeditions “Dhaka Dawning: The Birth of Bangladesh” and “Shanghai”, VR experiences for 2 cities with very large populations. Dhaka’s population is approximately 14.4 million people while Shanghai’s population is 10 million more at approximately 24 million people. I wanted to have the students note the similarities and differences between these two megacities. The students definitely were able to do this yet, there was one small issue in that the Dhaka Expedition was shot at street level, while the Shanghai Expedition was all aerial shots. 

As the students examined the 2 cities, they filled out the See-Think-Wonder sheet from this fantastic Google Expeditions Hyperdoc. This hyperdoc template was created by Karly Moura (@KarlyMoura ). You can read all about how Karly combines Hyperdoc and Google Expeditions in her awesome post, “Google Expeditions & HyperDocs. A Perfect Pairing.”

Student engagement was off the charts for this lesson. Students had the tactile experience of constructing population pyramids, coupled with the immersive experience of the Google Expeditions. This is definitely a lesson that I plan to do again!

How do use LEGO in your class? How have you integrated virtual reality/Google Expeditions into your class?

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t share Josh Williams (@geteach ) awesome website. If you click on select map. Then click on Human Geography. Them click on CIA World Factbook you can get the current stats for that country. What is so awesome is you can repeat the same steps on the other map on the site. Then you can easily compare 2 countries side by side. This is something I will be adding in as a next step after this lesson, for the countries that we build population pyramids for.


One thought on “Integrating LEGO & VR Into Social Studies

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