Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 4-12, students explore BrainPOP resources to learn about the U.S. Census. As they discover the benefits and the drawbacks of a population count, students determine if they are in favor of or against it, taking notes to support their position and have a class debate.  


Students will:

  1. Brainstorm what they know about the U.S. Census.
  2. Watch a BrainPOP movie about the census, taking notes identifying pros and cons.
  3. Take a position for or against the census and debate it.



  • Preview the movie Census to plan for any adaptations.
  • Assign the Census Make-a-Map using the Assignment Builder.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Tell students that a census is a population count and that it happens once every ten years in the United States. Ask students why they think we count the population. What’s the reason? Jot their ideas on the board. After they share their ideas, ask why some people might not like the idea of a census. Why might they not want to share their information with the government?
  2. Display the BrainPOP movie Census on an interactive whiteboard. Read, or invite a volunteer to read, the summary below the movie player.
  3. Play the movie. Turn on the closed caption option to aid in comprehension. Pause for key concepts and discuss their meaning. You may also use the Census Discussion Prompts while watching the movie.
  4. Next, have students open the Make-a-Map assignment if you assigned it (see Preparation) or simply have them open Make-a-Map from the Census topic page. Instruct them to create their own map using blank nodes set up side by side to construct two columns as shown above. (Alternatively, they can create a two-column chart offline.)  
  5. Ask students to watch the movie from within Make-a-Map, have them identify the pros and cons of the U.S. Census. Remind students that they can put images and video clips from the movie into their maps.
  6. Have students review their maps and choose whether they support the census or not. They may want to watch the movie again to look for additional points to support their side.
  7. Next have the class debate their positions, using their notes to support their arguments. You can serve as the moderator.
  8. After the debate, invite students to determine who they think won the debate and why.