One of the most interesting labs in Regular or AP
®Environmental Science is using cemetery data for human population studies. This 5E covers Several topics from the new AP Environmental Science Course and Exam Description including 3.3 “Survivorship Curves,” 3.8 “Human Population Dynamics” and 3.9 “Demographic Transition” and 8.15 “Pathogens and Infectious Disease”.
The Cemetery Lab is also good for AP Science Practices of data analysis, math calculations, and text analysis as well as NGSS Science and Engineering Practices.
The lab takes 2-3 class periods (45-50 min) with homework.
For copies of all the Cemetery 5E Lab files, scroll down to “Materials and Supplies”
Different Ways to do the Cemetery Lab
- Go to a real cemetery with students
- Take pictures at a cemetery and use the pictures in lab (shown above)
- Use “made-up” tombstones from a file and post around the room
- Use a database of tombstone data from a real cemetery
Cemetery Lab Pictures or Databases
What you choose depends on your resources. If you cannot take kids to a real cemetery, I highly recommend going to a local old cemetery and taking pictures of headstones, printing them and have students use for data in the lab. I live in a fairly new town that doesn’t have an old cemetery so my pictures come from nearby Los Angeles which is as local as I can get for my students.
You need 200-400 pictures of headstones with enough pictures of the following:
- Males and Females born before 1900 and after 1900 (about half and half if you can)
- Women who died young-in their 20s and 30s (most before 1900)
- Babies and young children that died (most before 1900)
My pictures are printed from Shutterfly as it was cheaper than color ink on my printer and they will last longer. But, you can always print on regular paper or have students use a digital file of the pictures. I have a pack of 25 pictures for each pair of students (18 pairs per class). Each period of APES analyzes 450 pictures. You can adjust these numbers as needed for smaller classes or less pictures.
Click for a spreadsheet of my raw data. If you don’t have pictures of tombstones or take kids to a cemetery, you can use this data and assign each pair of students 25 names and then they use the spreadsheets as described to combine all the data.
Another option is to print this file of fake tombstones made by AP
® Environmental Science teacher Michelle Miller Fagen and post around the room, lab, hallway or other location.
Another option is to use an online database of burials in a cemetery. Find a Grave is one site that does this.
I do not have advice for going to a real cemetery as I have never taken students to one.
Materials and Set up for the Cemetery Lab
Materials for Day 1 of the lab (about 50 minutes)
- A copy of the Cemetery Lab PDF. This is the lab in an editable Google Doc (but the formatting is a little off).
- A set of Tables 1 & 2, 3 & 4 per pair of students. This can be laminated or placed in plastic sleeves if you want to save paper. Students do not need to keep these papers as they are used for calculations that are entered into a class spreadsheet.
- Vis-A-Vis pens or thin Expo markers if using laminated copies/plastic sleeves.
- Directions for Tables 3&4 (can be a class set)
- Pictures of tombstones, or fake tombstones, or a database of graves.
- Access to Google Sheets for a shared spreadsheet. Read part II of the post for links and instructions for the spreadsheet.
For Day 2 of the lab (about 45-50 minutes), student need:
- Access to the class spreadsheet
- A graph handout
Students can finish the graph at home as needed. I also assigned “Explain: Student Sense-Making” on page 2 for homework.
Day 3 of the lab (50 minutes) is best done in class to avoid students copying from each other, but this can also be given as homework.
The remainder of the lab “Elaborate” and “Evaluate” are easily done as homework.
My students use their cell phone flashlights to do the lab which makes it more fun. Some even make a lantern with their phones and a beaker of water.
Go to the next post for details about each part of this 5E Cemetery Lab.
Human Population 5E Lab Using Cemetery Data Part II
For more population resources, I have two items on TPT: Population Math Packet with formulas, 3 practice worksheets, practice quiz, quiz with FRQ and answer keys. Also, Draw an Age-Structure Diagram (Population Pyramid).
For more labs per unit in AP
® Environmental Science, click on this link.
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