March 17, 2010
With U.S. Census forms arriving in households across the city, Chicago Public Schools students have been completing projects about the importance of the national population headcount which occurs once every 10 years.
This week marks Census in Schools Week, and students from several CPS schools, together with Chief Education Officer Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, marked the occasion by presenting census-related projects and activities in which they have been involved.
Through Census in Schools, age- and grade-appropriate lessons were made available to educators via the U.S. Census Bureau. Resources provided through this initiative aim to teach students about the importance of the census so children can help deliver this message to their families.
Today at Hanson Park Elementary School, 5411 W. Fullerton, students there displayed a mural they created with a census-based theme.
Also present were Prosser High School students who designed and constructed a bench which was painted by their colleagues in art class to reflect the importance of being counted. Prosser students also led community outreach efforts, sharing census information with parents at nearby elementary schools, and partnered with the Northwest Neighborhood Federation in canvassing the community.
Students from Kelly High School attended the event as well. At Kelly, students handed out census fliers at local businesses and churches and at Orange Line stops. One Kelly student created a rap song on the importance of the census. Students at the southwest side high school are planning a texting campaign to further promote a complete count.
Other notable activities or projects at CPS schools include:
- At Clemente High School, students canvassed the Humboldt Park neighborhood, visiting more than 500 homes.
- At Peck Elementary School, students held a mock census, then displayed the results in the school’s hallways and classrooms.
- At Gary Elementary School, students created census-related poetry which is posted throughout the school.
- At Wentworth School, teachers incorporated census into the lesson plan and students created census artwork and songs.
- At Juarez High School, the entire freshman class is completing a project in which they have gone out on weekends and knocked on doors to stress the importance of census.
- At Washington High School, students created a PowerPoint presentation on the census which was then presented to various social studies classes. Students who attended these presentations were then given slips to take home and get signed once their families had filled out and returned the census forms.
- At Dyett High School, students engaged in an awareness campaign by creating fliers and posters and further promoted the census by bringing home cards to be signed by their families once census forms were completed.
“The census has been a teachable moment for our students … a real-time civics lesson,” said Dr. Eason-Watkins. “Through the Census in Schools program and their own projects and activities, students have learned the importance of ensuring that everyone is counted and the reasons behind the importance of census. It is very gratifying to us that so many of our schools and students have used this opportunity in such a productive manner.”
Beyond its outreach to schools, CPS has promoted efforts at increasing participation in census throughout Chicago in a variety of ways:
- Dedicated space on the CPS website to the census and school activities such as those described above.
- Used the district’s automated phone calling system to place some 260,000 “robo-calls” to CPS families underlining the importance of the completing and returning the census form.
- Worked with the U.S. Census Bureau and former professional athletes who went to various CPS schools to discuss the census.
- Engaged in outreach to various multi-lingual parent councils and bilingual advisory councils on the importance of the national census.
All of these efforts together will help contribute to the goal of maximizing census participation among Chicagoans, said Chicago Board of Education Vice President Clare Muñana, who is also co-chairperson for the City of Chicago’s 2010 Census Complete Count Committee.
“CPS, like school districts all over the country, was asked to educate our students on the importance of the national census,” Muñana said. “This is an extremely important effort for all of us in Chicago and our school district has responded admirably.”
Chicago Public Schools serves 417,855 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.