For the Teacher

Lesson Overview

This module was created to accompany “Understanding the Changing Planet” Chapter 4: How and Where Will 10 Billion People Live on Earth? Through the use of interactive maps, students will learn what role the geographical sciences have to play in understanding human settlement over the past 2000 years, the visualization of urban growth in one region in China, and how this relates to growth in your own city.

Estimated Time

This activity should take a total of 90 minutes for your students to complete.  You can separate these activities into 45-minute segments, choose one of the two activities for a 15- or 20-minute experience, or you can assign the activities for homework.  Your students will be able to freely obtain all tools necessary to complete these activities independently should you so choose for them to complete these on their own.


  • Photocopy one copy of student answer sheet for each student to hand in or turn in digitally.
  • Have the students use the interactive pdf and email you their answers on the pdf
  • Computer with internet connection
  • ArcGIS Explorer Online requires the Silverlight 4 platform from Microsoft, and a browser which supports the Silverlight plug-in, for example current versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer or Google Chrome on Microsoft Windows, or Safari on Macintosh OS. You do not have to install any Esri software on your computer, because the application runs within the existing web browser.
  • Understanding the Changing Planet online website--Module 4: Settlement
  • Unfiltered access to ArcGIS Explorer online (Free online mapping application that needs Silverlight plugin:

    Student Answer Sheet


The student will be able to:

  • Use maps to interpret and analyze data
  • Analyze patterns of settlement globally, regionally, and locally

Teacher Notes

Lesson Introduction

Have students watch the YouTube video “7 Billion” and then read the “How and Where Will 10 Billion People Live on Earth?” paragraph to provide them with some background knowledge of urban population growth and U.N. projections of growth over the next forty years. 

How and Where Will 10 Billion People Live on Earth?

We live in the century of the city. In 2008, humanity crossed a milestone as it marked the first time that more people lived in urban areas than any other type of settlement. The United Nations forecasts that most of the global population growth in the coming decades will occur in urban areas. World population is expected to increase by 1 billion to 5 billion between 2007 and 2050 (UN, 2009), 1  yielding a global total of between 7.9 and 12 billion people by 2050 depending on fertility and mortality trends (Figure 4.1).2 Under the medium-growth scenario, world population will be almost 10 billion by 2050, with an estimated 3.1 billion new urban dwellers.3  (UCP, 49)

Ask students to hypothesize how population centers may have changed over time.  They can write their answers on their Student Answer Sheet (on paper or digitally).

Instruct students that they will be investigating two geographic investigations of actual urban settlement over the past 2000 years to present.  Tell them to continue filling out their answer sheets with their thoughts and conclusions and that they will be “collected” at the conclusion of the exercise. If you would like to minimize class time for the answer part of the activity, you can assign this for homework where the students can review the interactive maps and do research on the Internet and in their textbooks to help them to answer the questions.

Geographic Investigation: Change Over Time

In this short investigation 1 of the Settlement Module, the investigation requires the student to click through an interactive presentation of the top ten populated cities since the year 100 CE through 2005 CE.  This investigation sets the scene for the student to think about how and where cities have grown over the past 2000 years. Students should record their observations on how the cities change over time and they can click on any city at any time during the presentation for more information.   This part of the exercise should take approximately fifteen minutes. Have the students answer the questions for the remainder of the class period. If they do not complete the answers, they can finish them for homework.

Geographic Investigation: Urbanization

In this short investigation 2 of the Settlement Module, the investigation asks the students to view the Pearl River region in China. Students can read the brief description of the satellite photos and compare the two images. The students will answer one question relative to the change in population of this region.

The students will then progress to the ChangeMatters Viewer to look at the region the students live in. This viewer has three images, one from 1975, one from 2005 and the change in vegetation in that 30 year period of time. The students will answer one question regarding the change in the region where they live.

        Student Answer Sheet KEY


Credits and References

  • All data and maps in this lesson are to be used for educational purposes only. It is not to be used for research purposes.

    Top Cities Through Time

    Years 100, 1000, 1500, 1800, 1900, 1950 data compiled from Original Source for Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Census by Tertius Chandler. 1987, St. David's University Press.

    Year 2000 and 2005 data compiled from United Nations Population Division for use with Understanding the Changing Planet.  The creative selection, coordination, data and selection is original to the author.  Only non-copyrightable facts were used.

    ArcGIS Online Map

    Presentation link:

    Map link:

    Urbanization of the Pearl River Delta

    NASA Earth Observatory

    Landsat Imagery

    Esri Understanding Our World website

    Authors: B. Duke, A. Palmer & R. Palmer

Share This Resource