In this activity students experience and discuss issues of population, wealth, energy and food distribution. They create a classroom map of the world using string as borders of continents and then populate those continents. Wealth, energy and food are distributed in proportion to the actual distribution levels and students write and talk about their experiences.
Students come into the classroom and are randomly sorted into citizens of the five main continents in proportion with the actual population. Each group is given a piece of string to create the outside border of its continent while the other continents do the same in an effort to create the world! Usually the kids do fairly well and then I pull down a world map and they make some adjustments.
After a discussion about population distribution, I hand out chairs to represent wealth, smarties to represent food and matches to represent energy use. I've included reproducible cut-outs to represent these items as an alternative.
Students discuss each of the distributions from the point of view of the various continents' citizens. They finish by generating questions to frame the rest of the unit.
This serves as a great start to a unit on global issues, poverty, food or anything else human geography related.