Lesson Plan: Demography and Pandemics in a Warming World

As an Undergraduate Social Sciences or Biological Sciences teacher, you can use this lesson plan to teach your students about demography, population trends, urbanization, and the role of demographics in the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and the increased risk of pandemics due to climate change.

In this lesson plan, students will be taught about population patterns, urbanization, and the relation of demography and the environment. This lesson plan will allow you to teach your students how demographic changes due to factors such as climate change, can make human populations more vulnerable to pandemics like COVID-19.

Through an interactive online activity, this lesson plan will enable students to apply understanding of demographics such as population density and mortality rates on the risk of transmission of an infectious disease like COVID-19 and on the efficacy of vaccination programs against it. Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Social Sciences and Biological Sciences.


Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  1. What is demography and what are the demographic measurements for a population?
  2. What is urbanization and how does it affect human ecology?
  3. What is the relation of demography with the environment?
  4. How does the study of demography help explain the rate of transmission and mortality rates of an infectious disease such as COVID-19?
  5. How do demographic changes due to climate change increase the risk of pandemics?

About Lesson Plan

Grade Level Undergraduate
Discipline Social Sciences, Biological Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline Demography, Population Trends and Patterns

Population Density, Urbanization

Fertility and Mortality Rates, Human Ecology

Climate Topic Climate and the Anthroposphere

Climate and the Biosphere

Location Global
Language(s) English
Access Online,
Time Required
70-90 min


Teaching Module

(30 min)

A teaching module to introduce demography, population trends, urbanization, and the influence of the environment and climate change.

This can be accessed here.


(10 min)

A reading to explain how demographic changes can affect the vulnerability of populations to pandemics like COVID-19.

This can be accessed here.


(10 min)

A report that describes how demographic science helps explain the spread and fatality rates of COVID-19.

This can be accessed here.

Classroom/ Laboratory Activity

(75-90+ min)

An interactive simulation to extend student understanding of the role of demographics in the rate of transmission of various diseases and on the efficacy of vaccines against them.

This can be accessed here.


Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.


1 Introduce the topics of demography, population trends, and urbanization. Use the teaching module, ‘Introduction to Population, Urbanization, and the Environment’ by OpenStaxTM to teach your students about demography, population trends and patterns, fertility and mortality rates, demographic theories, and urbanization. Describe the changing demographics of a population from various sociological perspectives such as climate-induced human migrations. Finally, explain how urbanization has led to environmental concerns that are exacerbated due to climate change.

This can be accessed here.

2 Explain how demography determines the vulnerability of populations to pandemics. Use the article, ‘How Demographic Changes Make Us More Vulnerable to Pandemics Like the Coronavirus’ by Toshiko Kaneda and Charlotte Greenbaum for Population Research Bureau (PRB) to describe how current population trends enable viral transmission and raise the possibility of a pandemic such as COVID-19. Discuss how population mobility has enabled viral transmission across the world and population density has determined the rate of transmission of the disease. Explain how urbanization has greatly influenced the viral transmission of COVID-19. Further, discuss the vulnerability of a population due to age related pattern of mortality. Finally, emphasize how these demographic changes make populations vulnerable to pandemics.

This can be accessed here.

3 Discuss the demographic patterns of transmission of COVID-19. Use the report, ‘Demographic science aids in understanding the spread and fatality rates of COVID-19’ by Jennifer B. Dowd et al. in PNAS to explain the demographic trends of COVID-19 transmission in a population. Emphasize on the relevance of demographic science in elucidating the population patterns observed in the rates of disease transmission and the associated mortality rates.

This can be accessed here.

4 Conduct a classroom/laboratory activity to extend understanding about demographic parameters in the rate of transmission of an infectious disease. Use the interactive lab activity, ‘Disease Lab’ by Annenberg Learner, to enable students to understand the rate of transmission of various hypothetical diseases under changing demographic parameters. This activity can be conducted in conjunction with another lab activity- ‘Demographics Lab’ to better understand the demographic parameters under consideration. Direct the students to follow the instructions given in the activity sheets to analyze the results of the simulations and formulate answers to the given questions. Extend the activity to analyze the scenarios of disease progression with or without vaccination programs. Use the current population and mortality data rates in your region to run the simulations in the context of COVID-19 and summarize the findings.

This can be accessed here.

WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard

World Health Organization Coronavirus disease situation dashboard presents official daily counts of COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide, while providing a hub to other resources. Interactive tools, including maps, epidemic curves and other charts and graphics, with downloadable data, allow users to track and explore the latest trends, numbers and statistics at global, regional and country levels.

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