Question Starts: Pictures of Practice
What does the routine look like in action?


Using the routine to explore the topic of population density

At the beginning of a unit, Anne Clarke's high school biology class brainstormed ideas about their new topic: population density. What did they know about the topic? What kinds of questions did they have? What were they wondering about this new topic?

Post a list of the question stems in the classrooom to help students brainstorm interesting questions.


The opening conversation provided a perfect opportunity to use the Question Starts routine. Although they would be addressing the general issue of overpopulation in both humans and animals, Anne focused the discussion on Human Populations. Working individually and then in pairs, students used the questions stems from the routine to modify or transform existing questions from the brainstorm and generate and refine new questions. (See student list of questions below.) The lists of questions were shared with the whole group and served as a touch stone for investigation during the unit. Making the list available to students by posting it in the classroom allowed studnets to know when puzzles addresse or when knew infomation about a question was uncovered.


Questions about Human Populations
  • What happens if the human population grows beyond carrying capacity?
  • What effect would global warming (which may lead to famine, drought, economic crisis) have on human populations?
  • What is the impact of war on human populations?
  • Is it possible for humans to live sustainably on planet earth?
  • What triggers intercontinental migration and how can it be slowed down?
  • What are the problems likely to arise as the human population continues to increase?
  • Why is the population predicted to even out in 50 or so years?
  • Currently what kind of factor would make a significant dent in the growing population?
  • What would happen if a laws was imposed to have only one child?
  • Why is population increase a problem?
  • What are the reasons for population growth?
  • Where is the population growth rate highest?
  • Can supply keep pace with demand if the population continues to rise?
  • Will the increasing role of women in business life hold back population growth?
  • What strategies can be used to bring down the rate of population growth?
  • Did the Chinese one-child policy work?
  • What impact would an economic crisis have on human population?
  • Which resources will be lacking if human population continues to increase?
  • Once the population starts to decrease is there a danger that it will go on decreasing?
  • Will the human population level out eventually or will it increase and then fall?
  • Would disease spread more rapidly if there are more people on the planet?
  • Why did the population start increasing dramatically in the 20th century?
  • Will the planet lack the resources in2050 (food, water, etc.) for the predicted number of humans?
  • What are the solutions if the resources will be lacking?
  • What is the biggest reason for population increase/decrease?
  • What effect will population growth have on international relations?
  • How can we slow down the rate of population growth?
  • How will life expectancy changes as population increases?
  • Why is it important to estimate population trends?
  • What role have/will scientific advances play in influencing population trends?
  • How do we know the population statistics and how accurate are they, especially for developing countries?
  • What can be done, apart from making laws, to reduce the fertility rate?