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Project Days | June 28, 2019

Pupils learn basics of demography

© MPIDR/Ruhland

At the end of June, tenth grade pupils of Rostock’s Innerstädtisches Gymnasium and the city’s Gymnasium Reutershagen were guests at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR).

What is my life expectancy? How can I manage my pension when I'm old? Or: How can migration in social media data be detected? These and many more questions occupied pupils of the Innerstädtisches Gymnasium and the Gymnasium Reutershagen in Rostock during their respective project days at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) at the end of June.

"If someone asks you what demographers are researching into, you can say: structures and dynamics of populations," says Silvia Leek, Head of Public Relations at the MPIDR, in her introductory lecture. The three major fields of demographic research are aging, fertility, and migration.

“I'm supposed to have five kids”

Using questionnaires and apps, the pupils then themselves delved deeper into these demographic topics. They calculated their life expectancy and the number of children they would have during their life course. “I'm supposed to have five kids,” one pupil calls out to her comrade while laughing. 

During the guided tour through the MPIDR building, the high school students were able to apply their new knowledge immediately. "Until two years ago, we compared the age of ocean quahog from the Baltic Sea with those from the Greenland Sea in our laboratory. They can live to be several hundred years old." said Antje Storek-Langbein, who worked in the laboratory at that time. The researchers discovered that not all living creatures age the way we do. Hydra, for example, do not seem to age at all, so their mortality risk remains the same. But that doesn't mean they'll never die.

During their respective project day at the MPIDR, the pupils experienced demographic research up close and got to know Rostock as a research and university city.

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