Understanding The Industrial Revolution Through Paper Airplanes

img_7276The Industrial Revolution was a turning point in Western Civilization that affected every aspect of daily living. The 9th Grade World Cultures classes are beginning a unit on industrialization and imperialism before launching into globalization. To give them a taste of what the revolution was all about, the classes simulated a factory environment.

Nancy, dressed in foreperson jeans and work shirt, barked out orders to the factory workers: they had to build as many paper airplanes as they can in 5 minutes that could fly a predetermined distance. After a brief planning period, the students attempted a variety of methods to build airplanes. Some students worked together in an assembly-line fashion while others worked independently.

img_7289Then came the quality control. They went out to test the airplanes and only a fraction of them were successfully assembled.

While paper airplanes were never built in factories during the Industrial Revolution (that we know of), this experience gave students a taste of a factory workers’ life: a competitive environment, unreasonable expectations, only seeing a piece of the whole, and experiencing efficiency as the highest value.