BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Fifth-graders at Mountain Park learned about the Industrial Revolution in their social studies classes.
The students were assigned roles as factory workers or master craftsmen. They were then told that they had to produce as many "widgets" in 15 minutes as they could. They were given packing peanuts, toothpicks, and blueprints for the widgets.
Factory workers had to work on an assembly line (division of labor). Master craftsmen had to produce the widgets by themselves from start to finish. At the end, the students discovered that the assembly lines were much faster and produced many more widgets, but some of the widgets were rejected for poor quality. None of the master craftsmen's widgets were rejected for quality issues.
Interesting discussions were held after the exercise about how much widgets would cost when they came from a factory versus a craftsman, how boring assembly line work could be, the need for quality control in factories, and the efficiency of interchangeable parts.