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January 28, 2016 Assembly Line Simulations By Lindsey Petlak
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    We are smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite cross-curricular units of study: Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times where we examine the Great Depression, particularly in the Midwest region. How could studying something so sad be a favorite? Simple. We explore this topic using some of the most engaging simulations, making the experience relatable, immersive, and hands-on.

    One of the BEST activities I’ve ever done with my kiddos is our simulation of assembly lines. Even if you don’t study the Great Depression, and despite what grade you might teach, you have to try this activity! These simulations have benefits beyond academics: teamwork, STEM skills, and empathy are all benefits from this simple, hands-on activity! For more ideas, fellow blogger, John DePasquale does a first-rate job with simulations in his classroom and writes about it in "Simulations Bring Learning to Life."

     

    BUILD BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE:

    Many free resources are out there to help you build background knowledge about assembly lines. Libraries have great simple texts to support your introduction, and I love showing my students video clips about assembly lines. Here are a few of my favorites:

    SETTING UP SIMULATIONS:

    You could set up assembly lines doing pretty much anything: making a sandwich, putting a toy together, even collating and stapling Scholastic Book Clubs order form fliers (teacher time-saving tip!). For our own class simulations, we set up three assembly lines:

    1. Create toys

    2. Design and build model cars

    3. Wrap fake Hershey Kisses

    To keep things simple I'm only going through the butterfly toy and Hershey Kisses assembly lines, but you can easily swap out the butterflies for balsa car kits.


    TOY CREATION MATERIALS:

    Your materials may vary depending on choice of toy.

    • Foam or chipboard shape cutouts (we used butterflies and a dollar store balsa wood kit)

    • Markers, crayons, colored pencils

    • Blank copy paper

    • Craft accessories (for our butterflies we needed pipe cleaners for antennae)

    TOY CREATION INSTRUCTIONS:

    1. Put students into teams of four to six.

    2. Inform students that there is a dual goal of speed and quality

    3. On blank copy paper, trace around the foam or chipboard shape you have chosen as the toy. Fit as many onto one page as possible. Make copies for each student plus a few extras.

    4. Team members will individually use this as their practice for designing their toy. In our case, design had to be symmetrical since we were working with butterfly wings.

    5. Let students explore and decide upon a design that their assembly line will use. Do not influence them on this part. Some designs will be intricate, others simple. This is part of the student-driven nature of the project.

    6. Once one design is chosen, students need to each choose a role to play in the assembly line (will vary depending on toy). Students discuss and decide upon individual roles as a team.

    7. Pass out toy materials.

    8. Some of the activities, such as the "Hershey Kisses" below, are low-cost and you can go ahead and base winners on the number of products produced within a given time. However, when it comes to something like these butterflies, it's best to give students a set number of components and choose winners based on who completes assembling them first.

    EVALUATION and DISCUSSION:

    • Times are recorded as teams finish. Assembly lines are ranked according to time.

    • As the teacher (I like to have a parent volunteer do this) the second factor is quality control. Examine each group’s finished product(s). Does the design and construction match the original? Is everything put together properly?

    • Rank groups by quality control.

    • Open up discussion comparing finish times and quality control results.

    • Do students notice any correlation or comparison?

    • What do you notice about the designs and/or teamwork of teams with fastest finish times and/or highest quality?

    • How does speed and quality impact production and price?

     


    "HERSHEY KISS" FACTORY SIMULATION:

    Many of the facets of this assembly line simulation are similar to the structure and process in the activity above. Read on to learn more about Hershey Kiss assembly line simulation and its unique elements.

    "HERSHEY KISS" ASSEMBLY MATERIALS:

    • Large bags of round glass pebbles/flattened marbles, like these (can be found at dollar stores)

    • Foil

    • String or ribbon

    • Scissors


     

    "HERSHEY KISS" ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS:

    1. Put students into teams of four to six.

    2. Inform students that there is a dual goal of speed and quality.

    3. Explain each of the ROLES in this assembly line: measuring foil squares, cutting foil squares, placing/wrapping pebble, cutting ribbon/string, placing string inside, wrapping finished kiss with ribbon inside

    4. Once roles are explained, students need to each choose a role to play in the assembly line. Students discuss and decide upon individual roles as a team.

    5. Pass out materials.

    6. Students assume their roles and prepare to begin activity.

    7. For the first few practice rounds, I set a timer for one minute, then three minutes. Groups get used to their roles practicing this way and see how many they complete in the given time frames.

    8. In between the one-minute and three-minute practice rounds, they discuss what worked well, what needs improvement, and what needs changed to work better for speed and quality before the final round.

    9. Once team modifications have been made, choose a final time frame (one or three minutes recommended).

    10. Students assume roles and on teacher command, work assembly lines until time is up.

    EVALUATION and DISCUSSION:

    • Finished quantities of completed kisses are recorded when time is up. Assembly lines are ranked according to quantity within that time frame.

    • The second factor is quality control. As the teacher (or parent volunteer), examine each group’s finished kisses. Are they wrapped properly and completely? Are the ribbons/strings the same size?

    • Rank groups by quality control.

    • Open up discussion comparing finish times and quality control results.

    • Do students notice any correlation or comparison?

    • What do you notice about the teams with fastest finish times and/or highest quality?

    • How could each group improve?

     


     

    BENEFITS BEYOND ACADEMICS:

    Obviously, this activity has close ties to social studies, history, and economics, but what I love most about the assembly line simulations is the behavioral impact on both teams and individuals. Check out some of these auxiliary benefits:

    • teamwork

    • engineering process

    • stamina

    • improvement

    • persistence

    • self-evaluation

    • quality monitoring

    • following directions

    • focus

    • communication

     



    I hope you'll try at least one of these assembly line simulations with your class and let me know how it goes! The benefits weave together curricular standards and beyond to life-long skills!  See you next time, Lindsey

    We are smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite cross-curricular units of study: Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times where we examine the Great Depression, particularly in the Midwest region. How could studying something so sad be a favorite? Simple. We explore this topic using some of the most engaging simulations, making the experience relatable, immersive, and hands-on.

    One of the BEST activities I’ve ever done with my kiddos is our simulation of assembly lines. Even if you don’t study the Great Depression, and despite what grade you might teach, you have to try this activity! These simulations have benefits beyond academics: teamwork, STEM skills, and empathy are all benefits from this simple, hands-on activity! For more ideas, fellow blogger, John DePasquale does a first-rate job with simulations in his classroom and writes about it in "Simulations Bring Learning to Life."

     

    BUILD BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE:

    Many free resources are out there to help you build background knowledge about assembly lines. Libraries have great simple texts to support your introduction, and I love showing my students video clips about assembly lines. Here are a few of my favorites:

    SETTING UP SIMULATIONS:

    You could set up assembly lines doing pretty much anything: making a sandwich, putting a toy together, even collating and stapling Scholastic Book Clubs order form fliers (teacher time-saving tip!). For our own class simulations, we set up three assembly lines:

    1. Create toys

    2. Design and build model cars

    3. Wrap fake Hershey Kisses

    To keep things simple I'm only going through the butterfly toy and Hershey Kisses assembly lines, but you can easily swap out the butterflies for balsa car kits.


    TOY CREATION MATERIALS:

    Your materials may vary depending on choice of toy.

    • Foam or chipboard shape cutouts (we used butterflies and a dollar store balsa wood kit)

    • Markers, crayons, colored pencils

    • Blank copy paper

    • Craft accessories (for our butterflies we needed pipe cleaners for antennae)

    TOY CREATION INSTRUCTIONS:

    1. Put students into teams of four to six.

    2. Inform students that there is a dual goal of speed and quality

    3. On blank copy paper, trace around the foam or chipboard shape you have chosen as the toy. Fit as many onto one page as possible. Make copies for each student plus a few extras.

    4. Team members will individually use this as their practice for designing their toy. In our case, design had to be symmetrical since we were working with butterfly wings.

    5. Let students explore and decide upon a design that their assembly line will use. Do not influence them on this part. Some designs will be intricate, others simple. This is part of the student-driven nature of the project.

    6. Once one design is chosen, students need to each choose a role to play in the assembly line (will vary depending on toy). Students discuss and decide upon individual roles as a team.

    7. Pass out toy materials.

    8. Some of the activities, such as the "Hershey Kisses" below, are low-cost and you can go ahead and base winners on the number of products produced within a given time. However, when it comes to something like these butterflies, it's best to give students a set number of components and choose winners based on who completes assembling them first.

    EVALUATION and DISCUSSION:

    • Times are recorded as teams finish. Assembly lines are ranked according to time.

    • As the teacher (I like to have a parent volunteer do this) the second factor is quality control. Examine each group’s finished product(s). Does the design and construction match the original? Is everything put together properly?

    • Rank groups by quality control.

    • Open up discussion comparing finish times and quality control results.

    • Do students notice any correlation or comparison?

    • What do you notice about the designs and/or teamwork of teams with fastest finish times and/or highest quality?

    • How does speed and quality impact production and price?

     


    "HERSHEY KISS" FACTORY SIMULATION:

    Many of the facets of this assembly line simulation are similar to the structure and process in the activity above. Read on to learn more about Hershey Kiss assembly line simulation and its unique elements.

    "HERSHEY KISS" ASSEMBLY MATERIALS:

    • Large bags of round glass pebbles/flattened marbles, like these (can be found at dollar stores)

    • Foil

    • String or ribbon

    • Scissors


     

    "HERSHEY KISS" ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS:

    1. Put students into teams of four to six.

    2. Inform students that there is a dual goal of speed and quality.

    3. Explain each of the ROLES in this assembly line: measuring foil squares, cutting foil squares, placing/wrapping pebble, cutting ribbon/string, placing string inside, wrapping finished kiss with ribbon inside

    4. Once roles are explained, students need to each choose a role to play in the assembly line. Students discuss and decide upon individual roles as a team.

    5. Pass out materials.

    6. Students assume their roles and prepare to begin activity.

    7. For the first few practice rounds, I set a timer for one minute, then three minutes. Groups get used to their roles practicing this way and see how many they complete in the given time frames.

    8. In between the one-minute and three-minute practice rounds, they discuss what worked well, what needs improvement, and what needs changed to work better for speed and quality before the final round.

    9. Once team modifications have been made, choose a final time frame (one or three minutes recommended).

    10. Students assume roles and on teacher command, work assembly lines until time is up.

    EVALUATION and DISCUSSION:

    • Finished quantities of completed kisses are recorded when time is up. Assembly lines are ranked according to quantity within that time frame.

    • The second factor is quality control. As the teacher (or parent volunteer), examine each group’s finished kisses. Are they wrapped properly and completely? Are the ribbons/strings the same size?

    • Rank groups by quality control.

    • Open up discussion comparing finish times and quality control results.

    • Do students notice any correlation or comparison?

    • What do you notice about the teams with fastest finish times and/or highest quality?

    • How could each group improve?

     


     

    BENEFITS BEYOND ACADEMICS:

    Obviously, this activity has close ties to social studies, history, and economics, but what I love most about the assembly line simulations is the behavioral impact on both teams and individuals. Check out some of these auxiliary benefits:

    • teamwork

    • engineering process

    • stamina

    • improvement

    • persistence

    • self-evaluation

    • quality monitoring

    • following directions

    • focus

    • communication

     



    I hope you'll try at least one of these assembly line simulations with your class and let me know how it goes! The benefits weave together curricular standards and beyond to life-long skills!  See you next time, Lindsey

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