ALEX Learning Activity

Putting Henry Ford's Assembly Line to the Test!

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Erin Meacham
System:Homewood City
School:Homewood Middle School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1950
Putting Henry Ford's Assembly Line to the Test!
Digital Tool/Resource:
How to Make a Paper Airplane
Web Address – URL:

This activity will allow students to explore and examine the efficiency of Henry Ford's assembly line in a way that is hands-on and interactive. Students will be competing against one another to see if it is more efficient to create paper airplanes individually or by using the assembly line method. 

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 6
United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
1 ) Explain the impact of industrialization, urbanization, communication, and cultural changes on life in the United States from the late nineteenth century to World War I.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.6.1- Distinguish between the concepts of industrialization and urbanization; identify the importance of new resources and technological advancements on the United States, including petroleum and steel.

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 6
United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
4 ) Identify cultural and economic developments in the United States from 1900 through the 1930s.

•  Describing the impact of various writers, musicians, and artists on American culture during the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age
Examples: Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andrew Wyeth, Frederic Remington, W. C. Handy, Erskine Hawkins, George Gershwin, Zora Neale Hurston (Alabama)

•  Identifying contributions of turn-of-the-century inventors
Examples: George Washington Carver, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Alva Edison, Wilbur and Orville Wright (Alabama)

•  Describing the emergence of the modern woman during the early 1900s
Examples: Amelia Earhart, Zelda Fitzgerald, Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Washington, suffragettes, suffragists, flappers (Alabama)

•  Identifying notable persons of the early 1900s
Examples: Babe Ruth, Charles A. Lindbergh, W. E. B. Du Bois, John T. Scopes (Alabama)

•  Comparing results of the economic policies of the Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover Administrations
Examples: higher wages, increase in consumer goods, collapse of farm economy, extension of personal credit, stock market crash, Immigration Act of 1924

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.6.4- Identify at least one or more inventions and inventors of the late 1800s and early 1900s, including Thomas Edison (practical light bulb), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), George Washington Carver (uses for the peanut), Wright Brothers (airplane), and Henry Ford (affordable car); illustrate the cultural changes of the early 1900s presented by at least one or more individuals including, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, Helen Keller, Babe Ruth, W. C. Handy, and Charles Lindbergh.

Digital Literacy and Computer Science
DLIT (2018)
Grade: 6
7) Describe how automation works to increase efficiency.

Example: Compare the amount of time/work to hand wash a car vs. using an automated car wash.

Learning Objectives:

The students will describe how automation works to increase efficiency.

The students will identify Henry Ford's contributions to the improvements of automation through the assembly line.

The students will explain the impact of industrialization through automation at the turn of the 19th century as well as today.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

1. As a way to initially engage the students, show them a picture of Henry Ford's assembly line from the early 1900's ( and ask the following:

     a. What do you notice? What is going on? (Ideally, students will notice the incorporation of man and machine, or automation, what is being created, etc.)

     b. Do you know what this is called? (Ideally, a student will know this is called an assembly line.)

     c. Do you know who created this technique? (Henry Ford)

2. Have the students think-pair-share on the final question: Do you think it really is faster to separate work like this? Or would it be faster for one person to do it all by him/herself?

3. Once the students have shared their thoughts, inform them that we will be testing it out today. Separate the students into groups of three to four. One group will be the "control" group who will be creating paper airplanes by themselves. In the other groups, the students will each have a specific job on the "assembly line" in creating a paper airplane. (For example, one group member would do the initial fold then pass it to another student to fold it again, then the final student to complete the final fold into the paper airplane form.) The goal is to see if the group of three to four students working individually (completing all steps alone) will create just as many as the other groups working under Henry Ford's model (each group member doing a different step).

4. For consistency purposes all students (those in the control group working individually and those working in the assembly lines) will be making the same type of paper airplanes. To make sure all students understand the process, refer to this website for the step-by-step instructions on how to create "the dart", which is the most basic paper airplane: In the groups that are using an assembly line method for creating paper airplanes, make sure each group member knows which steps he/she is to complete. The control group will be completing all the steps by themselves. 

5. Set five minutes on a timer and have students begin. Once the time is up, have each group count the number of airplanes they were able to create, taking note of the quality of their folds, etc. 

6. Have students reflect on the following (on a separate sheet of paper):

     a. In our experiment, which was faster? The groups who used the assembly line or worked individually? Why do you think this was the case? 

     b. How do you think the creation of the assembly line changed industrialization in America?

     c. What is different about assembly lines today in comparison to when Henry Ford created them?

     d. How has automation changed assembly lines?

Assessment Strategies:

-Teacher observations and notes during the activity. 

-Have students turn in the end of lesson reflection to check for understanding of objectives.

Advanced Preparation:

*Students should already have prior knowledge of the assembly line and Henry Ford's contribution to the car industry prior to this activity.

*The only supplies needed will be paper to make the paper airplanes. You can even cut one piece of paper into fourths and have the students create smaller airplanes to eliminate waste. 

Variation Tips (optional):
Notes or Recommendations (optional):
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