The simulation today was a different story. After a brief review of yesterday's class we began the second part of the simulation. This time they were unskilled laborers who worked on an assembly line to mass produce the product, again pairs of rollerblades. Some students were unemployed and waited for the chance to be hired by the overseers to work in the factory. The classes were full of energy as they diligently worked on the assembly line.
Both eighth grade classes did well with the simulation, but the first class was taking the experience to a whole new level! In the first class, the overseers were cruel and harsh tyrants who rant their factories with an iron fist. Anyone who did not meet their expectations was fired immediately. When the factories sped up the assembly lines, work conditions became harsh and a group of students went on "strike." They walked off the job, made signs and protested outside the factories. They even started a petition to improve working conditions! One poor lad found himself in the unemployment line more than once, so he took up panhandling to make ends meet.
The second group meet the challenges in stride. They meet quotas as the factories sped up, with very little complaining. There were very few that were unemployed during the simulation.
At the end of the lesson the eighth graders had to write a paragraph or two describing the experience and explain the differences between the cottage industry and factory life. There is a giant pile of papers to go through sitting in front of me. Hopefully I will see the knowledge they gained from the experiences reflected in their writing.
This activity is courtesy of the Tsongas Industrial History Center and UMASS Lowell. It is from the Workers on the Line Activity Guide.