Grade K-2, 3-5

Lean on Me — We depend on each other!

Updated: October 16 2017,
Author: Abbejean Kehler

The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate that the production of most goods can be broken down into a number of specific tasks (division of labor), with each of these tasks assigned to specific workers (specialization.)



In this lesson students may easily discern how an assembly line works, but it is important to use an activity like this one to reinforce the underlying principles such as interdependence, specialization and division of labor.

Learning Objectives

  • Have the opportunity to see how an assembly line is formed.
  • Experience division of labor and specialization.
  • Arrange in sequential order individuals on whom they might depend.

Resource List



  • Division of labor occurs when the production of a good is broken down into separate tasks, with different workers performing each task.
  • Specialization and division of labor usually increase the productivity of workers.
  • Greater specialization leads to increasing interdependence among producers and consumers.

[Note to teacher: You may choose to do any combination of the activities described or to adapt them to your students by creating shorter or more complicated assembly line experiences.]

Activity 1:
Students will reassemble boxes of crayons. One group of students will work on the task individually and the other group will organize themselves as an assembly line, and specialize.

Divide the students into groups of four or five. Have them arrange their chairs and desks to form a common work surface. You will need a new box of 8, 12 or 24 crayons per student (use boxes of all the same crayon count). Place one box of crayons per student on each table. Ask each group to open the box and spill the contents in a large pile in the middle, mixing up the crayons as they add more. Have your students carefully unfold the box so that it is flattened.

Explain to the students that it is their individual task to put one box of crayons back together per student and that you will time their group effort. Ask the children to raise their hands when they have finished, and record the time on the board (keep track for each group). Do not keep track of which student has finished in which time; it is more important to see how long it takes to put all the boxes back together. When all the boxes have been reassembled count up the total time for each of the groups–e.g., group A took X minutes, group B took Y minutes etc. crayon box

[Note to teacher: Remind the students that they will have to put the correct crayon colors back in the respective boxes. You might consider discussing the different colors that can be found in a crayon box using the web site as a guide.]

Ask the students if they could think of a way to make the job easier. You will want to encourage of them the idea that they might first sort the crayons according to color, then each student could place several crayons in the box and then hand the box to the next child until the box is back together, and filled properly. All the students could work to sort the crayons and each could participate in the reloading of each box. Record the time for this round. Have your students refer to the tip sheet if they need some help thinking of ways they could improve their assembly line. The tip sheet is located on the students version.

Whether or not they were successful, was the job easier? What happened if one of the students got behind? What happened when the work piled up? What if one of the students was ill on the day this work was to be done?

If the activity moves along well, you may consider repeating it by enlarging the groups and the respective number of crayons.

Activity 2:
Have the students look at the three rows of pictures. The pictures in the series show a consumer using a good or service that is the end result of the other four pictures, each of which illustrates a step in the production of the good or service. These steps are not in the right order – have each student place them in the right order. When you have completed this, check to see if each student has put them in the right sequence. Click here for the following links to print the activities. Order Activity One, Order Activity Two , Order Activity Three. Click on the following links for the interactive activities.Interactive Activity One; Interactive Activity Two; Interactive Activity Three.

Activity 3:
ingredientsThis activity is hands on! The students are going to be in charge of making cookies for each other. You might, however, wish to save this activity until snack time. Provide each student who will touch the food items with plastic gloves and be sure to prepare a clean surface for them to work on. Before beginning, tell them you are going to make a special frosted cookie for each student – brainstorm with the class about what each step might be in the process. Open the package of sugar cookies, count out cookies, put on gloves, open the container of frosting, clean off a work surface, lay out the right number of cookies, locate a safe butter knife or spoon to spread the frosting. You may also wish to add some easy to handle decorations.


Each student should be able to list a number of goods and services she or he use every day that requires the work of others. Students should be able to explain why an assembly line makes the production more efficient and faster than working alone.The students will be able to explain what happens when one member either can not do the job or is not there and the impact it has upon production.

Extension Activity

Go to the and pick a coloring page to complete.


Have the students answer the following questions. They may answer these questions in groups or individually.

View Interactive Activity

  1. Whom do you depend on for a loaf of bread?
    [Answers will vary. Look for Farmers, Distributors, Grocery Stores, Bread makers etc.]
  2. Whom do you depend on for chocolate chip cookies?
    [Answers will vary. Look for Farmers, Distributors, Grocery Stores, Bakers etc.]
  3. Whom do you depend on for store movies?
    [Answers will vary. Look for Filmmakers, Actors, Production Companies, Retail Stores etc.]  
  4. Whom do you depend on for oil in vehicles?
    [Answers will vary. Look for Oil Companies, Gas Companies, Retail Stores etc.] 
  5. Name three workers who help you make your bread.
    [Farmer, Grocer, Baker.]
  6. Name three steps in making the bread.
    [Answers will vary; choose from: Growing the wheat, making the flour, producing the yeast, mixing the ingredients, baking the bread etc.]