Teaching Activities (Free)

Paper Airplane Simulation

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. 4 pages.
Students make paper airplanes to learn about the origins and effects of “scientific management,” owners’ attempts to capture workers’ skills and knowledge and then to exploit that knowledge to reorganize work and cut costs by deskilling workers.

Themes: Economics, Labor

PaperAirplane_lineofpeopleWith the help of paper airplanes and chocolate, this lesson shows students a key aspect of the changes occurring at the workplace around the turn of the century: the attempted capture of workers — skill and knowledge by management. The changes in how workplaces were structured and work organized occurred at different paces in different industries and, in modified form, continue today. Systematizing and justifying the new management practices, Frederick Winslow Taylor contributed his name to our language. “Taylorism,” according to the dictionary, means “scientific management.” Students will gain a first-hand appreciation of the impact that “scientific management” had on the lives of working people and will acquire a theoretical understanding of the stages of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management.

Classroom Paper Airplanes Simulation | Zinn Education Project

New York City students engaged in the “Paper Airplane Simulation” activity, Oct. 2015.

The Power In Our Hands Available for Download

This is one of the 16 lessons available from The Power In Our Hands. Other lessons available for individual download are:


Unit I: Basic Understandings

Unit II: Changes in the Workplace/”Scientific Management”

Unit III: Defeats, Victories, Challenges

Unit IV: Our Own Recent Past

Unit V: Continuing Struggle

Order the book online from Monthly Review.