From Here to There (and Everywhere) – Supply Chains

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in 8-10, Transportation | 0 comments

This lesson introduces students to the concept of supply chains and the transportation and distribution channels involved in the flow of resources and goods through the Port of Prince Rupert. Students compare some of the key characteristics of local and regional production with those of global production. They identify the major components of a bicycle and develop a drawing of a supply chain for a bicycle manufactured in China and sold in North America. This lesson is informed by the big idea of Interconnectedness.


2-3 teacher-directed sessions of 40-50 minutes; 1-2 sessions of 40-50 minutes for student project work and presentation


Students will:

  • Identify and describe the physical channels of distribution or transport modes involved in the flow of products and services from producer to consumer
  • Compare traditional, local methods of production with contemporary, global methods of production
  • Demonstrate an understanding of a supply chain and map a supply chain for a common household object that may be imported through the Port of Prince Rupert
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how the major types of surface transportation modes used across North America and the Pacific Rim that facilitate international trade



Computer and projector or Smart Board TEACHER PREPARATION

  • Set up computer and projector, or Smart Board, to show the various visual resources used in this lesson
  • Become familiar with some of the details of the history and traditions of the Chilkat Blanket. (See Resources section for a brief overview.)

CRITICAL VOCABULARY (see Glossary for definitions)

Commodity, Import, Raw material, Distribution network, International trade, Resources, Export, Local production, Supply chain, Global production, Natural resource, Surface transportation, Good, Product, Transport mode


  • Using a computer and projector or Smart Board, show students the images of the Ts’msyen robe (made in 1918).
  • Ensure that students take note of the materials that the robe is made from (i.e. bear hide, pigment and cord). Ask students to reflect on where and how the robe was made and from what materials/resources. Where would the materials have come from? Record students’ responses on the board.

  • Using a computer and projector or Smart Board, show students the images of the Chilkat Blankets.
  • Ask students what they know about Chilkat Blankets. Are they aware that the weaving method and style of the blankets originated with the Ts’msyn people? Again, ensure that students take note of the materials that the blanket is made from (i.e. mountain goat wool and cedar bark). Ask students to reflect on where, how and by whom such blankets were made and where the materials would have come from. (Refer to Chilkat Blankets resource, in Attachments below, for information.) Record students’ responses on the board.

  • Now ask students to look at the label in a clothing or footwear item the have at school to identify where they were made.
  • Give each student a sticker and, in twos or threes, have them come up to the world map and place the sticker somewhere on the country in which their item of clothing or footwear was made.
  • When all students have placed their stickers, review the results. (Textile manufacturing is today primarily concentrated in China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Turkey. The placement of the students’ stickers will likely reflect this.) Ask students why clothing or footwear destined for the North American market is manufactured in these countries?

    The main reason is comparative advantage. Manufacturing costs are much lower in China, for example, than in Canada or the US. Different factors of production, cost of living and wages account for why products are made in different countries.

    Show students the table, Made in the US or Made in China: What’s the $$ Difference? (in Resources section) as an example of the difference in cost between two similar sets of clothing.

  • Ask students where they think the raw cotton in the Gap jeans comes from.
  • Answer: China is the world’s largest grower of cotton, so it may come from China. However, the US is big grower of cotton too. Cotton is grown in 17 states stretching across the southern half of the United States; Texas is the biggest producer. Ask students:

    • If the raw cotton came from Texas, and the jeans were manufactured in China and then sold to consumers in stores across North America, how do the raw materials and finished garments make their way from one country to another?
    • What modes of surface transportation are involved?
    • Does everything we need for living in Prince Rupert and the Northwest of British Columbia come from our local area? Why do some countries specialize in making certain types of products?
  • Have students work in pairs to describe and quantify the key differences between the type of production involved in the creation of a traditional Ts’msyen robe or Chilkat Blanket and a contemporary pair of jeans. Encourage them to consider differences in methods of gathering/producing the raw materials; cost/value; numbers of garments produced; and the cultural meaning/value of the garment. Ask them to consider the social, economic and environmental implications (benefits and challenges) of each kind of production and distribution. Have students record their ideas in the form of a mind map. (See Resources section for an example.)
  • Invite the pairs to share their ideas with the whole class and, on the board, create a mind map that captures the students’ understanding of the characteristics of local and global production and of the respective social, economic and environmental benefits.


  • Using the projector and computer or Smart Board, show students the map that shows the location of resources, manufacturing sites, and retail sites for a pair of jeans.
  • If you click on the coloured circles, information about the location will appear on the right of the screen. (The map also has videos embedded in them, which are not integral to this lesson, but which you may choose to play to students as an extension of the learning.) Explain to the students that the map represents what is known as a “supply chain”. Share the following definition of supply chain with the students (a projectable version of it may be found in Attachments below):

    Definitions of a “supply chain” … encompass the following three functions: i. Supply of materials to a manufacturer; ii. The manufacturing process; and, iii. The distribution of finished goods through a network of distributors and retailers to a final customer. Companies involved in various stages of this process are linked to each other through a supply chain. (Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council)

  • Play the first 5 minutes and 7 seconds of the video, What is Supply Chain Management? This video provides a visually engaging introduction to supply chains by exploring all the steps and processes involved in getting a bottle of water to the consumer. (Students will hopefully be surprised about how complex the process is!)
  • Ask the students, as they watch the video, to consider in particular the transportation requirements for producing a bottle of water and getting it to the store.

    After watching the video, lead a discussion with the students about what they have learned from it. Questions could include:

    • What did you find most surprising or interesting about the process described?
    • Does this change how you think about a bottle of water (or any other consumer item)? In what way?
    • The video used pictures of trucks to represent the transportation components of the supply chain. What other modes of surface transportation might be involved in the process? How are Prince Rupert and the Northwest of BC connected economic activities that occur elsewhere around the world?
  • Through the discussion above and with instruction as necessary, ensure that the students understand that Prince Rupert, through its port facilities and rail transportation links, is an important hub within the global supply chain for numerous resources and manufactured goods.
  • Cement students’ understanding of Prince Rupert’s role in the global supply chain by showing them the Prince Rupert Port Authority video and the CN Rail video, Transportation Time.

    Ask students what particular advantages the first video claims for the Port of Prince Rupert and its transportation infrastructure. Ensure that students are aware that Prince Rupert is North America’s closest port to key Asian markets. (The Port Authority of Prince Rupert website details this and other strategic advantages.)


  • Remind students of the water bottle supply chain video. For that product, what were the various components that had to come together? (Answer: bottle, bottle cap, label and water.)
  • Tell students that bicycles are one of the imports from Asia to Canada that come through the Port of Prince Rupert. Ask them, what components would need to come together to make a bicycle?
  • Put students into pairs and give them 3-5 minutes to brainstorm and note down as many different parts of a bicycle as they can think of. (Students could also use the mind map structure for this.) Allow students to realize that some parts are made of several other parts (e.g. a bicycle wheel has a tire, a rim, a hub and spokes; a bicycle tire usually has an inner tube and a valve).
  • Have students share their ideas with another pair and edit their notes accordingly.
  • Have the groups of four share their ideas with the whole class and, on the board or a flipchart, create a diagram/mind map of the various components of a bicycle that reflects all students’ ideas.
  • Check the students’ ideas against an actual bicycle (if you are able to bring one in) or a diagram of a bicycle to ensure that the list of components the class has is as complete as possible.


  • In the same groups of four and working with the class list of bicycle components, students identify the following:
    • The materials that each component is made of (e.g. rubber, aluminum, steel, etc.)
    • A probable source country for the materials

    Students can identify the materials and their source countries by doing independent research online. They can also refer to the table of Goods Traded Through the Port of Prince Rupert (see Attachments below). Suggest that students record their findings as a table.

  • Have students share with the class the different materials and source countries that they have identified. Make a master list of major materials and their source countries on the board. If you wish, use stickers or sticky notes to mark the countries/materials on the world map.
  • Show students the images of the Qingdao Container Port in China and the Chicago Rail Yard. Explain that:
    • These represent the start and end points of the assembled bicycle’s journey (as well as that for countless other consumer goods)
    • The Qingdao port is one of many in China and the rail yard shown is one of many in Chicago.

    Give students some time to reflect upon the vastness of the enterprise that is International Trade. Prompt their thoughts by asking them how the scale of the infrastructure in China and Chicago (as suggested in the two images) compares to that of Prince Rupert. Ask them to consider if this is where Prince Rupert is heading.


  • Explain to students that, in their groups of four, they will draw a supply chain for their bicycle. The supply chain will be based on the information they have gathered about the components, materials and source countries and on the assumption that the bicycle is manufactured in China and is imported to North America through the Port of Prince Rupert.
  • Show students some examples of different ways to draw a supply chain. (If you do a Google Image search on “Supply Chain” you will find lots of varied examples to share and to discuss with the students.) These examples should give the groups some ideas and inspiration for the form and style of their own supply chain
  • Lead the class in the collaborative development of assessment criteria for their supply chains. Criteria could include:
    • Completeness/comprehensiveness of information
    • Sound logic/sequencing of the stages of the chain
    • Clarity of presentation

    Students can produce their supply chain by hand or on a computer.

  • Groups present their supply to the class and submit for teacher assessment.


  • When students are brainstorming the bicycle components, they could refer to some pictures of bicycles. Canadian Tire online and Walmart online have the kind of bicycles that are made in China for the Canadian market.
  • Assessment: Limit the number of supply chain stages you wish students to include in their drawing


Made in Canada: Bicycles

While most of the bicycles available for sale in Canada are made in Asia, professional quality bicycles (for serious and competitive cyclists) are still made in Canada. Students could research a domestic bicycle brand and produce a supply chain for that brand. (They will likely find that some of the components are still made overseas!) This article from Canadian Cycling Magazine provides a good starting point for the students’ research.




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