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Grade 3-5

Where Did That Pencil Come From?

Time: 45 mins,
Updated: August 1 2019,


Students will be able to:

  • Describe how natural resources are used to produce goods and services.
  • Compare which natural resources are located in different states.

In this economics lesson, students will research natural resources and illustrate how they are used to provide goods and services.



Open the PPT slides and project the slides on a projector screen. Introduce the lesson by showing the class slide #2 with pictures of a tree, coal and water. Ask students the following question:

1. What do these three things have in common?

Field answers and guide the discussion to the answer by stating that they are all examples of natural resources. Explain that natural resources are sometimes called “gifts of nature” that can be used to make goods or provide services people want.


Lead students through the slides #3-6. Show students how to use the National Geographic Kids: U.S. States and where they can locate the natural resources for each state.

Group Activity

Place students to work in small groups of 2-3. Distribute a copy of Natural Resources worksheet to each student. Direct students to visit the National Geographic Kids: U.S States. Upon completion, they will present their findings to the class.

Individual Activity

Distribute a copy of What Makes Up a Pencil worksheet. Have students complete the handout on the natural resources needed to make a pencil. To help students, display slide #4 on the projector screen.


Write the following statement on the board. Have students complete the statement below and submit their answer.

We use ______ (natural resource) from ______ (state) to make _________ (good or service).


Activity 1

Have the students watch the YouTube video Thomas Thwaites: How I Built a Toaster-From Scratch. This video explains how he gathered the resources needed to make a toaster from scratch as a way to illustrate how complex the manufacturing process can be for resources used to make even “simple” household appliances.

Activity 2

Provide students with one-on-one devices or have them work as a group in front of desktop computers. Open the Matching Natural Resources Activity. Review the answers to the activity as a class.

Activity 3

National Geographic Education Activity: Geography of a Pencil. Extend the lesson beyond the U.S. to see which country each natural resource used to make a pencil comes from. Extend the lesson to include trade and transportation concepts.