The Life of a T-Shirt: NPR Planet Money Inspired Lesson

I don’t know about your experience but in mine I’ve found that  high schoolers tend to think they know everything. So I just LOVE to teach lessons that make them unusually quiet, sitting on the edge of their seats soaking up “new information.” This lesson is inspired from the T-shirt project, a series put on and researched by National Public Radio’s Planet Money. It is a fascinating lesson on the global process and economics of making a simple T-shirt.


  • 2.2.4 Explain government regulations for conserving natural resources.
  • 2.5 Analyze relationships between the economic system and consumer actions.


  • Where do T-shirts come from? Ask students to guess on what they think the process is for a company like Jockey.
  • Ask students to look at the tags on the clothing they are wearing and make a tally on the board of where each garment is made.


  • Computer Access

Background for Teachers

  • So there are several ways to do this lesson. You can have students listen to the episodes through podcasts or you can have them go to the website and watch the series. The episodes (audio) are slightly different than the video. There are also written articles for each step in the T-shirt process that have additional details and pictures on the website.
  • This is kind of a self guided lesson with NPR stories delivering content so it is a good option for a substitute lesson or homework assignment if you so choose.
  • So you can either go through each episode all together as a class or have students do it on their own in the computer lab at their own pace. The advantages to doing it as a class is you can have interaction and discussion after each episode. The advantages to having students do a self study is that they are more likely to be able to answer the questions on the worksheet and map assignment because they can pause the audio/video and review as needed.


  • After listening to the episodes, students are to use the website and their notes to track the T-shirt as well as the money/profits across the world and make a neat diagram/pictorial representation of the process on the blank Map provided.


Listen to the episodes of Planet Money’s T-shirt Project or watch them here. Have students take notes as they listen. There is a worksheet that asks questions of the episodes and critical thinking questions that require research or opinion. This can either be done in class or as homework.


  • Reactions to the story as a whole? What part of the story made you the most surprised? What made you the most concerned?



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