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What's in my Backpack?

A Story About School Supplies

By, Sarah Richter

By Sarah Richter

On the first day of class when you bring EVERYTHING to school, aren’t you just excited? And tired, and worn. Well, I’m not saying that I can solve your problems, but I’m saying how does all of this get into your backpack? Well, yeah, you could say it came from the store, but do you really think that supplies just appear in a school store? No, many people work hard to make sure that you are getting the perfect supplies to last throughout the whole school year. Let’s find out how these people work so hard. You know, the steps, the process. Let’s go!

Out of everything in your backpack, personally, a pencil must be one of the most important supplies. That’s why a pencil sharpener must be in at least the top 5 most important. Here is how pencil sharpener is made.

How Does a Pencil Sharpener get into my Backpack?

1) A rod of, most likely magnesium, is cut into small, metal cubes.

5) Then the block is trimmed down so nothing cuts the user.

3) All of the blocks are put onto a conveyor belt, where they will get a hole drilled into the side of them. Another hole is drilled into the top for where the metal screw that holds everything together is supposed to go.

  1. 2) These blocks are put into a bin all together and sent into a machine. This machine shapes the soon to be sharpeners so that there is grip for the user

4)  Another machine cuts out the area that the blade will go.

6) The blocks are washed in, most likely, nitric acid

8) The sharpeners are sent for shipping!

The blade to the pencil sharpener is the 'sharp' in 'sharpener'! You can't have a sharp pencil without a blade to sharpen it! Here's how a pencil sharpener is made:

  1. 1) Pieces of metal are washed and dried many (and I mean many!) times.

7) The blade and the sharpener body are fused together using a little, tiny screw.

How is the BLADE made?

  1. 2) Then these pieces of metal are sorted so the all face the same way. The pieces of metal are then sent into a machine that sharpens all of the pieces of metal so that they are now BLADES!

How Does a Mechanical Pencil get into my Backpack?

1) At a factory, the mechanical pencil barrel is made with a machine. Here, the tip is also made. The tips of the pencils are made with screw indentations for an extra grip on the pencil. These parts are taken to an assembly plant.

This mixture is heated, then rolled out. Afterward, it is cut. 

Nowadays, there are no more regular pencils. You know what replaced them? Mechanical pencils. Now you don’t have to be that one kid who decides to sharpen their pencil as a teacher is talking. Let’s find out how these innovative pencils are made:

Now let’s find out how the lead/graphite is made:

  1. First, pencil lead is made up of a mixture of graphite and clay.

Lastly, the lead is sent to the assembly plant

2) Back at the assembly plant, an assembly worker puts the gear that pushes the lead/graphite forward, into the barrel. Another worker checks to make sure that the pencil is working properly so far.

4) All of the tips are screwed on, and the erasers are fit on the back.

All of the pencils are ready for shipping!

3) All of the mechanical pencils are put onto an assembly line, where the lead is put into the pencil. The lead barrel has to be able to hold 5 to 10 pieces of lead ( for those kids who ‘like to be prepared’ ).

How Does a Binder Get into my Backpack?

A binder is one of the necessities in school as you get older. The way that they are made ensures a last throughout the whole year. This is how a binder is made.

5) Three binder rings are put on. The rings are a metal surface with alike rings attached. This is stuck onto the spine using different types of pins.


1) Plain 2 feet long pieces of cardboard are cut about 12x11 inches.


3) So the sheets will stick even more together, a sewing machine-like mechanism joins these layers by ‘sewing’ the edges.

2) This board is covered in a fine paste that will adhere a plastic layer for the top and all around. This plastic is put on the board.


4) A rolling pin-like machine pushes down on these joined layers to take out all of the air bubbles. This makes the board nice and smooth, it also joins these layer even more ( as if it’s not secure enough already! ).

7) All of the binders is evaluated to make sure every part of it is working properly so far. The cardboard is tested to make sure it's solid,  all of the seals are checked to make sure they’re closed, and last but not least, the rings are put under a test to make sure that they can handle a lot of the schoolwork pressure.


The binder is sent for shipping.


6) To ‘make sure it’s secure’ another machine pushes onto the pins lodging them into the spine of the binder.


How Does a Water Bottle Get into My Backpack?

If you look around a classroom, you can see that around half of a class has something that varies in color, shape, and size. What is it? It’s a water bottle! Bottled water has been around since 1621, and now there are water bottles that keep the drink cold/hot, fruit infused, and so much more! But, how are the most common water bottles made?


2) These pieces of plastic are put into another frame with a little, circular shaped mold. This tube-shaped object is then moved into a third frame with the shape of an actual water bottle.

1) These bottles start as pieces of plastic that no one loved, and they are warmed and put into shaped frames.

All of the bottles are shipped!

3) A mandrel, a steel pole, is put into the bottle mold as it releases pressured air, so the tube takes shape of a water bottle. To help dry the plastic, either water is sent through the pipes that are around the mold, or the bottle is blown with carbon dioxide/pressured air.

4) When the bottle dries completely, it is taken out of the mold. Then it’s trimmed in areas so that no one gets cut.


How Does a Highlighter Get into My Backpack?

5) The clear tubes are put onto a conveyor belt.

Imagine the world without highlighters. That would be a very very sad and dark place of underlining? Let’s find out how these majestic neon wonders are made:

3) Water cools the plastic.


1) Plastic pellets are put into a machine that will melt them. A couple of the pellets are different colors, like yellow and pink. These are here so the plastic has some color.

7) To make the ink, a few drops of dye are put into a beaker of water.

6) A machine inserts the ink cartridges into the clear tubes. Immediately after, the backs to the highlighter are put into the end of the highlighter tube.

2) A screw made out of steel pushes the melted plastic into molds that look like a highlighter. The force of this machine is equivalent to about the weight of 244,186 gallons of milk.

4)  All of the plastic tubes are placed into a bin altogether.

The highlighters are tested and sent for shipping!

There are many different combinations of dye that make highlighter ink. Pyranine is used commonly in yellow highlighters, Sometimes this is mixed with another dye called triphenylmethane, which is used in blue highlighters, to make green dye. Fluorescein is also used in yellow ink. Triphenylmethane is mixed with rhodamine to make pink ink. Lastly, xanthene dye is mixed with coumarin dye to make orange ink. Confusing, right? The thickness of these inks are measured using a steel rod-like tool.


8) A machine very similar to a vacuum puts the ink into the cartridges using metal needles.

10) Another conveyor belt puts the caps onto the highlighters.

9) Highlighter tips are put on the tops of the highlighters using a conveyor belt.

Remember in kindergarten, when all you did was use markers. Sure, if you pressed too hard the paper would rip, but it was ART. But have you ever asked, in your several years of life, how is a marker made? If you have, you have come to the right place.

How Does a Marker Get into My Backpack?

2) To finish off the marker body, a machine assembles all of the parts together.

1) In a very similar way to how the highlighter plastic was made, a batch of plastic is made.

This plastic is injection molded into a marker body.

You may wonder, ‘What’s injection molding?’, injection molding is when a material is heated into a liquid form, and being shoved or injected into a template of your desired shape. Then letting it dry and solidify.

3) Then the dye is made.

The markers are tested, and sent for shipping!

The marker ink or dye, is the key part to the marker. I mean, what would be a marker without the ink? A piece of plastic that is. These are the guidelines to making marker dye. 1-10% of the ink is water, it's a very small amount. The rest of the dye is either made up of alkyl or alkylene carbonate and other chemicals.

How Does a Composition Notebook get into my Backpack?

The composition notebook has been used for ages. The cover type of design were first presented in China, in the 10th century! These books are used by many artists. But, how are they made? Let’s see!

2) The paper is made:


1) Chopped wood is processed into pulp using a machine.

3) This bleached paper-like pulp is spread out onto frames and set out to dry.

1) Composition notebook covers used to be made using a technique called pseudo marbling. But now, the cover's design is printed onto pieces of cardboard.

Paper is surprisingly made from trees! But, we don’t just chop slivers of a tree and call it a day. This is how the paper is made:


2) This pulp is bleached, and the cellulose fibers are removed.

The notebook is sent for shipping!

4) Then lines and such are stamped on with another machine.

Back to the notebook:

3) Sheets of paper is sewed to the spine, this is so the pages don’t tear loose easily.

There you have it! That is how most of the things in our backpacks get to the stores. Now, the last step is to… Shop away!


This survey was created using google forms. The objective of this survey was to discover the most loved highlighter color of the people. The people that were surveyed were students in Mrs. Jones' class (you guys). This survey showed how many people enjoyed specific colors.