Early Industrial Periods

Hill or Valley: Educator Lesson Plans

These lesson plans covering Technology and Social Change during  Vermont’s early industrial period were created for use at Time Travelers History Camp at the Old Stone House Museum in  2014.  Family dilemmas based on primary sources connect children to historical decisions very effectively.  The past becomes relevant to students’ lives when they identify with historical characters or situations.  Discussions of parallel contemporary issues  contribute to a deeper grasp of such social dilemmas.  Lessons have been adapted for use in the classroom.  Lesson created by Aimee Alexander and Museum Staff with support from VT Humanities Council 2014.

store transaction

Materials: Family scenarios with primary sources (on website); Materials for props: markers, paper, craft supplies, costume items etc.

Online Resources:
Teacher Workshops at The Flynn Center for Preforming Arts
American Precision Museum Unit Plans
Building America’s Industrial Revolution:  The Boott Cotton Mills of Lowell,Massachusetts
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (Library of Congress)
Flow of History Industrial Revolution Lesson Plans
Lowell National Historic Park
Old Sturbridge Village: Collection Search (many primary sources)
Primary Source Analysis Tool (Library of Congress)
Tsongas Industrial History Center


Resources: Books and Articles
America A Narrative History
by George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi
Cotton, Cloth and Conflict: The Meaning of Slavery in a Northern Textile City
by Tsongas Industrial History Center
Hands on the Land
by Jan Albers
Kids Discover: Industrial Revolution (Magazine)
Lowell, The Story of an Industrial City, National Park Handbook
by David Macaulay
Diaries of Sally & Pamela Brown 1832-1838 Plymouth Notch, Vermont
pub. William Bryant Foundation
The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities
by Richard L. Bushman
The Reshaping of Everyday Life 1790-1840
by Lack Larkin

Charles Dickens tells story


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Counselor theatre Lowell letters 2014

Time Travelers’
Hill or Valley, Farm or Factory?

LESSON PLAN                               

Day 1

Warm-up:  Place students in groups of 2-3. Provide students with various objects: paper clip, plastic fork, scissors, cup, pencil, magnifying glass, etc.  Ask students to discuss amongst themselves: How do these objects work?  What purpose do they serve? How are they made? What materials are used?     Why would someone invent such an object?  What might have been used for that purpose before this object was invented?

Then ask what is meant by technology?   Brainstorm technological items in their life. What are the advantages of these items and disadvantages?  Discuss.

Primary Source Lecture/Discussion: Show students examples (actual objects or photographs) of tools used in hand production and examples of the items that eventually replaced these hand tools. Explain what each tool is used for. Then, give a broad overview of the Industrial Revolution. Stress that beginning in the 19th century in the United States, new technologies were developed which converted hand-production to machine production. This had consequences for the economy, the labor market, and for families as they grappled with these new developments.  These technologies impacted the agricultural sector as well by allowing farmers to specialize and market their goods to a greater area, no longer relying on subsistence agriculture. Hill towns in rural areas felt this change as some farmers or members of farm-families moved off the hill and down into the city-centers to find work.

Wrap-up: Distribute family scenarios. Have students do a brief reading of the material and select roles.

Day 2

Activity: Students will do a close reading of their family scenario today, keeping in mind their role in the family and how they would be personally impacted by the situation.  Students will study the primary sources included in their scenario, and for each, should discuss within in their family group the following:

  • What do you notice about the document? Describe what you see/read?
  • What does this document tell you about the time period?
  • Who created this document? Why?
  • Who was the audience for the document?
  • What was the purpose of the document?

Students will use the information they have collected to think about how these documents/images can help them make a decision based on their family problem. How are the documents related to the problem? How can they help?

Day 3

Warm up: Each group will briefly present an overview of their problem to the class. The teacher will lead a discussion of each family scenario to help groups work through their problem.

Activity: Students will gather in their family group to begin making a final decision on how to solve their problem.  Once a decision is made, students will begin creating a skit to present to the class. The skit must:

  • Explain who the family is, where they live, what they do for a living, and what their problem is
  • Refer directly or indirectly to at least 3 of the primary sources
  • Solve the problem
  • Be creative and authentic.

Day 4

Activity: Practice/memorize skit. Make props, if needed.

Wrap-Up:  Discuss amongst family group what might be an equivalent dilemma in their present day family life based on technological change? Identify a problem and figure out a solution.

Day 5

Presentations: Today student groups will present their skits to the class. Classmates should listen carefully; at the end of each skit they will be asked by the teacher if they would have made the same decision.

Wrap-Up:  Ask students to choose a technology to record their presentation for the future. It could be written, drawings, still images, video, or sound recording.  Have students defend the pros and cons of their technological decision.

Additional Activities

Cottage Industries to Factory Production Simulation from The Tsongas Center

Decide Eliza Paige’s Future from The Tsongas Center