Programs for Schools

Schools and student groups are welcomed at Slater Mill to explore the birthplace of American industry and innovation.

 Our interpretive program traces the evolution of manufacture, from its home-based origins of the 17th and 18th centuries, to the industrial factory processes of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Manual spinning and weaving, a working water wheel, a machine shop powered by the waters of the Blackstone River, and period industrial textile machinery, are all demonstrated during the tour. A film on the history of life and work in the Blackstone Valley is viewed as a prelude to the tour.

 Slater Mill offers an educational package tour, which may includes a pre-visit in-classroom program, a tour of the museum, and an opportunity to engage in manufacture here in our Apprentice Alcove during the tour visit.

Curriculum Standards
Rhode Island



School tours of the Slater Mill museum campus include an exploration of three historic structures – the 1793 Slater Mill, the 1810 Wilkinson Mill machine shop and waterwheel, and the 1758 Sylvanus Brown House – with demonstrations in each facility that help students understand the evolution of manufacture, from a home-based practice, to factory production, to mass production.

In addition to themes of industry, innovation, engineering, and ingenuity, the educational narrative of Slater Mill includes discussions of social development, immigration, village life, education, and slavery.


An optional add-on program to enhance your tour experience, the Apprentice Alcove provides an opportunity for students to engage in manufacture in the Wilkinson Mill machine shop.  Playing the role of apprentices, students use “human power” to operate simple machines to complete a project for costumed interpreters serving as shop supervisors. This immersive activity gives students a better understanding of the evolution of hand-made, to machine-made, to modern mass production.


Slater Mill serves as backdrop for an immersive program on immigration, in which students play the role of immigrants who have just arrived at Ellis Island.  Through this program, the students share in the experiences and hardships endured by immigrants as they assimilated to American culture, and became factory workers in their new country. Educators receive a packet with materials that provide each student an identity of an actual immigrant, which they assume immediately upon arrival to our “Port of Entry.”


Classroom programs (at your school) are led by a costumed Slater Mill interpreter who visits your classroom for a 90-minute presentation. Classroom programs can be combined with any of our on-site tours as an educational package program.  Traveling programs are led by a costumed interpreter who brings history to life.  Many of our in-classroom interpreters are retired educators with classroom and curriculum experience.

Grades 4, 5, and 6
(Can be modified to suit other grade levels)

The Fiber to Yarn program examines three natural fibers – cotton, wool and flax – and the process of converting the fibers from their natural state into spun yarn. Students are introduced to historically significant processes including picking, shearing, ginning, willowing, hackling, carding and hand spinning.  Each student completes a worksheet as a take-home product.  On completion, the program leaves students with a clear understanding of how fiber is converted to yarn.  Fiber to Yarn is ideal as a stand-alone lesson, or may be combined with any of the on-site programs as an educational package.

Grades 3 to 8
(Most appropriate for the older students)

The Yarn to Fabric program teaches students how cloth is made through weaving. Students weave a bookmark or wristband using a cardboard loom and a plastic shuttle (needle). Students install the “warp” strings on the loom, and using a plastic needle, weave the “weft” strings through the warp.  During the weaving exercise, the Slater Mill costumed interpreter also discusses different styles of weaving, pattern making, factory work, industrial production, and immigration of mill workers.


Grades Pre-K to Grade 2
(Can be modified for higher grade levels)

Based on author Tomie de Paola’s award-winning children’s book of the same name, the Charlie Needs a Cloak program demonstrates the process of turning sheep wool into a finished product – in this case, a cloak.  The Slater Mill costumed interpreter guides the students through each step while reading the story. Hands-on activities are produced as the story unfolds. The program culminates in a simple weaving project, which results in a product that the students may keep.

Grades Pre-K to 2

Anna needs a winter coat. Her mother is determined to find one for her, even though she has little money. What follows is the story of a selfless mother’s plight to barter (trade) her personal items with the local farmer, spinner, weaver, and tailor, as a means of providing a coat for her daughter.  Based on the children’s book of the same name by author Harriet Ziefert, A New Coat for Anna is a participatory program during which a Slater Mill interpreter reads the story, while selected students play the roles of Anna, her mother, and local tradespeople.


Slater Mill tour programs fill up quickly, so please reserve well in advance of your anticipated date.
Contact Joyce Neves at 401-725-8638, x100 for program information and fees.

A non-refundable $50 deposit is required to reserve your program date and time.  Cash, check, and credit cards are accepted for payment.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellations are accepted up to three weeks prior to your scheduled date.

Cancellations that occur within 24 hours of your scheduled time will result in a billing for payment in full. (Exceptions will be made for snow and other natural causes of school closure.)

If your group’s size is reduced by five participants or more, you must notify Slater Mill at least two days in advance, otherwise you will be billed for the original group number.

"Kids loved the experience. Guides were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The Staff has been extraordinarily helpful helping us to plan and take full responsibility for teaching the teachers."

− 4th Grade teacher, Johnston, RI

"The visit was exactly what was expected and greatly enhanced students’ knowledge."

− 8th Grade Teacher, Cranston, RI

"My favorite part was when I got to be a worker and my least favorite part is when I had to leave."

− 4th Grade Student

"Touched upon Social Studies Math, History, Geography, Energy, and Map skills. You have a wonderful program for our students. Most of them enjoyed their experience. Making history come alive, and giving them community pride is such a great thing! I can’t see how you could help them more."

− 4th Grade Teacher, Providence, RI