Programs for Schools

Schools and student groups visit Slater Mill to explore the birthplace of American industry.

 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.  Demonstrations include spinning and weaving, flax preparation, waterwheel and waterpowered machinery, and period textile machinery.  Students view the film “Hidden in the Blackstone,” which helps to reinforce all that is seen and learned during the visit.

Curriculum Standards
Rhode Island



School tours of Slater Mill historic site 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 conducted by knowledgable Slater Mill interpreters who visits your classroom for a 75-minute presentation. Classroom programs may be combined with any of our on-site tours.  

Grades 4, 5, and 6, ideally

Fiber to Yarn is a presentation that explains the use of natural fibers produce wearable thread and yarn. It is explained through a brief history of the transition period from an agricultural society to an industrial society in late eighteenth century America. This program includes vocabulary, concepts and historical facts, a worksheet exercise and hands-on experience. Participants play a sequencing game that illustrates the flax process, using the inner fibers of the flax plant to make thread. At a separate station, participants card scoured wool then use the straightened fibers with a drop spindle to make wool thread.  Discussions include the environment and cotton plantations, the use of slave labor, the patenting of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, and the straighten and spinning of cotton fibers before the time of the Industrial Revolution.  The presentation concludes with a flax spinning demonstration by the museum educator.

Participants keep the wool that they spun and the worksheet with cotton samples.

Grades 5 to 8, ideally
(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