The John H Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is pleased to announce a new lesson plan for Grades 3 to 6. The lesson plan, entitled It Takes A Village: Mills and the Rhode Island System of Manufacturing, looks at life in the Ashton mill village, highlighting the Captain Wilbur Kelly House Museum operated by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. This curriculum was created with funding from the National Park Service’s Northeast Region through the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program. The lesson plan, along with supporting documents and three 30-minute videos, can be downloaded for free from the Corridor Commission’s website at http://www.nps.gov/blac/forteachers/curriculummaterials.htm.
According to National Park Ranger Kevin Klyberg, "the Corridor Commission received a $3,000 grant through the NPS Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program that allowed us to hire Ms. Karen Bryant, a second grade teacher in Northampton, Massachusetts to work as a park ranger and also produce this new lesson plan for us."
"Kudos to the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Commission for developing a new elementary school lesson plan that focuses on early life in the mill village of Ashton," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "This is a great hands-on opportunity for students to learn about the history of the Blackstone River and the Blackstone Canal and see how changes in transportation transformed life in the mill villages. We're delighted that students will tour the interactive transportation museum at DEM's Kelly House as part of this new curriculum - this will certainly help bring the rich history of the Blackstone Valley to life for the students!"
Director Coit commended the Corridor Commission for working in partnership with DEM to connect Rhode Islanders to important historic and scenic natural places in the Blackstone Valley, including Kelly House and the Blackstone State Park and Bikeway. "Providing the public with improved access to these Blackstone Valley jewels is a real partnership effort that contributes to the tremendous quality of life we enjoy in beautiful Rhode Island."
Ms. Bryant said that she "enjoyed learning the rich history of the Blackstone Valley, and feeling like I was part of a talented team doing important interpretation work. This has been one of the best professional development experiences I have ever had, and I am thankful to have joined the NPS this summer in their mission to educate and inspire current and future generations about the historic and cultural resources of our country."
The new lesson plan teaches students about what life was like in a mill village. First, the students are presented a brief overview of Wilbur Kelly’s mill and village. Then, the students are divided into three groups – mill owners, mill workers and farmers. Each group is then given a small collection of images and historic documents to learn a little more about what life in Old Ashton would have been like for the different types of workers there.
According to Ranger Klyberg, "We decided to focus on Ashton because it is one of the villages in the proposal to create a new National Park here in the Blackstone Valley, and this seemed like a great opportunity to bring that story to a wider audience. We also hope that teachers in the region will use this lesson, and then take their classes to the Kelly House to help them get a better understanding of what life was like for mill workers here in the Blackstone River Valley."