Use the Activities
Putting It All Together
The Boott Mills were part of a larger industrial complex in Lowell. Like any system that has many subsystems, the Boott was just one part of a whole. By looking at what influenced the development of the Boott millyard, students can more easily understand the workings of the industrial system at Lowell.
Activity 1: Role Play
Construction of industrial sites moved at a rapid pace in the first years of the development of Lowell. Have students assume the roles of local farmers and villagers taking part in a town meeting. Based on what they have read and the visual material they have studied, have them consider the amount of construction that took place in Lowell's early years. Have several students make short speeches describing 1) the frenzied pace of construction, 2) their reaction to the types of activities they have witnessed, and 3) the changes to the land. Now have several other students discuss what would happen to their current ways of life if their own neighborhoods suddenly underwent such rapid and dramatic changes.
Activity 2: Building a Mill
Many materials were needed for the construction of a mill such as the Boott. Have students compile a list of the basic things necessary to build a mill (construction materials, equipment, and people). Remind them that early in Lowell's history there were no cranes or steam shovels. Ask them to speculate on how a four- or five-story mill building would have been constructed--for example, how would you move heavy bricks to upper portions of a wall or how would you dig a deep canal for waterpower? Discuss the lists to elicit understanding of the complexity of industrial start-up. (You may wish to have an architectural historian or someone in the building trades discuss the lists with the students.)
Students who are particularly interested in how textile mills were constructed and operated might elect to build a three-dimensional model of a mill and explain what would be a proper location for it. David McCauley's Mill (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983) is a particularly useful source for this activity.
Activity 3: The Mill as a System
A system is defined as a group of interacting elements forming a collective entity. The Boott Mills complex is an example of the mill as a system. Power, people, machinery, capital, and many distinct subsystems came together to produce textiles. A school is also a system with many subsystems coming together to create the eventual product: educated persons. Have students identify the elements (people, places, objects, outside elements, etc.) that come together to produce a school system. Have students think again of what they learned from Reading 2, "The Mill as a System," and have them list internal and external forces that affected the smooth running of the operation. Then have students make a list of positive and negative forces that act on a school system. Have them develop a plan for action that might moderate negative forces.
Activity 4: Local Industrial Development
Each community has its own history. Much of the information in this lesson has come from local documents, historic photographs and sketches, and local histories. Although your community may not have had a textile mill like the Boott Cotton Mills, other historic industries may have helped your community prosper. Have the students research their own community to discover what industries were important to the growth of the area. Ask your students to choose a local industry or business historically important to their community and, in essays or oral presentations, report on when it started, how long it existed, and its contribution to the local economy. Also have students compare the local industry to a textile mill such as Boott. Have them determine if the local industry is similar to or different from the industries in Lowell. Ask them to include information about what conditions supported the development of their local industry and explore why that particular industry has or has not remained in the region.