Lesson Plan

Alice (Hadfield) Timperley and Oral History

Lesson Plan Image
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
State Standards:
HP 1; HP 1 (3-4)-1; HP 2; HP 2-2; HP 2 (3-4)-3; HP 3; HP 3-1;
Additional Standards:
D2.Eco.3.3-5; D2.Eco.4.3-5; E 1 (3-4) –1; E 2 (K-2) – 2; D2.Geo.1.3-5; D2.Geo.2.3-5; D2.Geo.8.3-5; D2.His.1.3-5; D2.His.16.3-5
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.

Essential Question

What was important to Alice in her life, and why are oral histories important to preserve?


1) Students will interpret the oral history of Alice (Hadfield) Timperley. 

2) Students will make observations about life in the Blackstone River Valley during the 20th century.

3) Students will create their own oral history by interviewing someone who lived during a significant life event.


About These Materials:  

Rhode Island is a state with an extensive history, as it is part of the original thirteen colonies owned by England and played a crucial role in the development of America as a nation. Rhode Island was extremely influential in the United States Industrial Revolution; English immigrant Samuel Slater built a mill that made cotton thread along the Blackstone River Valley area of Rhode Island. With the funding from Moses Brown, this idea began a shift from agriculture to industry throughout parts of New England. Numerous other investors developed mill complexes that dotted Rhode Island’s rivers and utilized water power in new ways. Canals created a new mode of transportation while dams allowed human control of the rivers. This created major changes in how people moved over land and also how people were able to obtain goods and other basic needs. One of those investors was Captain Wilbur Kelly, whose influence in and around the area of Ashton will be the focus of this unit.  


The Rhode Island Historical Society, in partnership with Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, developed academic lessons that can be used on-site at the grounds of the Kelly House and the Ashton Mill complex as well as in the classroom if unavailable to go to the site itself. The project consisted of conducting archival research, reading secondary sources, and local educators creating interactive lessons for students which focus on historical context, ELA strategies, and STEM education. This unit provides a well-rounded learning experience for students at the upper elementary level. It intends to showcase a narrative of Rhode Islanders who used the Blackstone River Valley for commercial purposes. Educators could teach this unit during an exploration of famous Rhode Islanders, the Industrial Revolution, or the study of environment and geography in Rhode Island. 


View this set of videos for an overview of the history of the Wilbur Kelly and Ashton Mills. 

See this timeline of the history of the property from before European contact to the present. 

See this video by the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park about canal construction. 

How to Use These Materials 

The lessons do not need to be completed as a whole or in any particular order. A teacher may decide to teach the lesson on “The Rhode Island System” in the classroom before a class visit to the Kelly House, visit the Kelly House to walk the property and see what they have learned, run the “Testing the Water Quality of the Blackstone River” lesson while at the property, and follow up in the classroom with the “Project Zap” lesson. A teacher may decide to take pieces of one lesson and combine it with another. The lessons are for teachers to use as is fitting for their curriculum. There are endless possibilities. The lessons below give tips for running the lesson at the Kelly House Museum and property and in the classroom. Some of the lessons have additional suggested extension activities to deepen the lesson further. 



  • Computer 

  • FlipGrid (teacher should have this setup beforehand so students can just access with join code. For directions on how to use FlipGrid, here is a screencastify of directions). 


Download Oral History Recording - Alice Hadfield

Lesson Hook/Preview

Oral histories are excellent ways to preserve the past because they allow people to hear the voices of those who lived during a particular time period that people are studying. This creates an opportunity for people to hear history come alive and see those who lived in the past as living, breathing human beings as opposed to feeling like historical figures are characters in a story. In this lesson, we will use an oral history recording of Alice Timperley as an example. The oral history recording was taken in 2002 when Alice was about 88 years old. She passed in 2013. She was born in 1913 and is talking about her childhood in Ashton around the time of 1918 to 1927. 


1) If at the Museum, students can make their way to the third room of the Kelly House and read the placards about Alice Timperley. If in the classroom, students can listen to an audio recording of Alice speaking.  

2) Gather information from the students about what they learned about Alice’s life. Ask them some of the “questions to ponder” or other suitable questions for students to answer out loud. 

3) Have students brainstorm someone they would like to interview (mostly likely a family member) and have them think about what they would like to interview them about. Have students think of important life events that adults lived through (life before the internet, 9/11, Covid-19 pandemic, etc) which could be important to preserve in an oral history. Students should also have written down at least four questions they will ask their interviewee prior to leaving the Museum or classroom. 

4) Students should go home and find time to interview the person they chose. Students will use FlipGrid as the mode of recording the interview. 

5) Students can share their FlipGrids as part of a show and tell in the classroom. 

6) Consider having students revisit Alice’s recording to see what they notice about her interview after conducting their own. 



Oral History: the study of history using sound recordings from someone who was alive at the time an event occurred or has personal knowledge of an event that took place 

Assessment Materials

By having students create their own oral histories, they can learn that people do not have to be “famous” in order to have their history preserved. Many times, historians learn about the lives of everyday people through journals, letter writing, photographs, and sound recordings. This activity will provide students with the opportunity to take part in a living history project and see that history is not just the past but preserving the present.

1) What sorts of memories does Alice talk about? 

2) What do Alice’s memories say about life in the Blackstone River Valley? 

3) Why is it important to preserve oral histories? 

Contact Information

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Last updated: January 4, 2024