Lesson Plan

Culture and Community

Lesson Plan Image
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 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:
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. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.

Essential Question

What reasons cause people to move from one place to another, and how do people from different cultures impact and influence the community around them?


1) Students will identify reasons why people immigrate to new areas.

2) Students will recognize the importance of diversity in Rhode Island’s mill villages.

3) Students will analyze demographic data about local Rhode Island towns as well as a newspaper article from The Providence Journal.

4) Students will design a poster celebrating and honoring a cultural community of their choice.


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. 



  • Paper and colored pencils/ crayons (if creating posters by hand) 


Help wanted ad from the Providence Journal in 1871

Download Help Wanted Ad (1871)

Lesson Hook/Preview

Although immigrant populations may be treated differently in the new place they arrive in, it is important for students to recognize and celebrate the diversity of those who chose to make a life in America. 


1) The teacher will put the essential question on the board (or say out loud if at the Museum) and have students answer the question (focus on the first half of the question). 

2) The teacher will then provide some background information from communities in the Blackstone River Valley and immigration on the various immigrant communities that made up the Blackstone River Valley (focus on the second half of the essential question). If on-site, students can visit the Kelly House Museum and read the placards talking about the different people who worked in the nearby mills. 

3) Show students the newspaper article and note the request for particular ethnic groups and even genders in certain jobs. 

4) Students will then use current census data to learn about the demographics of Lincoln and Cumberland. 

5) Students will pick one cultural community and create a poster celebrating their influence on the town. Students can use either paper and crayons/ colored pencils or if they have access to computers, they can use the free program Adobe Spark in Google Drive to create their posters. 


Census: data gathered about an area so people can learn more about that community in greater detail 

Demographics: the breakdown of certain populations and communities more in depth (by race, salary, types of jobs, etc) 

Assessment Materials

Numerous communities have festivals or celebrations that honor a particular ethnic group and their influence on the town they live in. Students can engage in a deep dive into their own ethnic heritage or can learn more about a community they were unfamiliar with prior to this lesson.

1) Does your family have any special traditions? What are they? 

2) Have you ever had to move to a new town or a new state? How did you feel? 

3) Do you belong to any clubs or organizations? What are they? 

Enrichment Activities

Extension: To learn about some of the various community histories that make up Rhode Island, visit the Rhode Island Historical Society’s online sourcebook of Rhode Island history, EnCompass. The essays are written for upper grades, but teachers will find useful information and images to extend classroom learning. For connections to this lesson, see the modules titled “Narragansett History,” “Immigration to Rhode Island,” and “Rhode Island and the Industrial Revolution.” There is also a module on “Rhode Island, Slavery, and the Slave Trade.” 


Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: January 4, 2024