Lesson Plan

Manufacturing with Marbles at Ashton Mill

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:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

How did innovative products manufactured at Ashton Mill improve daily life?


1) Students will read about the history of the Ashton Mill.

2) Students will examine products manufactured by Owens-Corning at Ashton Mill.

3)Students will explain how these products improved space travel and daily life such as in transportation and home goods.


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. 




Download Presentation about Fiberglass Manufacturing at Ashton

Download Answer Key for Presentation

Lesson Hook/Preview

This lesson will have students examine several products manufactured by Owens-Corning at the Ashton Mill in Rhode Island from 1941 to 1983. Students will write a paragraph describing how these innovative items enhanced space missions, automobile travel, and home goods. 


  1. Ask the students, “What does it mean to manufacture something?” 

  1. Have students open Google Classroom and access their Manufacturing with Marbles at Ashton Mill slides. 

  1. Discuss their description of the term “manufacture” and provide the definition to the students using the first slide. 

  1. View the image of Ashton Mill on slide 2 and read about its use from 1941 to 1983. 

  1. Ask students, “Have you ever used marbles? If so, for what purpose?”   

  1. Students will brainstorm a list of ways they have used marbles on slide 3 and then read to discover how marbles were used to make Fiberglas on slide 4. 

  1. Examine a sample box of items created with Fiberglas. Ask students to use slide 4 and complete the I see, I notice, and I wonder sections. 

  1. On slide 4, students will click on the boxes to unpack items manufactured by Owens-Corning at Ashton Mill.  

  1. Students will discover how the products were used to make everyday items by reading text, viewing a news broadcast, examining a sample of the Fiberglas product, or reviewing advertisements from the 1900s. 

  1. Students will answer questions about beta cloth, tire cord, Fiberglas reinforced plastic, and insulation and share responses with the class. 

  1. After answers have been reviewed, students will write a paragraph describing how these Fiberglas products were used to improve daily life. Students may type their paragraph on the slide, or write it by hand on another paper. Students may also illustrate Fiberglas items to support their paragraph. 


Manufacture: to make something from raw materials by hand or machine 

Fiberglass: a strong, fire-resistant material created by combining glass fibers to make thread and yarn 

Assessment Materials

The Ashton Mill in Rhode Island manufactured Fiberglas items during the mid to late 1900s.  This led to the development of new goods and materials that provided safer space travel and transportation, as well as improvements in building construction and home goods.  The study of Ashton Mill’s history helps students understand how inventive products change the way we live and impact our daily lives.

  1. Why did Fiberglas replace many items that were once made from steel, wood, aluminum, or cloth? What were some of the benefits of using Fiberglas? 

  1. What new products do you use today that were not available a year ago? Five years ago? When you were born? How do these items make your life safer and easier? 



Enrichment Activities

Extension: Watch this video to see fiberglass production

Contact Information

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Last updated: January 4, 2024