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Starting a Revolution

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Students will examine American currency to identify factors that contributed to the Industrial Revolution. They will explore the history of Slater Mill and will examine arguments for and against placing this historical landmark on a coin design.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


  • Students will examine American currency to identify factors that contributed to the Industrial Revolution.
  • They will explore the history of Slater Mill and will examine arguments for and against placing this historical landmark on a coin design.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies


  • Ninth grade
  • Tenth grade
  • Eleventh grade
  • Twelfth grade

Class Time

Sessions: Three
Session Length: 45-60 minutes
Total Length: 121-150 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Pairs
  • Individual work

Terms and Concepts

  • 50 State Quarters® Program
  • Industrialization
  • Urbanization
  • Free enterprise
  • Monopoly
  • Laissez-fare
  • Entrepreneur
  • Robber baron
  • Immigration
  • Interstate commerce
  • Reform
  • Natural resources


  • Copies of the “Industrial Revolution Pre-Lesson Review” worksheet (1 per student)
  • 1 copy of the “Industrial Revolution Pre-Lesson Review Key”
  • 1 copy of the “50 State Quarters® Program Overview” sheet on page 45
  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or classroom set of photocopies) of the “Quarter Design” page on page 59
  • Copies of the “Quarter Connections” worksheet (1 per student)
  • Copies of the “Quarter Information” sheets on pages 46 to 57 (1 packet per student)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or classroom set of photocopies) of New York’s quarter reverse design
  • 1 copy of the “Quarter Connections – New York Key”
  • 1 overhead transparency of the “Quarter Designs” sheet on page 71
  • Copies of the “Quarter Design Writing Assignment” (1 per student)
  • Copies of information about the positive and negative effects of Slater Mill on American society, such as those available at:
  • Writing paper

Worksheets and Files

Lesson plan, worksheet(s), and rubric (if any) at

Session 1

  1. Prior to the lesson, have students complete the “Industrial Revolution Pre-Lesson Review” worksheet. Review this page at the beginning of class, as students will reference this page throughout this end-of-unit review.
  2. Reference the “50 State Quarters® Program Overview” page to describe the 10 year coinage program. Use the example of your own state, if available.
  3. Distribute copies of the “Quarter Design” page to each student.
  4. Assign each student a partner and conduct a Think-Pair-Share activity in which students examine the quarter reverse designs and consider the question, “What link(s) might exist between the designs from the 50 State Quarters Program and the Industrial Revolution?”  Possible responses may include that the quarters show the differences between the states and different states contributed to the industrial revolution, or that some of the quarter reverse designs mark historical events or achievements that relate to the Industrial Revolution.
  5. Explain that through the examination of these quarters, students will identify specific links between the state designs and the Industrial Revolution.
  6. Distribute copies of the “Quarter Connection” worksheet and one “Quarter Information” packet to each student.
  7. Display New York’s quarter reverse design for all the students to see. Model the coin examination process using this coin to discuss and respond to each question on the worksheet.
  8. Place students in small groups and assign each group a coin whose design relates to the Industrial Revolution, such as the Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arkansas, and North Carolina quarter reverse designs.
  9. In their small groups, direct students to examine their assigned coin design. The students will discuss and begin the “Quarter Connection” worksheet in their small groups.

Session 2

  1. Allow students to regroup and, if necessary, complete the “Quarter Connections” worksheet from the previous session.
  2. Ask one representative from each group to use the “Quarter Designs” overhead transparency to point out his or her group’s assigned quarter design. This student will explain the coin’s relationship to the Industrial Revolution.
  3. As a class, discuss any additional connections or misconceptions of this coin’s relationship to the Industrial Revolution.
  4. Once all groups have discussed their state’s quarter reverse design, distribute or display a copy of the “Quarter Design Writing Assignment” for the students to complete independently.
  5. Allow students the remainder of the class period to work on this assignment.

Session 3

  1. Introduce students to the history of Slater Mill:  Slater Mill was an early American textile mill named after its founder, Samuel Slater.  Slater is often noted as the father of the American Industrial Revolution. At the end of the 1700s, Samuel Slater was a young man working in a cotton-spinning mill in England.  While the textile industry was fairly advanced in England by this point, it was also becoming extremely overcrowded. Due to British laws, machinery was not able to be transported from England to the United States and thus the machinery used in mills in the United States was still relatively primitive. Slater believed that in the United States he would be able to use his knowledge of textile machinery and mill management to make his own fortune.  When Slater moved to the United States, he learned of two men, Moses Brown and William Almy, who were trying to revolutionize the textile industry. Slater came to these men with a plan to rebuild their machines and redesign their mill into a more efficient operation. Through his work, Slater developed the first successful cotton-spinning mill in the United States. This mill was central to the launch of the Industrial Revolution and to the growth of a young nation.
  2. Explain that, independently, students will closely examine the history surrounding this mill and will identify both the positive and negative effects of its existence. Provide students with a reading that shows Slater Mill’s positive and negative effects on American society.
  3. Direct the students to read this information. Ask half of the students to list the positive effects of Slater Mill on American society and the other half to list the negative effects.
  4. After the students have completed the individual portion of the assignment, assign each student a partner who examined the opposite viewpoint. In their pairs, students should share and debate the information they have discovered regarding the Slater Mill.
  5. Regroup and pose the question, “If someone were to commemorate the Industrial Revolution with a special coin, how would you feel about the image of Slater Mill in the coin’s design?”
  6. Independently, students will write a persuasive essay in which they clearly state whether they are for or against the image of Slater Mill as part of a coin design and why they maintain this belief.


The students will examine the effects of the Industrial Revolution on their home state.

Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Individual Development and Identity
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • assist learners in articulating personal connections to time, place, and social/cultural systems
  •  help learners to appreciate and describe the influence of cultures, past and  present, upon the daily lives of individuals
  • assist learners to describe how family, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, and other group and cultural influences contribute to the development of a sense of self
  • have learners apply concepts, inquiry, methods, and theories in the study of human growth and development, learning, motivation, behavior, perception, and personality
  • guide learners as they analyze the interactions among ethical, ethnic, national, and cultural factors in specific situations
  • help learners to analyze the role of perceptions, attitudes, values, and beliefs in the development of personal identity and their effect upon human behavior
  • have learners compare and evaluate the impact of stereotyping, conformity, acts of altruism, discrimination, and other behaviors on individuals and groups
  • help learners understand how individual perceptions develop, vary, and can lead to conflict
  • assist learners as they work independently and cooperatively within groups and institutions to accomplish goals
  • enable learners to examine factors that contribute to and damage one’s mental health; and analyze issues related to mental health and behavioral disorders in contemporary society