Technology and Labor Reform: The Role of Lowell in the Industrial Revolution


Using the 2019 America the Beautiful Quarter about Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts, students will learn about the history of the Lowell textile mills and explore their significance to the Industrial Revolution.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • America the Beautiful Quarters


Students will understand the role of technology and labor reform in the early Industrial Revolution and how the textile mill industry in Lowell, Massachusetts helped shape other factory cities in America.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Technology


  • 4th
  • 5th
  • 6th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Two
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

  • Students should have basic knowledge of the cause and effect analyses and the writing process.
  • Students should have basic knowledge of the Industrial Revolution and shift from farm to factory.

Terms and Concepts

  • Industrialization
  • Labor
  • Reform
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Mill girls
  • America the Beautiful Quarters® Program
  • Technology
  • Textile mills
  • Industry
  • Power looms
  • Power canals
  • Belt and pulley systems
  • Hydraulic turbine
  • Immigration



  • Bookmark the links above in advance.
  • Make copies of the following worksheets:
    • Lowell: The Continuing Revolution Video Guide worksheet (optional)
    • Design Your Own Coin worksheet 
      • Design Your Own Coin: Artist's Statement
      • Design Your Own Coin: Rubric

Worksheets and Files

Lesson Steps

Session One

  1. Introduce students to the history of Lowell by showing the video, "Lowell: The Continuing Revolution" ( via projector or Smartboard, or by reviewing the history of Lowell (see: Lowell: The Continuing Revolution: Video Transcript). If desired, pass out the Lowell: The Continuing Revolution Video Guide Worksheet for students to complete while watching the video.
  2. Using either poster paper or a whiteboard, discuss with students the various factors that contributed to the success of Lowell (i.e. advances in technology, women labor force, etc.) Then, discuss the factors that contributed to its downfall (i.e. overproduction, poor working conditions, strikes, etc.).
    • Example of positive effects: 
      • New job opportunities for females
      • Shift from farm to factory
      • Raised the standards of living
    • Example of negative effects:
      • Factory work is dangerous
      • Health problems
      • Workers were underpaid and overworked
  3. Display enlarged versions of the 2019 Lowell National Historical Park quarter for your students to see. Explain that the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program releases five new quarters each year that focus on national sites in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia. The first of the 2019 quarters highlights Lowell National Historic Park. Discuss the various components of the quarter.
  4. Break students into small groups. Assign each group one component of the quarter design (i.e. the mill girl, the battery-powered bobbin, the clock tower, and/or the smokestack). Have the groups discuss what each component represents, and its impact on the Industrial Revolution. List out both the positive and negative impacts of each component.
    • Example #1: 
      • The power loom with a circular bobbin battery represents advancements in technology.
      • Some positive impacts of advanced technology were that the mills could make cloth a lot quicker and more easily than they had before; women could work the machines and make money; cloth became accessible to more people because it was more affordable.
      • Some negative impacts were that the machines created lots of dust in the factories which caused a lot of mill workers to get sick; mill workers had to work longer hours to accommodate for the lower cost of cloth.
    • Example #2:
      • The mill girl represents advancements in social and labor reform for women.
      • Some positive impacts of the mill girls was that they were offered the opportunity to make money and be independent (i.e. they could buy dresses); they also had access to education.
      • Some negative impacts of the mill girls is that they had poor working conditions and often got sick from the mill; they also worked 12-13 hour days and made less money than men.
  5. Have each group present their component, what it stands for, and its overall impacts on the Industrial Revolution.

Session Two

  1. Re-introduce students to the history of Lowell, either by showing the video, "Lowell: The Continuing Revolution" via project or Smartboard, or by reviewing the history of Lowell (see: Lowell: The Continuing Revolution: Video Transcript).
  2. As a whole group using on poster paper or a whiteboard, list and discuss the various factors that Lowell was known for that contributed to the Industrial Revolution. Factors can include advancements in technology (i.e. power looms, circular bobbin batteries, pulley system, hydro canals, etc.) or labor reform (i.e. mill girls, strikes, Lowell Female Labor Reform Association).
  3. Tell the class that they will be designing their own coin that represents Lowell and its significance to the Industrial Revolution. Explain that they can choose the components that they think are most important.
  4. Provide copies of the "Design Your Own Coin" worksheet to each student. Explain that the student must incorporate 2-3 components of Lowell within their design, as well as provide a 3-5 sentence explanation for why they chose to include each component.
  5. Display and distribute the "Design Your Own Coin: Rubric."
  6. Have each student design their coin either in class sessions or as homework.
  7. Have students either turn in their coin design, or present it to the class using a projector, digital media, or other method or form of visual aid.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Have students write a written response about their component.
  • Have students present their coin design and written response orally.
  • Allow students to use a scribe or computer to complete the design and explanation.


  • Have the students research another historical park from the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program and explain why each component is shown.
  • Have students select a state that is of interest to them and research and explain why the national park or site was chosen to be featured on the America the Beautiful quarter.
  • Have students design a quarter that represents things that matter to them and explain why each component is included.


Evaluate the design, rubric, explanation, and students' participation to assess how well the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: English Language Arts

Domain: Writing

Grade(s): 4-6

Cluster: Text Types and Purposes


  • W.4.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • W.4.2.D: Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

National Standards

Organization: National Council for History Standards

Domain: United States History Content Standards

Cluster: United States Era 4


Organization: Council for Economic Education

Domain: National Content Standards in Economics 

Cluster: Economic Growth