Coggeshall Farm Museum Home Page

Classroom Field Trips

wool washingCoggeshall Farm Museum is an educational resource for students of all ages. We work with teachers to design programs that complement your curriculum and educational standards.

Our approach to teaching focuses on asking questions, engaging students and inspiring them to reflect on their own lives in context with the living history experience.

Here is a sample lesson plan for grades 3–4. We welcome your ideas on how to tie our experiential education program to your specific age group, subject matter or educational standard.

Sample Lesson Plan

Grade Span 3–4

Program Objectives

Students will:

  1. Interact with and interpret a number of historical source materials, including primary sources and artifacts, to learn about daily life in late 18th-century Rhode Island.
  2. Engage in meaningful learning experiences with hands-on real world activities of children in the 18th century.
  3. Relate the past to the present by exploring changes and continuities in lifestyle, work, food and games.

Engagement/Discussion Questions

These questions are presented to students at the beginning of the program so they will be actively engaged in thinking about them while learning about daily life.

  • Find one thing that is similar to your life, one thing that is different, and one thing that surprised you about daily life in the 1790s.
  • What jobs on the farm do you think you would have done if you lived in the 1790s?  What jobs would you want to do?  Why?
  • Where does our food come from today, and how is that different from the 1790s? 

Program Overview

Orientation: Students receive a basic introduction to the farm. Our interpreters will place the farm in the context that best fits the specific school and/or curriculum.  The orientation focuses on what the farm is (what we produce), what it means to be a living history museum (i.e., touch everything), the history of the site itself (how the land has changed, both naturally and by people) and its relationship with the broader Rhode Island history (i.e., Bristol and the Triangle Trade, ratification of the Constitution, RI joining the Union, etc.).  Orientation includes the basic rules for interaction with the animals (don’t run, don’t yell, and if they walk away don’t chase them). 

Stations: Students will rotate between the following stations at the major sites in the farm, with several activities at each station. Note that some of these stations are seasonal or weather-dependent.

The Farm House

  • Hearth cooking (year round): Johnny cakes, stews or other seasonal foods. Students to learn about changes in how things were cooked and differences in what was being cooked (heirloom vegetables vs. vegetables seen in today’s supermarket). Students will have the opportunity to taste, smell and/or touch these foods. A list of ingredients will be provided to the teacher upon request to guard against food allergies.
  • Spinning/carding wool (year round): Incorporates elements of both change and continuity because wool is still a common textile. However, the way wool is processed and used has changed dramatically.  Students can learn how the the great wheel and drop spindle are used. Each child can experiment with pulling unspun sheep’s wool and twisting it into yarn. Especially appropriate in spring.
  • Laundry (spring): Demonstrates changes in daily life and how housework has evolved.  Shows that chores could also be considered “fun” — students get to pound clothes clean. This activity is weather-dependent.
  • Candlemaking (fall and winter): In the late winter and early spring, students can make hand-dipped candles and reflect on how the effort to produce a lighting source would affect your daily habits.


Student learning focuses on differences between modern and heirloom crops and the role the kitchen garden played in the household. 

  • Watering plants: This is an important task, especially if the spring is dry, and would give students an appreciation for using water without the availability of running water. Students carry water from the spring house to the garden using a yoke and buckets.
  • Weeding: Depending on the age and size of the group, students may assist us in weeding and hoeing our community garden and will learn about our heirloom garden. (At the discretion of staff, older groups may be invited to weed the heirloom garden.) Students could visit with their families during the summer to continue working on the community garden.
  • Harvesting: In late summer or early fall, students may harvest vegetables and bring them to the kitchen for use in hearthcooking to help them understand why we have a kitchen garden. We will also have a small stock of modern vegetables so that if students harvest anything from the garden, or even just observe it growing, they can visually draw some comparisons between heirloom and modern vegetables. 

Tool Shed/Blacksmith Shop

Activities in this area will be offered in an age-appropriate manner to ensure that young children are not exposed to sharp objects.

  • Nail making: Students will be able to see the differences between hand-forged nails and modern wire nails. Demonstrations of the process may be available if a blacksmith is on site (pre-scheduling required). Nails are the foundation of construction, both in the Federalist period and today.
  • Wood processing: This important task relates to heating and cooking by fire and the interdependence of all daily chores in the 18th century. Students will use blunt wood processing tools that are used with wedges (and thus safer than axes). Students can also help staff use the two-man saw.
  • Board/rail making: Students observe a demonstration of how to rive boards out of logs or make fence rails, essential work on every farm. Students will not be allowed to use sharp implements but can participate in work using blunt processing tools.

Hay Barn/Animals

The nature of the activities in this area change dramatically based on the seasons and states of the animals. Many of these activities can only be performed during a morning visit and once during a session (e.g., feeding the animals).

  • Feeding the turkeys and chickens: This introductory activity allows students to get close to animals that are smaller and more comfortable with groups than the cattle.  It encourages them to consider where our food comes from.
  • Collecting eggs: Continues to build an understanding of where food comes from. Students climb in the hay barn and coop looking for them.  This also increases the students’ comfort with the site.
  • Feeding the sheep: Students fill the sheep's manger with hay from the barn. This helps students understand the importance of hay to farm life and why people in the 18th century would need so much of it. This also enables students to see them up close, as they tend to wander far afield during the day. This activity must be done in the morning.
  • Cows and donkey: Grooming, feeding, leading and letting them out into the field. Students learn the role that oxen would have played as the basic power source for transportation in the 18th century. Students learn the difference between modern and heritage “breeds” and explore why our cows have horns, why they are red vs. black and white, etc.
  • Milking: This provides an opportunity to talk about where and how milk is produced and how it differs from today, when we purchase our milk at a grocery store. This activity depends on the calving schedule.

Garden Meadow

A variety of games can be played in the meadow, including:

  • Graces
  • Hoop and stick games
  • Tug-of-war


Group will come together for final reflections:

  • What did you learn about where our food comes from? How is it different on an 18th-century farm than it is for you, in your family life?
  • What tools did you use that are similar to today’s tools? Which ones are different?
  • What jobs on the farm do you think you would have been doing? Which ones would you like to do?

Fulfilling Rhode Island GSE Requirements

This program is designed to support the fulfillment of the following RI GSEs:

C&G 5 (3–4) — 2 Students demonstrate an understanding of the benefits and challenges of an interconnected world by…

  • exploring current issues using a variety of print and non-print sources (e.g., Where does our food come from and what happens if there is a drought?)

HP 1 (3–4)1 Students act as historians, using a variety of tools (e.g., artifacts and primary and secondary sources) by…

  • classifying objects, artifacts, and symbols from long ago and today and describing how they add to our understanding of the past
  • organizing information obtained to answer historical questions

HP 1 (3–4)2 Students interpret history as a series of connected events with multiple cause-effect relationships, by…

  • explaining and inferring how a sequence of events affected people of Rhode Island (e.g., settlement or changes in community)

HP 2 (3–4)3 Students show understanding of change over time by…

  • interpreting and explaining similarities and differences in objects, artifacts, technologies, ideas, or beliefs (e.g., religious, economic, education, self-government) from the past and present (e.g., transportation or communication in the community, RI, U.S.)

HP 3 (3–4)2 Students make personal connections in an historical context (e.g., source-to-source, source-to-self, source-to-world) by…

  • using a variety of sources (e.g., photographs, written text, clothing, oral history) to reconstruct the past, understand the present, and make predictions for the future)

G 4 (3–4)1 Students explain how humans depend on their environment by…

  • identifying how needs can be met by the environment (e.g., we grow food to eat.).

G 4 (3–4)2 Students explain how humans react or adapt to an ever-changing physical environment by…

  • identifying ways in which the physical environment is stressed by human activity using examples from the local community (e.g., pollution in the Narragansett Bay means people cannot fish for food).

Contact Eleanor for our field trip policies and booking.

*Please note: Coggeshall Farm Museum cannot accommodate more than 75 students per field trip.