Making Silk from Silk Worms

Making Silk from Silk Worms
Louisa Adams: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods

Required Documents
Silk Production[1].doc
Making Silk worksheet[1].doc
Types of Silk Worksheet[1].doc
Standards Compliance
NCTE Standard 1
Students read fiction, nonfiction, classic, and contemporary works to acquire information for various purposes.
NCTE Standard 7
Students conduct research by generating ideas, questions, and problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data.
NCTE Standard 8
Students use a variety of technology and information resources to gather, synthesize, and communicate knowledge.
ISTE Standard 5
Technology research tools
NCSS Strand 2
Time, Continuity, and Change
NCSS Strand 7
Production, Distribution, and Consumption
NCSS Strand 8
Science, Technology, and Society


The period of time Louisa Adams spent in the Whitehouse as the first lady was among the most unpleasant periods of her life. The house was drafty, cold and uncomfortable and she felt isolated from the rest of the city. She in fact spent a tremendous amount of time alone in her room. One of the things she did to occupy her time was to spin silk. Mrs. Adams kept silkworms on the property that fed on the mulberry bushes on the Whitehouse grounds. Creating silk from these worms was a hobby that took her mind off the problems of her husband’s troubled presidency.


1. Students will be able to explain the process of silk production including all steps from the hatching of the eggs to reeling of the filament.

2. Students will be able to identify four types of silk, the process for spinning each type and the products made from each.

Materials Required:

Computer and printerInternet access and projector to show a youtube video on a large screen to the classInformational selection from the Silk Production site listed above in the Linkable Resources sectionWorksheet  - Making SilkWorksheet  - Types of silk


1.  The teacher will present the youtube video (below). This will give the students a visual knowledge of how silk is made; notice the illustrations from Chinese art and talk a bit about the history of silk.

2.  The teacher will then either have the students go to the website Silk Production (below) or distribute the text of that site in the Microsoft Word Document provided with this lesson.

3.  The students will read the information and complete the guided reading worksheet called Making Silk. This can be done by using the computer or by using the information sheet that contains the same information.

4.  The students will also complete the other guided reading worksheet entitled Types of Silk that will require them to describe the methods of making various types of silk thread.

5.  Finally, the class can discuss some interesting facts about silk (see below).

Extending the Lesson:

As students understand the process of making silk; it will be easier for them to understand why it was so valuable especially in the medieval world. This may lead to an exploration of the origins of silk in China and the development of the network of trade between Asia and Europe that became known as the Silk Road.

Sources & Resources:

Liu, Xinru. The Silk Road in World History. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Vainker, Shelagh. Chinese Silk: A Cultural History. Rutgers University Press, 2004.
Making Silk
History of Silk
Benefits of Silk
Cleaning and Washing Silk 

Silk Making and Production
Silk Interesting Facts
This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.