Historic Yates Mill Group Programs

children watch mills waterwheel move by waterfall and dam

Group programs are programs requested and scheduled for particular school or user groups. You can learn more about the types of group programs and field trips offered by this park below.

In-person field trips are limited until further notice. We are currently offering in-person outdoor hikes.  See below for descriptions of the hikes we are able to give to groups of up to 15 people.  Also, check out our Virtual Group Programs page to schedule a virtual experience for your class.

Now Offering: Guided Hikes

Habitat Hike

Is your group interested in learning about what different plants and animals need to survive? Come join us for a hike concentrated on the basic needs of different lifeforms in and around Yates Mill Pond. We will adventure around edge habitat and transition zones and talk about adaptations that plants and animals use to thrive here at the pond.

Lifecycle Hike

One perfect subject for a hike is to observe and discover the ebbs and flow of change in the forest. Join a naturalist to look for organisms within the ecosystem according to the function they serve. Whether an organism is a producer, consumer, or decomposer, they have an important role to play in the outdoors. We will learn about food chains and lifecycles in different habitats within the park.

Geology Hike

Come walk with park staff and discover the three types of rocks: metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous. We will talk about all the ways rocks were used in the old mill, from construction to grinding grain. We will discuss how the surface of the earth changes due to slow processes like erosion and weathering, and look at examples of each.

History Hike

Join us for a hike to the gristmill and to the site of the miller’s residence (which is no longer standing) to learn about the history of some of the people who lived and worked on the land that is now a park. We will learn a little about the mill but also look for clues to buildings that used to be here. We will discuss basic site history, such as what is the mill and why is the pond here, as well as what is an artifact.

Bird Hike

Come join us as the 'early bird gets the worm' in this engaging bird walk with a park naturalist. As we quietly walk through the park, we will be on the lookout for some of the awesome bird species that live here at Historic Yates Mill County Park. We will learn about what makes birds so unique, how to identify them among other birds, and much more! Be sure to bring binoculars if you have them, or you can borrow a cleaned pair from us.

Field Trips and School Programs

Look for Virtual Programs? Find them here!

About Our Field Trips

children sit inside of old wooden mill building during tour

Historic Yates Mill County Park provides a wide variety of programs designed to enrich children's learning and classroom experiences. All of our educational programs are designed to be compatible with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.

Trained docents and education staff lead groups through the historic site and park. All of the programs and tours at Historic Yates Mill County Park feature inquiry-based learning, a variety of interactive group activities and tours, and hands-on experiences that both enchant and educate.

We encourage you to reach out to us about your program requests as early as possible and suggest that you have a few potential programming dates selected when you call to book a park experience.

Schedule a Trip

To schedule a field trip, first download and read over our Educators Guide and look over other resources.

For more detailed instructions and tips download the appropriate visit guide below:

Interested groups of 10 people or more are encouraged to contact us at [email protected] or call 

919-856-6675 with any questions

What could your customized field trip be like?

What could your customized field trip be like? Here's an idea...

Experience History at Wake County’s Last Water Mill
A guided tour of our 18th-century mill provides a unique experience where participants become “History Detectives” while investigating the Mill’s water-powered operations and its business and social roles in the community.

Tours inside the old water mill are available from March through November each year, while other programs are available year-round. Mill tours are not available on the third Thursday and Friday, nor on the fourth Monday, of each month when the mill is being prepped for, and cleaned up from, weekend corn milling demonstrations.

Explore the Outdoors in Our 174-Acre Nature Refuge
Hiking the park trails and exploring the millpond awaken the senses and invigorate the spirit. Trained park staff can serve as guides and provide program participants with enjoyable and immersive natural experiences.

Let Us Help You to Meet Your Curricular Goals
Organized programs and discovery labs are available for groups of all ages. The park’s school-age programs enrich children's learning and classroom experiences, are inquiry-based, and are compatible with the NC Standard Course of Study. Find out what correlates here.

Engage in Fun and Educational Hands-on Activities
A visit to the park center’s exhibit hall with its interactive displays, group scavenger hunt, and historic dress-up area ensures that a good time is had by all, and self-guided activities and discovery packs can add to the fun.

Pre-and Post-Visit Activities

Take a look at our pre-and post- visit activities!

For Elementary Grades:
A collection of fun multi-disciplinary activities to get your group ready to visit the old water mill: download them here.

For Middle School: 5-Day Curriculum
This is a curriculum assembled by a team of students from the Technology, Engineering, and Design Education department at North Carolina State University. Provided are Lesson Plans for four days of classroom activity and one visit to the Historic Yates Mill County Park. Each lesson plan is 75 minutes, tailored to fit a middle school on block scheduling: download them here.

Virtual Field Trip Orientation

Organized Group Mill Tours

About Mill Funding

Yates Mill is an operable grain mill established around 1756. The equipment in the mill is original, left after the Lea family ceased milling operations in the mid-1950s. A visit to this historic treasure provides an opportunity to learn about an integral aspect of rural life in the early days of settlement in Wake County.

Tour fees directly support the nonprofit Yates Mill Associates for maintenance and operations of Historic Yates Mill.

For more information on how to become a member of Yates Mill Associates, please visit www.yatesmill.org

Booking Your Tour

Tour dates are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations should be made, preferably, one month in advance. For groups that may be interested in other programs in addition to a mill tour, please refer to the Group Programs and Field Trips section of our website.

Historic Yates Mill County Park is pleased to offer guided tours to organized groups on weekdays. Requests for group tours are made by contacting the Assistant Park Manager, Rebeccah Cope, at [email protected] or 919-856-5635.

Little Red Hen Tour

Tour guide leads group of children down dirt path to mill.

Get your preschoolers excited about Yates Mill! Relive the beloved story of the Little Red Hen. Then take a trip to the mill to gather ingredients for an imaginary loaf of bread.

History Detective Tour

Group of children stand in front of mill dam and waterfall with mill building off to the side

Earn your history detective badge! Take a guided hike to Yates Mill to discover how the mill operates. Try your hand at corn shelling and bartering as you solve history mysteries.

Mill Heritage Tour

old desk with feather quill and rock that says yates mill inside old mill building

Learn about mill operations and our global mill heritage. Explore local community history and discover how simple hand mills gave rise to complex machines like Yates Mill.

Classroom Discovery Programs

Artifact Discovery

tray with old timey objects like feather pen, colonial money, and other replica items

These are some of the replica props that are used during Historic Yates Mill County Park's "Artifact Discovery" group program (e.g., coins, paper money, playing cards, hornbook, battledore, quill pen and ink well, a woman's work cap and a gentleman's tricorn hat and haversack). This program compares objects of today to artifacts of the past and includes actual Yates Mill artifacts where participants are challenged to figure out what they were historically used for and whether similar objects are still around today.  


Amazing Grains

tray of mortar and pestles and grain

Learn about staple grains and the nutritional values of whole wheat and white breads, and explore flour production, grain domestication and plant seed germination during our "A-Maize-ing Grains" classroom discovery program. Participants experiment with six different types of grain and try to grind them up in wooden mortars and pestles to see which are the easiest and hardest to mill. Participants make a "living necklace" using one of the types of grain to take home, where with proper care they can watch their baby plant grow.

Hand Mills and Millstones

image of mortar and pestle, grain, and hat on table

Our "Hand Mills and Millstones" program includes hands-on use of several primitive hand mills, including this Saddle Stone, along with a Mortar and Pestle and a Rotary Quern. Millstones and their dressing patterns (i.e., lands and furrows) are also explored. (Visit the mill to see a water-powered set of millstones.) Participants explore the ancestral forms of corn and wheat and discover how people have processed them into food and other materials over time. Participants thresh wheat by hand, see a winnowing demonstration and think about what can be made from by-products such as wheat straw and corn husks.

Simple Machines

wooden simple machines models (pulley, lever, wheel) on table

Some of the models and teaching aids that are used during Historic Yates Mill County Park's "Simple Machines and Power Trains" classroom discovery lab. This program explores basic engineering aspects of our historic mill and the systems of system and complex machines that make it work. Participants help build a simple machines flow chart and explore what types of machines are incorporated into everyday objects, then they rotate through different stations to work with these wooden models. The program wraps up with a challenge involving simple machines found inside Yates Mill.

Animal Adaptations

animal pelts and trays with folders with questions marks

Some of the animal pelts and replica skulls that are used in the "Animal Adaptations" program shown are Gray and Red Fox, River Otter and White-tailed Deer; we also use Raccoon, Opossum, Beaver, Muskrat and Squirrel. Owl, Hawk and Songbird skulls are used to compare to the head structures of these mammals. Participants are challenged to figure out what mystery animal they have at their classroom station using these objects then move around the room to see what everyone else was studying. Natural items are acquired from reputable sources and are documented on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife collection permit. 

Habitat Hike

group of visitors stand together using binoculars looking over at wetlands from wooden boardwalk

The park's "Habitat Hike" program is a staff-guide and field excursion where participants learn the five basic components of a successful habitat and the types of plants and animals that are found within them. Participants can borrow binoculars (instructions on how to use them are provided) before heading out into the 174-acre park for a short hike to explore the various components of habitats that are required for specific animals. Park habitats include the pond, pond edge, beaver dams and wetlands, old field and oak/hickory forests, north-facing high bluff and the old homestead.

Pond Study

children sit on small wooden boardwalk next to pond and are dipping in the water for bugs

In the park's "Pond Study" program, we guarantee that participants will have an immersive experience (they should expect to get wet and dirty – it's a muddy affair!) while studying the pond and the life that exists in it, both large and small. Participants will collect pond water samples and study the critters (i.e., the macro-invertebrates) that are found in it, using magnifiers and field microscopes. Working in small teams that report back to each other, participants will study location, weather, habitat type, among other environmental aspects. This program is weather and flood dependent!

Animal Tracks and Signs

animal pelts and skulls on table

Hark! Who goes there? Learn to read the tracks and signs animals leave behind. Find out what animals are eating, where they are going, and what they’ve been up to! Then observe wildlife in action on a short hike.

Geology Rocks

box filled with various types of rocks and rock testing equipment

Explore the rocks of Yates Mill! Learn the three rock types and play a rock cycle game, then test the physical properties of rocks to discover the identity of mystery rocks. Also learn how rocks have been used to support mills and grind grains.

Little Red Hen Classroom Activities

group of children play with puppets and wear chick hats inside classroom

Discover the connection between Little Red Hen and farm products through interactive and hands-on activities. Also make a chicken hat craft to take home.