California gold rush unit

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Jenna Bast

April 22, 2013
Introduction: California Gold Rush Unit

Title & Grade Level:
Gold Rush, 4th grade
Description of academic content areas:
This integrated unit is focuses on the academic content areas of: Social Studies/Geography, Science, Language Arts, as well as Visual Arts and math.

Students will study the following throughout the unit:

  • Technology/ the use of the internet to search for research

  • Cultural music of the time period

  • Mathematical problem solving

  • Multicultural literature

  • Geography and mapping

  • Scientific observations/experimentations

  • Drama

  • Writing skills

  • Comparing and contrasting

  • Artistic creativity

  • Physical activity

Introduction/Conclusion of Unit:
This unit will be introduced by first reviewing a YouTube video on the Gold Rush. It is a brief video that is 4 minutes long that goes over who the first man was to discover gold and how the word of gold spread causing the Gold Rush. Students will then be involved in a “Technology Treasure Hunt” to help them find the start of information on the gold rush. It is a way to get students to work on their research skills as well as help students navigate through a website and using a computer. The closing activity is for students to go on a “gold rush” in the classroom as after they do their Gold Rush Presentations that they will have been working on over the last month. During recess, I will set up “gold” candy around the classroom. I will make some hiding places harder to reach or find and will incorporate little tags on the pieces of gold that have the different types of ways to search for gold. Students will have to identify which technique was used after the activity ends and what the “easiest” technique to finding gold. Students will also have a class “gold rush” party where they can eat food the minors ate and enjoy watching part of the movie The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin since they will have finished reading By the Great Horn Spoon.
Differentiated Instruction/Multiple Intelligences:
I will be incorporating as many of the multiple intelligences as possible. We will be doing activities that are bodily/kinesthetic as well a musical. There will be activities that are both intrapersonal as well as interpersonal and lessons that are logical/mathematically based. I have included lessons that also are built around visual/spatial learners. By taking the students outside and having students go on a “travel of routes” around our school I am also reaching naturalistic learning and this learner will also thrive on our field trip to Coloma.
Integrating Technology:
Students will be using technology by creating PowerPoint’s and iMovie’s I also will be integrating technology by using a bunch of media and applications.

Differentiated Instruction for Students:

To help differentiate instruction for students including English Learners, I have incorporated the use of group discussions as well as GLAD strategies like the use of Expert Groups and KWL charts. I also have incorporated use of visual aids and demonstrations and will front load vocabulary for students who will benefit from these mini-lessons prior to large group lessons. I have made sure to incorporate the use of repetition and hands on activities as well. I made this unit to have group work but also independent work to help push the students who need to have more challenges and I have adapted the requirements of writing and projects for the students who many struggle more with such tasks and assignments. These adaptations however still have the same learning outcomes.

Unit Explanation:
This unit is to take place over 4 weeks (1 month). I have chosen to include the first and final week of instruction in my 2-week calendar. I chose to do this because I wanted to include the activities that would be done in the final week of the unit. The first week of the unit introduces the Gold Rush and gets students to really start to dive into the unit of study through the use of technology as well as language arts, social studies, science and math. I wanted to get my students excited about the weeks to come through incorporating the Gold Rush into as many subject areas as possible. Over the next 2 weeks that are not included, students will continue to build on their understanding of the Gold Rush by continuing activities that were started in week 1 as well as continuing to read By the Great Horn Spoon and keeping their on/off page journal and their journal that is from the perspective of someone during that era. Students will also continue in their expert groups to learn about the different types of mining. We will do more demonstrations and experiments of the different types of mining in science as well. The demonstration of Hydraulic Mining is included in the Resource section of the unit. Students will work on research reports that will transform into presentations that are presented on the final day of the unit. Students will be required to use some sort of technology during their presentations and will be graded on the oral presentation using a rubric that will have been given to them at the begin with their assignment instructions. During the 2 weeks that are not shown students will also learn how to Square Dance and start their Mapping Routes Project. The students will finish this lesson in the last week after we have experienced “traveling” different routes by creating different routes around the school and physically going around trying to figure out which routes were easier than others and talking about the advantages and disadvantages to each route we took as a class on our own travels. I included the final week also because I waited to do the field trip to Coloma until the last week when students would have learned the most about the Gold Rush and could then go and experience what they have been working hard on learning. I think that field trips should be in a sense something that helps tie up the end of units because then students have a lot of background knowledge when they go on them. I also chose to do the reader’s theater in the last week instead of doing it in the previous 3 weeks because I wanted to challenge the students to create sets that tie into the performance and give them a sense of ownership. I also wanted to give students the chance to learn more information about the time period and add to the script if the groups wanted to challenge themselves. I also wanted students to challenge themselves by memorizing the lines instead of just reading them off the page. Lastly as for the final day, I am a firm believer in when a unit ends that students should feel a sense of accomplishment for all the hard work that they have put in over the weeks that the unit was studied. Gold Rush day the students still had to present their presentations on a person in the Gold Rush but after they finished their last task of the unit, I wanted to give the students a chance to celebrate their accomplishments. By transforming the classroom into their own “Boomtown” with hidden gold candies but also have information on how that candy was found students are still learning and using vocabulary from the unit but are having fun while doing so. Since students have completed reading By the Great Horn Spoon and put forth so much hard work over the previous weeks I wanted to end the day by letting the students watch The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin that corresponds to the book so that students could compare the book to the movie and see the resemblances to what they read.


**This unit is a 4-week unit; this calendar focuses on the first and last week

Week One


Intro to unit:

Quick Youtube Video on the Gold Rush. (see resources; multimedia)

(4 minutes)
Technology: Treasure Hunt
Students will use the internet and computers to navigate through websites to answer basic questions about the Gold Rush.

(see website #1 on resource list)

(45 minutes)


Language Arts:

Students will begin reading By the Great Horn Spoon.

-Students will create their “on/off page” journal and begin by reading the Chapter 1 as a class and answering the first quote.

(45 minutes to an hour)

Social Studies: Students will do a closed reading with their Social Studies textbook on the chapters about the Gold Rush.
Students will fill out a KWL chart as a class on what they already know about the Gold Rush, and what they want to know.
Students will be able to add to the chart throughout the weeks adding more if they are interested in knowing more.

(1 hour)


Language Arts:

Continue to read a chapter in By the Great Horn Spoon

Students will respond to the quote for the chapter in their “on/off page” journal.

(Students will be assigned chapters for homework throughout the course of the unit but will be slowly guided through the first few chapters.)

(35 minutes)
Have students start a writing journal assignment from the perspective of someone in the Gold Rush era. Students will keep this journal throughout their 4 week unit and be writing it in periodically.

(20 minutes)


Math/Language Arts:

First read the story The Gold Rush (Daily Life)

Explain to students about the prices of items minors had to pay because of the scarcity of supply.

(20 minutes)

Students will be broken up into groups and will create a list of what they would buy given the amount of $600.00. Students will be given charts with store item prices on to reference.

(45 minutes)


Social Studies/Science:

Expert Groups will be formed to cover the different types of mining for gold. (Panning, hard-rock mining, hydraulic mining, etc.)

Students will use the GLAD technique to write down in their expert groups what they are learning about one type of mining.

(45 minutes to an hour…lesson continued following week)

Students will be encouraged to create PowerPoint presentations or ever notes to create a way to teach out about their topic. Students must have some sort of visual aid to help report out their expertise on the following week.

Stream Table Lesson 1 (see full lesson plan)

Students will be able to assemble a stream table and observe and take notes of the change in the land after water had caused “erosion” creating rivers and pathways.
Students will also be able to connect this to the idea of river mining (panning for gold)

(1 hour and 30 minutes)

Week 4

(weeks 2&3 not included)


Geography/Social Studies:
Mapping Routes Lesson 2 (see full lesson plan..lesson plan for the entire lesson that refers to previous week)
Students will map the different routes that were taken. Students will be able to compare how and why people traveled to California and the routes they took. Student will write a short persuasive essay on one of the routes and why they would chose to take that route.

(45 minutes)

*This lesson will be started in week 3 but finished the final week


Social Studies:

Students will put the final touches on their research on a famous person/ or someone from the Gold Rush era. Students will be able to put final touches on their IMovie’s, PowerPoint’s, or other source of technology that students chose to use.

(30 minutes)
Students will practice going over their information on their person orally to prepare for Gold Rush Day presentation that other classes will be invited to see.

(30 minutes)


Students will get to experience what it was like during the time by taking a 1- day field trip to Coloma. Students will get to experience panning for gold and see what they have been studying about put into a simulation.



Language Arts/Visual & Performing Arts:
Performance of “Cassie’s Journey” a reader’s theater.
Students will put on the readers theater of “Cassie’s Journey”. Students will have created simple sets and costumes to go along with the play.

(45 minutes)


Closing Activity:
Before students partake in Gold Rush day, students will complete the KWL chart that we started the first week of the unit.

(30 to 45 minutes)

Students will hold a presentation for an hour and a half. During that time other classes will be invited in to listen to what the students have learned about the Gold Rush from student experts that are dressed as people from the time period.

(1 hour and 30 minutes)

Students will go to recess and the classroom will be transformed into a “GOLD RUSH”.

‘Gold’ will be hidden all around the room for the students to find ‘using’ the different techniques of finding gold.

(30 minutes)

There will be a Gold Rush themed mini party for the hard work that the students have complete over the last month.

Students will watch the movie The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin during the party. This movie is based off of the book By the Great Horn Spoon that the students completed during the unit.

(Last hour of school…students may not finish film)

See Attached Papers:

TaskStream Lesson Plan for Stream Tables
TaskStream Lesson Plan for Mapping Routes to CA

Mapping Routes to California

Over the next few days, you will be mapping out the different routes to California that miners/gold diggers took. It is your job to make sure that you include the following things on your map while being creative with the materials that you use to construct the routes taken.

  1. Draw a compass rose on the bottom left hand side of your map.

  2. Label the following locations on your map.

North America

Pacific Ocean

Gulf of Mexico

Panama City



Cape Horn


South America

Atlantic Ocean

Caribbean Sea


New Orleans

Rio de Janero

Straits of Magellan


  1. Include a key for your map. Make sure you have different materials or colors to label the different routes taken. (Cape Horn Route, Panama Route, Overland Route)

    1. Cape Horn Route: From New York go south around Cape Horn and North to San Francisco.

    2. Panama Route: From Boston go across the Isthmus of Panama and North to San Francisco.

    3. Overland Route: From Philadelphia go across the continent into San Francisco.

  1. Make sure to have indicated the water in blue whether you color it in blue or use paper to make the water blue.

  1. Be neat and creative.

The “Right” Route to Choose
Now that we have learned about the advantages and disadvantages of the 3 different routes that people could take to come to California to discover gold it is your job to pick one route and convince others to take that same route.
You will be writing a short persuasive/opinion essay on the route that you would chose to travel to California.
Make sure to include:

Presentation on a Person from the Gold Rush
You will chose either a famous person from the Gold Rush or do research on the life of someone who would be living during the Gold Rush Era (miner, prospector, saloon owner, etc.) After you chose who you will be doing research on you will compose an outline of key information and facts about that person.
You will be putting your key information and facts about that person into a speech that you will then present to your classmates and members of the school that are invited to come in on the last day of the unit.
Part of your presentation will be to use a source of technology. You can chose to:

  • Make a PowerPoint

  • Some other form of slideshow with pictures and bullet points of information

  • A short iMovie

  • If you can think of something else come consult the teacher before going ahead

You may also dress up like the person on the day of the presentation.

See Attached Papers:
Rubrics See Attached Links

  • Routes to CA Mapping Rubric

  • The “Right” Route to Choose Rubric

  • Presentation on a Person from the Gold Rush Rubric


Children’s Books & Websites:

  1. By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman

  2. Samurai of Gold Hill by Yoshiko Uchida

  3. The Gold Rush (Daily Life) by Stuart Kallen

  4. Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman

  5. California Gold Rush by May McNeer

  6. Chang’s Paper Pony by Eleanor Coerr

  7. Gold Fever! By Catherine McMorrow

  8. Gold Fever by Verla Kay

  9. One-Eyed Charley, The California Whip by Randall Reinstedt

  10. Wagons West-Trail Tales 1848 by Robert Schellenberger

  11. California Cobblestone: GOLD (Magazine) California Publishing Company, 1997

  12. California Gold Rush, SIGHTSEERS by Julie Ferris

  13. California Gold Rush – Moments in History by Shirley Jordan

  14. California Gold Rush- Search for Treasure by Catherine E. Chambers

  15. California Gold Rush Trail by Lynda Hatch

  16. The California Gold Rush by (Graphic Histories) World Almanac Library

  17. The California Gold Rush-MATH by Kerri O’Donnell

  18. Gold Country: The Story Behind the Scenery, Stanley W. Paher, 1996

  19. Gold Fever by Rosalyn Schanzer

  20. The Gold Rush by Bobbie Kalman

  21. Gold Rush Adventure by Linda Lyngheim

  22. Life of a Miner by Bobbie Kalman

  23. Tales and Treasures of the California Gold Rush by R.A. Reinstedt

  24. Whizz-Bang- Favorite Stories of California’s Past by Jim Rawls






Teacher Reference Materials:

1. Amos Gridley’s Lost 49er Gold by Thomas E. Sherer

  1. California Gold Rush by Eugene R. Hart

  2. California Gold Rush – ACTIVITIES Across the Curriculum by Shirley Jordan

  3. Gold Rush – History in the Headlines by Douglas M. Rife

  4. Gold Rush – Interact by Myron Flindt

  5. The Gold Rush – Themes by Betty Egan

  6. Gold Rush Adventures for Kids by Silvia Anne Sheafer

  7. Oregon – California Trails (Reading, Writing, and Riding) by Wm. E. Hill

  8. Art of the Gold Rush by Janice T. Driesbach

  9. The California Gold Rush by Mary McNeer

  10. Chinese and the Gold Rush by Silvia Anne Sheafer

  11. Diary of a 49er by C.L. Canfield

  12. Eldorado by Dale L. Walker

  13. Gold Discovery by William C. Dillinger

  14. Gold Fever by Oakland Museum of California

  15. Gold Rush-An Urban Prospector’s Guide by Silvia Anne Sheafer

  16. Gold Rush Tales by Janet Irene Atkinson

  17. Great American Gold Rush by Rhoda Blumbaerg

  18. Hunting for Gold by Major William Downie

  19. Guide to the California Gold Rush by Eugene R. Hart

  20. Six Months in the Gold Mines by Edward G. Buffum

  21. Small Window by Linda Teigland

  22. RUSH for RICHES by J.S. Holliday

  23. The World Rushed In by J.S. Holliday

  24. They Saw the Elephant-Women in the Gold Rush by Jo Ann Levy

  25. Wells Fargo Book of the Gold Rush by Margaret Rau












  • The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (Walt Disney Movie)

  • GOLD RUSH: A Simulation of Life and Adventure in a Frontier Mining Camp (cd-rom)

  • Oakland Museum Suitcase material

  • (Introduction to Gold Rush)

Community Resources:

  • Oakland Museum Suitcase material

  • See “Field Trips”

Materials for “hands-on” investigations:

  • Oakland Museum Suitcase material

  • See “Field Trips”


  • Social Studies textbook: Our California

Additional Websites

  1. California Historical Society:

  1. California’s Gold Rush Country:

  1. Emigrant Road:

  1. Gold Rush History Alliance:

  1. Gold Rush Wagon Train:

  1. Oakland Museum-Gold Fever:

  1. Sacramento Bee:

  1. San Francisco Museum:

  1. The Gold Rush.:

  1. The Gold Rush Trail:

  1. Women in the Gold Rush:

Field Trips for the Gold Rush

  1. Oakland Museum :

    1. Tours (45 minute docent led tour)

      1. The Art of the Gold Rush and Early California: See California as early artist saw it! Students examine photographs, paintings, and other artworks that document and interpret people, lifestyle, environments, and changing attitudes in early California. Students explore, analyze, and interpret art of the Gold Rush era and early California art.

      2. Examine the artifacts, stories, and historical impact of the world’s quest for California’s glittering wealth.

        • Cost: $50 for classes of up to 20

        • $70 for classes 21-30 students

    2. Programs

      1. Those Fabulous ‘49ers: Explore the people, technology, and environmental impact of the California Gold Rush.

        • Includes: 45-minute docent-led tour of Gallery of CA history & 60-minute gold panning activity in the museum garden

          1. COST: $175 per class

      2. Eureka Days: The year’s Gold Rush studies culminate this rich and multifaceted program.

        • Includes: 45-minute Gold Rush focused tour of either the history OR art gallery. 60-minute gold panning workshop in the Museum’s garden; & 60-minute interactive musical performance about the California Gold Rush.

          1. COST: $195 per class

    3. In Classroom Experience

      1. California Gold Rush: This suitcase exhibit introduces students to the challenges and experiences of the California Gold Rush by providing material related to the everyday life of a ‘49er.

Suitcase contents include:

  • replica Gold Rush era artifacts, including a gold pan, mucket, clothing, writing materials, and more.

        • Music, video, and a suitcase user’s manual that provides information about replica objects and suggestions for the classroom activities.

      1. COST: $60 for 2 weeks

  1. Coloma Outdoor Discovery School :

    1. Gold Rush Program: (see website for information)

    2. Options: 1 to 4 day programs

      1. 1 day program: $85.00 per student

      2. 2 day program: $155.00 per student

      3. 3 day program: $195.00 per student

      4. 4 day program: $240.00 per student

    3. See attached form of what a 3 day schedule looks like


I remember studying the Gold Rush when I was in 4th grade and how much I loved learning about California history. When I started my 6-week placement in 4th grade I expressed to my mentor teacher how much I loved California history and how I was excited to incorporate history throughout the other academic areas. We discussed what parts of the 4th grade history curriculum interested me, and what we would be covering during my time in the 4th grade. I explained to her that we part of my assignment for Dominican was to create a 2-week integrated unit on a topic. We chose to have me focus in on the Gold Rush, however as the weeks went by and I started developing my unit, it became clear that the class was not going to finish the history of the missions before I left and the Gold Rush unit would just be starting as I was leaving. Therefore, I was unable to really teach a lot of my unit. I did however get to do the science lesson on erosion and deposition.

I really enjoyed teaching this lesson to my 4th graders because I could see the excitement in their eyes when they realized they were going to be able to do some hands-on learning. During the students lunch period I prepped the classroom for the demonstration and experiments so that students wouldn’t have to worry about gathering supplies when they came back into the classroom but rather could spend the majority of the time learning through experiencing by doing an experiment and writing about it. When students arrived back to class after lunch, I got their attention and explained to them that although we hadn’t started learning about the Gold Rush that we would be doing an experiment that would tie into how gold might have come out in riverbeds. I asked the students what they knew about the Gold Rush and took down notes on the board for them. I then started talking to the students about what they had already learned about erosion and deposition and the different vocabulary that they had learned in prior lessons. I had made a poster with vocabulary terms that matched the picture description since the teacher did not have one. I did this for my students who needed the visual aid to help jog their memory and may need the visual aid for a reference.

I then started in on my lesson. I had made students a “booklet” that was to be their science notebooks. Students were to create a stream table-recording sheet, which I went over with them on how to make. While monitoring the classroom I realized that most students understood how to create the recording sheet and for the few who needed further directions I helped them complete their sheets. I then went about doing the demonstration for the class, which in the future, I would make sure to take home the materials and test before doing for the first time in front of the class. I learned that it’s best to know exactly what to expect when doing an experiment before doing the experiment blindly in front of the students. Students were excited to see how the when I let my finger off the container the water started to make a change in the sand.

After the demonstration ended, I had students go back to their seats and clear off their tables/desks so that they would have workspace to do the experiment on their own. Once students had set up their stream tables, I had them draw out their before pictures. One thing that I would do differently during this part of the lesson is I would model what a detailed before sketch looks like and what my expectations of their sketches should be. I noticed that some students rushed this step to get to the experiment and that some sketches were sloppily done. Students were then given the go-ahead to begin their experiment. I walked around and monitored the students during this period and asked students questions about what they noticed was happening to the sand. I asked them questions about how they might make predictions as to why erosion and this experiment might tie into the Gold Rush.

When students were done with the experiment part of the lesson, I got the whole classes attention and guided the students this time on how to draw an after sketch with labels and descriptions of what they noticed happened to the sand. I took this extra time to go over how to do the after drawings because of what I observed during the before pictures. I think that this was particularly successful because I noticed the difference in students before and after pictures as well as how students were proud of their after pictures and willing to share their drawings with the class on the overhead. Students were then asked to help clean up materials before coming together for a Science Talk.

During the Science Talk, I was amazed at what the students had observed as well as the depth of discussion that the students were able to have. I posed the questions about how if sand was displaced by water, do the students think gold could have been displaced and deposited into riverbed? The students had some great responses and were able to connect their science knowledge to the make predictions and hypothesis’ as to why yes gold could have been deposited into riverbeds by the acts of erosion.

Some particular areas of success from this lesson were that I think transitions from the demonstration to the students experiment to the science talk went extremely smooth and that I had really good pacing throughout the lesson. I also thought the actual science talk was a great success and that students were engaged and all students participated and contributed to the discussion. Some areas of growth I would say would be in making sure to practice the demonstration prior to preforming it in front of the class. I also would demonstrate and model how to do proper science observation sketches so that students before pictures matched the after pictures.

New understandings about teaching that I learned from teaching this lesson were that the key to success is to make sure that you are prepared for doing science and that prep work is key to having a successful experiment. Also to make sure the expectations are clear before students are released to perform experiments and to clearly state what the students learning outcome is so that students are aware of what they are suppose to be learning/doing during the lesson. I also learned from my students that they had a good understanding of erosion as well as a broad idea of the basic ideas and concepts of the Gold Rush that helped them even though we had not yet covered the Gold Rush so much in Social Studies. Some students however had done their 2nd trimester project on people in the Gold Rush era, which helped them connect this experiment to their knowledge of the Gold Rush.

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