Panning for Gold

Panning for Gold lesson plan

Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils, cut paper, and Crayons help you bring a prospector's world to life in a pop-up scene.

  • 1.

    Organize students into small groups. Invite groups to research the American Gold Rush and the impact it had on the settling of the North American West. How did the discovery of gold in the California Territory during the mid-1800s contribute to the spread of population across the continent? Select a variety of text and electronic resources for students to view during this research.

  • 2.

    Gold prospectors led a difficult life, traveling thousands of miles alone into unknown country. When they arrived at their destination — whether it was California or the Canadian Rockies — they often spent a great deal of time searching for gold, and many never found it. They faced danger from the wilderness as well as other miners. What other hardships can you imagine they endured?

  • 3.

    One method prospectors used to search for gold was to sift pebbles and sand in stream beds that flowed from the mountains. This was called panning for gold. Suggest groups imagine they are panning for gold. How would you use tools to search? Would you look in deep water, or shallow? Groups should be prepared to explain their choices.

  • 4.

    On white construction paper, students use Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils or Color Sticks to draw a person panning for gold. Remind students to dress prospectors in rugged clothes, including blue jeans and a flannel shirt. Show the person kneeling with a pan in hand. Use Crayola Scissors to cut out the figure. Cut an extra tab of paper to attach the prospector's knees to the stream bed.

  • 5.

    Fold another sheet of white construction paper in half. Use colored pencils to draw a stream bed on the bottom half.

  • 6.

    On the back (vertical) half of the folded paper, students draw several trees. Cut out one side of each tree. Fold the cut half forward, so it stands up on the bottom of the paper.

  • 7.

    Use Crayola School Glue to attach green construction paper to the back of the scene for a forest effect. Glue prospectors to the stream bed.

  • 8.

    Students use Crayola Metallic Crayons to place gold in the stream bed and in the prospector's pan--the luckiest gold-miner in California! If the prospector is especially fortunate, suggest students color several scraps of gold paper, crumple them up to resemble rocks, and place them on the stream bed.

  • 9.

    Student teams organize their research into a presentation for small groups of classmates. The prospectors should be used as a visual to enhance the presentation.

Standards

  • LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
  • LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  • LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
  • MATH: Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
  • SS: Demonstrate an ability to use correctly vocabulary associated with time such as past, present, future, and long ago; read and construct simple timelines; identify examples of change; and recognize examples of cause and effect relationships.
  • SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.
  • SS: Identify examples of institutions and describe the interactions of people with institutions.
  • SS: Use economic concepts such as supply, demand, and price to help explain events in the community and nation.
  • VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.
  • VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

Adaptations

  • Possible classroom resources include: Children of the Gold Rush by Claire Rudolf Murphy; Gold! Gold from the American River!: January 24, 1848: The Day the Gold Rush Began by Don Brown; The Gold Rush: Chinese Immigrants Come to America (1848-1882) by Jeremy Thornton
  • Students investigate the tool kit that prospectors used during the California Gold Rush. How were each of the tools used while mining?
  • Compare and contrast gold mining in the mid-19th century to coal mining.
  • The California Gold Rush caused the development of many small western towns. Investigate one or more of these towns. What did they look like? What elements were present in all? Who inhabited these towns? What was a typical day like in one of these towns?
  • Invite a jeweler or geologist to speak with the class about the unique qualities of gold. Prior to the meeting, students identify questions they have about gold. After the visit, students post learning to a class blog.
  • Students investigate the California Territory in 1849. Compare and contrast the northern part of the territory to the southern land. Sketch the shape of the territory and identify where gold was initially found. Mark all significant landforms in the territory. What occupations drew people to the California Territory during this time period other than gold mining?