For Richer or For Poorer:
The California Gold Rush
The student page contains the hook only. It is intended to spark interest in the topic and lead students to ask questions or make predictions.
It's been a long day at school and you're exhausted. You lay down to take a nap in the sun and begin to dream. Your dream takes you back into the late 1840's during the California Gold Rush...
Who do you see? Who are the people and what are they doing? Are you a gold miner or just a passer by? You're hungry, tired and low on cash (gold). Where will you sleep? How will you survive?
Take a look at this PowerPoint presentation to get you thinking about the big decision of joining the Gold Rush.
Students might ask similar but different questions than those listed here. The more students are guided to ask specific questions, the less inquiry-oriented the activity.
The Web Inquiry Project described below asks students to take on the role of historian, exploring the life of the miners and history of California in the era of the Gold Rush. The following list of questions are intended to have the students really think and contemplate the aspects of the California Gold Rush.
After students have asked questions related to the topic, they will need to decide a number of things, including:
Type(s) of Data
Students will gain a general understanding of the topic through the PowerPoint presentation's links to the American Memory primary resource collection, titled, "America As I Saw It: First Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900." If the students browse this collection, they can find letters, diaries, songs, official documents, and other primary resources to get them started.
Defining Important Terms
Students may choose to use a combination of tools to gather their thoughts:
In addition to the resources students will find in the PowerPoint presentation, you will need to provide them with the additional websites with specific information on California's population and the change of the value of money over time. For a more detailed description on these websites and the collection of this data, see the Analysis section.
Students using a concept map should continually update the map, adding new information throughout their investigation.
Students using spreadsheets and graphs will create these after researching a data-rich Internet site. They should organize the data from the site into a logical sequence and then graph that data to make a visual representation and explanation of the information.
Students using KWL charts will begin the chart before the beginning of their research and then revisit it at the conclusion of the investigation.
There is often a giant leap from defining the type(s) of data desired and actually finding the data. Providing guidance to students in finding the necessary data is necessary.
In order to aid students in their research under each topic area, here is a list of web resources you might want to direct them to:
1. Who were the gold miners?
2. What was it like to live as a 49er?
3. What were some of the various effects of the discovery of gold?
Raw data/information usually has to be manipulated before it can answer any questions. Students might be unaware of how data can best be manipulated, so teacher guidance may be appropriate.
After completing the data investigation section of the inquiry, students should revisit their original concept maps or KWL charts. An original concept map for the subtopic, "Who Were the Gold Miners," might look like this:
After revisiting their original maps, students should expand on them, adding new information they have learned or any changed ideas. The revised concept map for the subtopic, "Who Were the Gold Miners," might look like this:
To analyze the data on population and the change of the value of gold over time, students should use the provided websites to create spreadsheets and graphs to represent the data. Below is a sample of a spreadsheet they use to analyze the information:
No result is meaningful unless communicated appropriately. Discussion of findings should be supported. There may or may not be definitive answers to the questions students raised.
By using the provided websites, students are expected to present the information in a way that accurately represents what they have learned. This may include the tools listed above or any additional, creative method. Students are expected to explore at their will. Their findings may not represent the samples we have provided, but they need to answer the topical questions.
Below are examples of ways that students may choose to present their findings:
Answers often lead to new questions, starting the inquiry cycle over again.
Here are some possible follow up questions and extension activities you may wish to have your students investigate at a later time: