Fourth Grade Activities on the California Gold Rush

Written by kimberlee broaddus
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Fourth Grade Activities on the California Gold Rush
Fourth-grade teachers plan classroom activities as part of lessons on the California Gold Rush. (western wagon image by maiky911 from

The California Gold Rush began in 1848 when James Marshall found gold when working for John Sutter in the hills of Northern California. Fourth-graders learn how this event sparked a migration of gold seekers across the country. A variety of activities can help students learn about the California Gold Rush and it's importance in the development of the United States.

Travelling to the Gold Rush

Fourth-graders learn that travellers took many different routes to California in search of gold. In this activity from the Pro Teacher website, students explore the ways people got to California. Have them research the methods of travel, considering the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. Once students discover the different ways gold seekers arrived in the Golden State, divide the class into three groups. Assign each group one of the routes: over land across America, by sea around South America or by sea to Panama and crossing the isthmus. When their research is complete, instruct the groups to create a detailed map of their route to California. When maps are done, share them with the class and students can discuss which route they would have chosen and why.

Strike It Rich

"Strike It Rich" is an online Webquest game in which students choose a character and see what his life was like during this exciting time in history. Students are given the choice of five characters and follow their choice through to Gold Rush fortune. Students are shown how much health, wealth, mining experience and business know-how each character has. They also see what type of supplies each character is been given. As students move through the game, they are told what types of experiences their chosen character had, and must choose between different scenarios for the character to partipate in. As the game progresses, students see the consequences of people rushing to strike it rich in California's Gold Rush

Gold Rush Town

The California Gold Rush comes to life when fourth-graders act out what they have learnt about that time in history. This lesson, adapted from the Pro Teacher website, shows kids how to create their own Gold Rush Town, complete with laws, in their classroom. Teachers begin by brainstorming with the class about the kinds of people who lived in a Gold Rush town. Students are divided into groups to set up the town. They decide what supplies are needed to make tents and storefronts, as well as a faux riverbed to pan for gold. Teams decorate the classroom with signs and spend the day playing games dressed as old west pioneers.

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