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Gold Rush Unit Plan

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

This unit, designed for elementary students, focuses on the California Gold rush in the late 1840s. Take students on a journey West to experience the excitement and hardships of the gold rush, as well as the resulting California population boom.

The California Gold Rush

Influenced by Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny, the California Gold Rush increased California's population exponentially. In this unit, elementary students will learn about this exhilarating time, from understanding its historical context to the future of the Wild West. Engage students in this exploration through informative lesson plans, activities and games, as well as a summative project. They will even have an opportunity to map their trip to California and practice their prospecting skills. By providing students with hands-on experience, you'll be able to grab and keep their attention while expanding their knowledge of the California Gold Rush.

Historical Context

To fully understand the California Gold Rush, students must have some basic knowledge of Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny, as these were essential contributing factors to the gold rush frenzy. First, provide a brief lesson on the basics of Manifest Destiny and how it relates to the prospectors' claim on the gold they found. Then, engage students in some or all of these Manifest Destiny Activities for Kids which will help them apply their learning.

Next, provide some background information about the causes and results of the Westward Expansion. Through this instructional overview, students will see the connection between movement west and the gold rush. They will also have a clearer understanding of the urgency people felt that caused them to travel such long distances in hopes of finding gold. Use these Westward Expansion Project Ideas to give students an opportunity to expand their knowledge even further.

Lastly, students should understand how prospectors made it all the way to California. As most people traveled by land, use this Covered Wagon Lesson Plan to help students gain knowledge about the rigors of their journey west.

Gold Rush Basics

You have laid the foundation for students to fully grasp the enormity of the California Gold Rush, both in population size and as an important part of American history. This The American West Lesson Plan can serve as both a review of the information they've already gained and an excellent lead-in to the gold rush lessons and activities to come. Consider having students take notes in a graphic organizer so that they have a framework moving forward.

Next, use this Gold Rush Lesson Plan for Elementary School to get them fully immersed in the lives of prospectors during the California Gold Rush. Infuse some California Gold Rush Activities & Games for Kids to provide an engaging way to practice their learning.

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