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It can be very useful to incorporate units that engage students with interactive lessons using the internet. These activities often take a great deal of preparation and you may encounter a few bumps along the way, but the results are worth the investment.
The following activity is great to use with a high school US History unit on Westward Expansion and the Gold Rush.
If you are comfortable using google.docs, it is a great way to share the activity. The students can click on the links and will be guaranteed to connect to the appropriate site. (WHEN SHARING A DOCUMENT, BE SURE TO CLICK THE “CAN VIEW” OPTION, NOT THE “CAN EDIT.” Your work could be deleted if a student accidentally hits the wrong button!)
Here is the lesson / Google.doc that I share with the students. I hope you find it useful. I have included a few answers, so be sure to delete them before sharing with your students.
Strike it Rich is a PBS interactive lesson on the Gold Rush. It is a great activity that highlights the challenges of trying to “strike it rich” during the California Gold Rush.
Make a copy of this document and name it “Gold Rush (your initials)” to answer the questions.
Click on the following link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldrush/sfeature/game.html
Read the first page with the heading: “The accounts of abundance of gold are of such an extraordinary character…” — President James K. Polk
1. What happened on December 5, 1848? On December 5, 1848, President James K. Polk confirmed the tales of gold in his State of the Union address.
2. What happened to MOST of the people searching for gold (not SOME!)? (Some found the quick riches of their dreams.) Most faced unending days of monotonous, back-breaking labor.
Click on the Strike it Rich to read the individual biographies of each person.
2. For each of the 5 people:
a. List the ethnic background, gender, and place of origin (what city did they come from)
b. List the rankings – health, wealth, mining experience, and business know how
c. List the posessions of the person
d. READ THE ENTIRE BIOGRAPHY of each person and explain the main reasons for their desire to “strike it rich”
3. YOUR CHOICE: AFTER READING THE ENTIRE BIOGRAPHIES of each person, select the one person you feel will have the greatest chance for success during the gold rush. In a paragraph, explain the reasons why you selected the person. Put a good deal of effort into this question. It will be graded!
4. MAKE YOUR WAY: Once you select your person. Read the information about your journey and the different options that you face. READ ALL YOUR OPTIONS before making your choices. For many of the options you will need to give up something – health, wealth, mining experience, and business know how, in order to gain something. Be careful with your decisions.
When you make decisions, be sure to read the pop-ups. For example during a hospital stay, you might learn information from another patient. DO NOT RUSH! Read and process!
5. Describe your adventures! What was the end result? What decisions did you make? Were you pleased with the outcomes?
Continue again as another character.
As a concluding assignment, the students will answer the following writing prompt.
Homework Essay: Compare and contrast the experiences of your two choices during the gold rush:
Paragraph #1 – What is the gold rush? What are the goals of individuals who want to strike it rich?
Paragraph #2 – Person #1’s background, experiences, and results.
Paragraph #3 – Person #1’s background, experiences, and results.
Paragraph #4 – Conclusion
Additional Links
Map – Major Gold Strikes – Read of the different gold strikes that are listed in chronological order. – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldrush/map/index.html
Timeline – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldrush/timeline/index.html
Teachers’ Guide – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldrush/tguide/index.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbbxzYB4gx4 Gold Rush Video youtube
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