4th Grade, Volume I: Part II, Table of Contents

City Life During the Gold Rush

by Jean Rocchio

Overview and Rationale:

California's rapid and dramatic change during the Gold Rush was especially evident in San Francisco. While the Gold Rush also contributed to the growth and establishment of Sacramento, Stockton, Los Angeles, San Diego and a myriad of small mining towns, this series of lessons shows us the effect the Gold Rush had--and still has--on San Francisco. History will become evident to students through the variety of primary sources, in-depth activities and learning strategies presented in this unit. Daguerreotypes, photographs, paintings, newspapers, maps, census figures, biographies, quotations and writings from the period are provided as primary sources. 

Throughout these lessons students are guided to compare the development of San Francisco to the development of the city in which they live. Fourth-grade teachers can make connections with third-grade teachers at their school who have taught local history to further augment the lessons and build on students' prior knowledge. It is important for teachers to check for prior learning to ensure that students understand what a city really is, and in particular, how a city functions in terms of goods and services. History and social studies lessons taught in earlier grades should have prepared the fourth-grade student for the lessons in this unit. 

Framework Connection:

Four major elements in the California History/Social Science Framework for fourth-grade students are: diversity, immigration, change and continuity. By studying "City Life During the Gold Rush," students will learn that diversity is evident in San Francisco's ethnic, cultural and economic composition. Primary source documents and biographies included in these lessons portray this rich diversity. Students will learn that immigration was important during the Gold Rush and continues today. Lessons show population growth, introduce various city leaders and encourage students to compare their city with San Francisco. Students will become aware of change as they read of major events and daily life of various peoples from Gold Rush times to the present. Regional geography, how people interacted with the natural environment and the changes that resulted also are important aspects of change. Maps and primary source documents are integrated into these lessons. The element of continuity, introduced in grade three, will be apparent as students consider the contributions made by groups and individuals of the past to our common memory and to contemporary life in California. Lessons comparing what happened yesterday to today's world help give students a lively sense of linkage. The final lesson (writing a class newspaper) can tie all the previous lessons together into a meaningful assessment piece. 

Focus Questions:

How does daily life in a city today compare with daily life in a city from the Gold Rush era? 

  • Students will demonstrate their knowledge of daily life during the Gold Rush era by describing events they see in a historical painting. They will take part in lessons that encompass learning strategies built around historical and current primary sources. 
    *Assessment Considerations: Students' abilities to notice and interpret details in artworks will improve.

    How did the Gold Rush contribute to rapid population growth?

  • Students will demonstrate their knowledge of rapid population growth by interpreting data in order to make their own graphs, maps and flowcharts.
    *Assessment Considerations: Students will demonstrate their knowledge of several factors that contributed to rapid population growth. 

    (continued on next page)
  • Part II, Overview
    Page 2