4th Grade, Volume I: Part I, Introduction:

The Diggin's
Daily Life in the Mines

by Catarina Marie Spiess and Irma Gonzalez

A. Overview

The following activities focus on using primary and secondary sources (art prints, daguerreotypes, journals, letters and historical fiction) to look at the lives of people in the mining towns. These lessons are intended to be part of an integrated unit of study. They include various genres of literature that can be incorporated during the language arts/reading period, in order to extend the amount of time devoted to social studies. Also, since the economy of the mines is covered, math has been incorporated in the lessons. 

Using primary source documents (art prints, daguerreotypes and written accounts), students will glean information that will allow them to see how difficult life was for the miners and how very little they could obtain for the amounts of gold that they could find (see "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?"). Students also will get a glimpse of how storekeepers developed profitable businesses, in the activities under "Miner's Provisions, Tools & Clothing." 

Within the lessons, diversity is shown in the individual lives that the student encounters in the art prints, the daguerreotypes and the written entries. Students will gain an understanding of the differences in the lifestyle of the miners from the lives most had led previously. They will come to see that previous achievement had nothing to do with striking it rich. 

Ethnic diversity can be seen in the daguerreotypes used throughout the lessons. Encourage students to recognize the diverse ethnic groups that are shown. This can also be seen in the "Eureka! Gold!" activity in Lesson 7, when students get a taste of the foreign miner's tax imposed on miners (including those who actually were native-born). 

B. Beginning the Topic


1. KWL Chart Charting class discussion.
Begin Gold Rush journals.
1* 5

2. The Streets Are Paved With Gold Introduction to "gold fever."
Reading of "Polk's Address" and response in Gold Rush journals.
1 6

3. Too Funny for Words Analyze political cartoons and read news of the period to further discuss "gold fever" and respond to writing prompt. 1 9

4. KWL Chart Revisited Record questions and what is already known. 1 19

5. Gold Fever A simulation of a taste of gold fever with students responding in Gold Rush journals. 1 20


*Class sessions = 30 to 60 minutes (extend as needed)
Part I, Introduction
Page 1