8th Grade

Overview of the Eighth-Grade Curriculum
Westward Expansion: Gold, Greed, and Government

by Donna Leary and Jean Mundell

This eighth-grade unit is divided into three parts. Part I reacquaints students with or introduces them to the people in California at the time of the Gold Rush, discusses the role that the concept of Manifest Destiny played in the rush to California, and explores the interplay of myth and reality from the Gold Rush to the present. 

In Part II, students will learn about California's ethnically diverse population, which competed for position and power in the new and rapidly developing economic and political systems. This struggle began in the Gold Rush and continues today. Students also will learn about California's significant role in the origin of the Civil War, or how our state's application for statehood upset the North/South balance, aggravating an already troubled situation. We examine the Compromise of 1850, which brought California into the Union, along with other provisions that would keep the Union together for a while but soon would lead to Civil War. 

Part III focuses on the effect the Gold Rush had on California's environment. This section explores the three types of mining (placer, hard rock and hydraulic) as well as their impacts on the environment. A simulation asks students to discuss and vote on approving a nearby mining project. 

We have written these lessons to provide you with an abundance of primary sources and alternatives to material that is already in your curriculum. Feel free to adapt our suggestions to make these lessons fit your students. 

--Donna and Jean
Eighth-grade Overview
Page 9