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