Gold Rush


General Description -
On January 24, 1848 James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill along the American River. The discovery sparked the famous California gold rush. Between 1848 and 1852, California's population grew from 14,000 to 223,000. As thousands of people poured into the gold regions of northern California from throughout the world, they formed unique, diverse communities. Columbia State Historic Park preserves the historic remnants of one such gold rush community. 

This unit of study provides students 3 in-class lessons during which students will examine the economic and environmental influence of the gold rush. The fourth lesson is a live, interactive video conference with a State Park Interpreter. The Interpreter will talk directly to your students about the gold rush in the context of the historic mining town of Columbia.

Click HERE to schedule this program

Essential Questions
1.  Why did people come from all over the world for the California gold rush?
2.  How did gold miners mine for their gold?
3.  How did the gold rush impact California?

Academic Content Standard Subject Area: History/Social Science

Grade Level: 4th (adaptable for other grades)

Primary Academic Content Standards: 4.3.2 and 4.3.3

Primary Common Core State Standards: RI.4.3, RI.4.6, RI.4.7, RI.4.8, RI.4.9, W.4.1, SL.4.1

Time Required:
3 classroom periods of 50 minutes each
1 videoconference lesson 
Options for extension activities are included.

Upon completing the classroom lessons and participating in the videoconference, students will be able to:

  • Understand the diversity of the people who came to California during the gold rush.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of gold mining and its environmental impacts.
  • Explain the effects of the gold rush on settlements and daily life.

    Academic Contributor:
    Christina Lunde, teacher, Olive Elementary, Novato Unified School District