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June 14, 2011 > Gold in them thar hills!

Gold in them thar hills!

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis

The Gold Rush era came alive on May 27. Guy Emanuele Elementary School reverted to the 1850's, when gold was king. Two-hundred fifty, fourth and fifth graders, nine teachers, and numerous volunteers clad in costumes of that period, participated in California history activities and exhibits.

Gold Rush-Pioneer Days, two-hours of assorted hands-on educational experiences, was celebrating its fifth year. Kim Klindt, coordinator and fourth grade teacher, led a teaching team that carefully planned 20 activities to achieve educational goals, ranging from history, math and science, to arts and dance.

Enthusiastic youngsters swept through the area, dancing, watching a silent movie, panning for gold, savoring Sarsaparilla and pie, playing both indoor and outdoor games from that period of time. Artistic endeavors and informational displays filled out the morning.

Lively boys and girls danced the Cotton-Eyed Joe to the music of the same name. The song's origin is unknown, but it pre-dates the American Civil War. Klindt said the well-known dance can be found on YouTube. From that source, the teachers adapted the dance to fit their needs. The kids performed energetically and well.

Going back in time provided students a chance to see a silent movie, "Sarah's Gold." The black and white trailer, "King George's Tax," was a good lead-in. Starring Jason Lowe as the king, it provided light moments. King George performed silly antics while demanding taxes. Then the nine-minute movie, in sepia tones, depicted the experiences of Sarah, a young Bostonian woman, who traveled to California. Making and selling pies to the miners became her livelihood. Then she discovers gold - and so ends her pie making.

The faces of the students, panning for gold pyrite, showed the joy of the forty-niners who struck it rich. With "gold" in hand, the next step was the Assay Office. Here the nouveau riche weighed the gold.

Close by, children played games assisted by Mark Bryson, parent volunteer. They tried out a relay, a sack race, hopped through hopscotch and accepted the challenge of spinning a hoop. Across the courtyard was the One-Eyed Jack Poker House where the game of the day was blackjack. Volunteer Fred Sprague played the role of card dealer.

Scattered around the courtyard were art projects. One table was set up for tin tracings of grade-level symbols: the grizzly bear for fourth grade and a star for fifth. Weaving boards, based on a replica found in Virginia City, were a big hit. Fourth grade teacher, Greg Wellman led this craft. The participation reflected the overall spirit of staff and volunteers. Wellman donated his time to make the weaving boards. Other teachers donated the yarn. Recycling funds were used to buy the wood.

Sarah's Emporium was busy serving pie and Sarsaparilla. Kids discovered the beverage was the same as root beer.

On one wall was an attractive timeline depicting historical details to 1850. This was a new project.

Students, while learning about the 1850's, realized modern technology is useful for "plugging into the past." Klindt used the iMovie (Apple software) and her MacBook in creating the films. Another clever activity was jail photographs. Kids liked having a souvenir to keep. Photo Booth software enabled this to be created.

Pleasure pervaded the air as the morning gave glimpses into life in the Gold Rush Days. Klindt commented that the enthusiasm of students and the teachers made it, "A great day!"

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