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Klondike FeverKlondike-Fever

  • Subject: World History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: One class period

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. The topic gold is very broad but can be broken down to generate manageable topics for a research report.
2. The graphic organizer known as a map can help writers narrow down a topic.


For this lesson, you will need:
A general encyclopedia
Access to other print and electronic sources about aspects of gold
Overhead transparency and projector or other means of materials for large-scale mapping


1. Introducing the broad topic of gold to your students gives you an opportunity to involve them in the process of mapping—or narrowing a broad topic to a manageable size for a research report. Begin by putting the word gold in a circle in the middle of a chalkboard, on paper mounted on a wall, or on an overhead transparency.
2. Your next step is to show students that an encyclopedia approaches the huge, overall topic gold by breaking it down into subtopics and by cross-referencing other articles in the encyclopedia as well as other sources for further reading. Illustrate on the chalkboard, paper, or overhead transparency how each of these subtopics or cross-references can graphically grow out of the central circle with the word gold in it. For instance, write each of the following terms in a circle outside the original circle, and connect the new circles to the original circle with straight lines:
  • Properties of gold
  • Uses of gold
  • Kinds of gold
  • Mining for gold
  • Gold through the ages
3. Give students an opportunity to add other subtopics that occur to them from their general knowledge base or from research. Some of the terms students suggest may be on the same level as those just listed, but some may be subsubtopics; that is, some may be subordinate to those just listed and should be circled farther away from the center of the map and then connected with straight lines to the subtopics.
4. If students haven't suggested subsubtopics in the preceding step, introduce some now. For example, for the subtopic properties of gold , show the three details beautiful, resistant to corrosion, and easy to work with. Or for the subtopic uses of gold, show the details coinage, basis of international monetary transactions, jewelry, art (gold leaf in paintings and sculpture), photography, dentistry, and cancer treatment (radioisotopes).
5. Challenge students, using reference books if necessary, to come up with subsubtopics, or details, for the other subtopics you've put on the map. Throughout the process, point out to students that the farther they get away from the original, central circle, the closer they are getting to manageable topics for a research report.
6. For your information, here are other gold-related terms that you or your students can position appropriately on the map you have started.
Details that belong with subtopics mentioned in earlier step
  • Kinds of gold
Green gold
White gold
  • Mining for gold
Hydraulic mining
Elevator dredges
Shafts as in coal mining
  • Gold through the ages
In ancient civilizations
Central Asian
In the New World
Gold brought by Vikings
Gold of Native Americans before Columbus
Gold in Mexico after colonization by Spain
First coinage in United States
Additional subtopics
  • Gold as element on Periodic Table
  • Individuals associated with gold
  • Alloys
  • Gold in mythology and literature
7. If you decide to assign or let students choose a narrowed topic for a research paper, help them determine what additional print and electronic sources to use beyond the encyclopedia. Specify length of paper. Review as necessary the documentation system you want students to use in their papers.

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Adaptations for Older Students:
Assign the mapping part of this activity as an individual task rather than treating it, as in the main lesson plan, as a teacher-led, cooperative project.

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Discussion Questions

1. Would you be willing to drop everything, as many of the Klondike prospectors did, for a chance at fame and fortune? Why or why not?
2. What would life have been like for the gold seekers of the late 1800's? How was life different for the stampeders, or newcomers, versus the frontiersmen who had searched for gold for many years? What are your thoughts about the lives of the families these gold seekers left behind?
3. What is meant by the sourdough code of ethics: "Do unto others as you would be done by?" What are some examples of other codes of ethics in American society?
4. Many people returned from the Klondike without any gold but, according to the program, they found confidence in facing the incredible odds against them. What does this mean? Was this experience as "good as gold" for most people?

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You can evaluate students' research reports using the following three-point rubric:
Three points: sufficiently narrowed topic, presented in a strong thesis statement; sufficient elaboration and detail; coherent, unified paragraphs; accurate grammar, usage, and mechanics
Two points: sufficiently narrowed topic presented in an adequate thesis statement; minimally adequate elaboration and detail; mostly coherent, unified paragraphs; some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
One point: topic not appropriately narrowed; inadequate thesis statement; inadequate elaboration and detail; paragraphs lacking coherence and unity; many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining the characteristics of a strong thesis statement.

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Trading in Gold Today
Today gold is traded on the commodities market. Invite a local stock or commodities broker to your class to talk about the role of gold in today's economy. Students should be prepared to ask questions of the guest lecturer.

To Leave a Family . . . for Gold
Have students write a story or an article about leaving their families for a year to search for a fortune in gold. Alternatively, they may write from the point of view of a family member left behind.

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Suggested Readings

"Precious Dust: The American Gold Rush Era: 1848-1900"
Paula Mitchell Marks, William Morrow & Co., 1994

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Gold Rush: Centennial Photographs, 1893-1916
This wonderful array of photographs from the Alaska State Library's Historical Collection includes pictures of the stampeders in search of their fortunes, and pictures of the areas and towns of the Yukon during the gold rush era. You'll even find pictures of George Carmack and the notorious "Soapy" Smith with his gang. The site also includes photographs and information on specific cities, such as Skagway, Juneau, and Nome, as well as transportation, mining, and entertainment during the period.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    permafrost
Definition: Perennially frozen layers of earth found in frigid regions and at varying depths.
Context: Long before the first stampeders headed north, the Klondike prospectors were working through the bitter winters, setting fires to thaw the permafrost, then digging up the frozen muck.

speaker    prospecting
Definition: Exploring or searching for mineral and ore deposits in an area.
Context: But by 1896, there were thousands of tough, resourceful men prospecting the vast tributaries of the Yukon river.

speaker    sourdoughs
Definition: The name given to old-time prospectors of Alaska or northwestern Canada because they used sourdough to make bread in their camps.
Context: For years, a number of frontiersmen had been prospecting the Yukon. They were the old pros. They called themselves sourdoughs.

speaker    surveyor
Definition: The person who measures a tract of land to determine its form, extent, and position.
Context: ...plotted a town and named it Dawson City, for George Dawson, the famous Canadian surveyor.

speaker    tributaries
Definition: Streams which feed larger streams, rivers or lakes.
Context: But by 1896, there were thousands of tough, resourceful men prospecting the vast tributaries of the Yukon river.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: historical understanding
Understands the historical perspective.
Understands that specific individuals had a great impact on history.

Understands that "chance events" had an impact on history.

Understands that specific decisions and events had an impact on history.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: geography
Understands how geography is used to interpret the past.
Knows how physical and human geographic factors have influenced major historic events and movements.

Knows historic and current conflicts and competition regarding the use and allocation of resources.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: historical understanding
Understands the historical perspective.
Understands that specific individuals and the values those individuals held had an impact on history.

Analyzes the influence specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history.

Analyzes the effects that "chance events" had on history.

Analyzes the effects specific decisions had on history.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: historical understanding
Understands the historical perspective.
Understands the values held by specific people who influenced history and the role their values played in influencing history.

Understands that the consequences of human intentions are influenced by the means of carrying them out.

Understands the relationship between geography and history as context for events.

Knows how to perceive past events with historical empathy.

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Summer Productions, Inc.

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