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March 30, 2004 > Gold Rush: The Dream Still Lives!

Gold Rush: The Dream Still Lives!

by Arathi Satish

One hundred and forty children experienced the ultimate American dream on Friday, the March 26th at John Gomes Elementary School in Fremont. The much anticipated Gold Rush Day program enabled the children to experience life as gold miners in the mid 19th century., For a short while, they were able to lead a new kind of entrepreneurial lifestyle and dream of getting rich quick!

Students prepared for the day by studying a curriculum surrounding the discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the subsequent Gold Rush beginning in 1849. The students learned how people from different walks of life said "goodbye" to their families and journeyed to California in search of riches for a lifetime, thus earning the moniker, "Forty-Niners". Gold, normally embedded deep underground in hard rock, was available in California, using simple tools and with few rules or regulations.

Students worked in groups to create various mining settlements. Each group created their own welcome sign, Sheriff and Deputy to enforce a set of laws and carry out punishments, a map, and directional signs to get to their location. The towns of Golden Luck, Criminal's Bar, Mother Lode Mountain, Goldville, Ye old Talonsville and Golden Valley sprung up throughout the schoolrooms.

Gomes students watched the movie, "My Darlin' Clementine," based on the song of the same name. Shelley Duvall stars as Clementine, a miner's daughter loved by all the men in the mining camp. When Clementine meets Levi, it's love at first sight, although Lucky Jake has other plans for his beautiful daughter. Ed Asner and David Dukes also star in this captivating story, part of the American Tall Tales and Legends Series.

To add to the fun, students had to "pay" to participate in certain events throughout the day with gold coins they had earned during the past few weeks. For example, a student who had accumulated 20 gold coins had twenty dollars to spend that day. They had to pay for lunch ($15) and the movie ($2) outright, but were allowed to spend the rest of their money on a button toy, bead-in-cup toy ($1 each), or a candy stick or cookie as a snack during the movie. They realized that there was money but hardly anything else in California during that time when miners paid inflated prices for simple necessities. Lunch included typical miner's fare: Beans, bread, butter, milk, along with raisins, an egg or an apple.

Many students also came dressed for their role as miners. They were transported back in time when they participated in activities like making butter, playing games (jacks, card games, California-opoly), and making toys.

Fourth grade teachers, Miss. Buendia, Mrs. Bender, Mrs. Mansell, and Mrs. Harvey put in a lot of effort to make the Gold Rush day a success. As Miss. Joanna Buendia pointed out, "Gold rush Day is a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain first-hand experience in something they have been studying in our Social Studies curriculum. It's as if we have turned back the hands of time and they finally have a chance to try things they have read about in books and have seen in videos."

The impact of the gold era is still felt in modern times. Even now, California is a role model for the rest of the world by the way it accepts and encourages entrepreneurs. The dream still lives.

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