America seems to have gone crazy about two subjects–Alaska and gold mining. They’re all over TV these days.
Gold mining has been an integral part of world conquest from the time of the explorers. Gold and silver drove the explorers and Conquistadores to decimate world populations and colonize foreign lands, bringing home vast amounts of wealth to nations during what became known as the Age of Imperialism. Europeans colonized all parts of the globe in search of gold, silver, and cash crops. Although the colonization of America started as a result of turbulence in Europe and the search for religious freedom, it wasn’t long before people struck out in search of riches here, too. The fever started with the California Gold Rush at the end of the 1840’s. Ten years later, gold was discovered in Colorado, and silver at Pike’s Peak and Nevada. Now, everyone wants a piece of Alaska.
This week’s Learnist feature is not only about gold rush facts and history, but about resources to teach geography and United States’ history. Discussing mining history can bring many subject areas to the surface–regional histories of gold and silver towns, economic history, social history, and of course, the pioneer spirit.
Learnist has partnered with the Discovery Network, which creates many shows about Alaska and gold mining, topics which have captured the national imagination. Who doesn’t dream of striking it rich? Discovery’s latest Alaska blockbuster, Klondike is set to premiere in January. Klondike follows two childhood friends, Bill and Epstein, as they go to Alaska to make their millions. This, unlike Discovery’s Gold Rush, which is a reality show, is a scripted miniseries based on Charlotte Grey’s book Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in the Klondike, which tells the story of how difficult it would have been to take part in this rush and the settling of what has become known as “America’s last frontier.” Klondike is set to premiere in January, but Discovery’s other Alaska and gold shows are on right now.
Use these Learnist boards to teach about Alaska, gold mining, and to bring some literature and economic history to life, and watch Klondike to get a feel for how it must have been to live during a time when everyone striking out was convinced he’d strike it rich.
This board gives the background of the American gold industry by the end of the 1900’s. The initial gold rushes were over, and people were settled into mining towns. Gold built cities, states, and economies, and in some cases, when the precious metals were exhausted, ghost towns.
These resources bring primary and secondary sources into the classroom. From Pierre Burton’s photo essay showcasing the best of the ten-thousand archival gold rush photos still in existence to his Stampede for Gold which tells the story in more detail, there’s something for every level of teaching and learning here.
Jack London is one of the most influential American authors in history. His work is mainly about the Klondike gold rush. Bringing in the elements of nature, and human greed and compassion, he tells this story unlike any other, bringing readers back to a time where America was still forming and each man had to make his own way in some of the harshest conditions on the planet
When we study about the Age of Imperialism or the gold or silver rushes in the United States, invariably an astute student asks why gold has any value anyway? Why is it the metal that built the world economy and caused so many men to strike out all over the globe? This board tells some fun facts about gold. You can then ask students to consider the question, “Why gold?”
Pioneers had to be able to have provisions for at least a farming season or two or they would die. It was even more difficult for Klondike prospectors due to the harshness of Alaska. This board shows what mining expeditions needed to survive one year of prospecting in Alaska. This would make an excellent lesson, especially for the younger crowd, as we discover so many things about planning an expedition, food storage, and how difficult the logistics were to be a pioneer in pre-iPod America.
You might know what a sluice is from the modern day gold shows, but if you wanted to be in the Yukon gold rush crowd, you’d better know what an “Irish baby buggy” was. This board is dedicated to speaking the lingo of a gold rush miner. The evolution of language is a fascinating subject for students, and this could be a couple of lessons, including one on etymology itself. I see it as an area for cultural sensitivity. An “Irish baby buggy” is a wheelbarrow. There are many words from this board that we don’t even realize aren’t culturally sensitive. This board, in one respect, could spark that discussion. In another lesson, it’s a fascinating piece of American oral and social history.