Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Oh, California

Traveling to the Gold Rush

Objective: Students research the experiences of those who traveled to California during the Gold Rush by land and sea, then create an annotated map showing what they have learned about each route.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
4-5 hours over 2 days

Building Background:
Review with students the affect on the rest of the United States when gold was discovered in California in 1849. Point out that people wanted to get to California as fast as possible. Show a map of North and South America, and discuss with students possible routes to California. (Lead them to the Panama route if they do not see it on their own.) Ask students to come up with one advantage and one disadvantage of each route. Tell students they will learn more about each route and the various advantages and disadvantages for each.

What To Do:

1. Divide students into three working groups. Assign each group one of three routes to California: traveling the overland route; sailing around the tip of South America; sailing to Panama, crossing overland at the Isthmus, then sailing up the California coast. Distribute the To the Gold Rush! worksheet, and tell students to use it to record their research findings.

2. Review the information they are looking for about their assigned route: length of time; cost; possible delays; problems or hardships; advantages and disadvantages. Encourage students to make note of any details, especially in the first-person accounts, which graphically show what it was like to use the route.

3. Have students use the school or public library to do their research. Sources for materials:

4. When students have finished their research and completed the To The Gold Rush! worksheet, tell them they will create an annotated map to show their research. Distribute the To the Gold Rush! map, and review the directions. First students should draw the route they researched on the map. Then they should add numbers to various locations that correspond to the information they want to show. For example, students working with the South American sailing route place a number at the tip of South America. At the bottom of the page, they place that same number and one sentence description of the stormy weather off Cape Horn. Students making an annotated map of the overland route might place a number on the desert, and write about a lack of water that travelers could suffer at this point. Encourage students to include interesting and descriptive details they pick up from the first person accounts.

5. When the groups have finished their annotated maps, have each group display and explain their work to the rest of the class.

Discuss again the advantages and disadvantages of the different routes. What do students think of each now that they know more about them? What route would they have chosen and why?


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