Skip to Main Content
Contact Us Search
Parks Title

Lesson Two: Gold Mining

Upon completing the lesson students will be able to:

  • Describe the stages of gold mining in California (i.e. how during the 1850s miners quickly exhausted the easily obtained placer gold deposits and increasingly relied on more sophisticated and expensive mining technology).
  • Explain and recognize the environmental impact of gold mining.

Time Required
1 hour class period (45-50 minutes)

Materials Required
Computer and digital projector
"Elusive Gold: Gold Mining Methods" Power Point & script
"Mining Techniques" worksheet
"Mining Terms" crossword puzzle & answer key
Optional: one to three large tubs, water, sand, gold-painted iron fillings or beebees or fine gravel, pie pans

1.  Discuss with students the qualities of gold.

What makes gold different from other metals? Gold is a rare, soft metal found in nature. Because it is soft, it is easier to work with than other metals.
Why is gold considered to be valuable? It is rare and capable of being molded into countless items. Gold can be hammered into thin sheets or made into fine thread. When heated to 1943ยบ Fahrenheit, gold melts into a liquid, which can be poured into various shapes.
What are some ways that gold is used today?
2.  Show "Elusive Gold: Gold Mining Methods" Power Point.

3.  After the Power Point break the class into seven groups. Assign each group a mining method (panning, rocker, long tom, sluice mining, hydraulic mining, coyoting, and tunneling (hard rock mining). Using the "Mining Techniques" worksheet, each group should list the pros and cons for their assigned mining method. They should consider the tools/equipment needed, technological difficulty, labor, expense and environmental impact. Have each group share with the class.

4.  Assign the "Mining Terms" crossword puzzle as either an in-class assignment or homework.

Extended Activity
For a classroom panning exercise, obtain some fine copper beebee pellets or iron fillings from a hardward store. (You can also use gold-painted fine gravel.) Mix one-quarter cup of the "gold" with about 10 liters of course sand. Put the mixture in a tub and add water. Have students use small shallow bowls or old pie pans to scoop up a small amount of sand and swirl it over the tub. Tell them not to tip the pan too far and to continue adding plain water while swirling until only the pellets or fillings remain in the bowl. Students "strike it rich" if they find any gold gravel.

Group worksheet and crossword puzzle