By Jason KUROSU
The fourth and fifth grade classes of Valley View Elementary took part in some hands-on historical learning last Friday during the annual Colonial and Gold Rush Day. Students, parents and teachers came to school clad in period-appropriate costumes, ready to navigate through these eras of little technology and much hard work.
Fifth graders took part in several activities, many of which highlighted how Colonialists had to manufacture many of their own things. Students churned butter in jars that initially held baby food, made candles by dipping string in wax and water. They also took part in some leisurely colonial activities, such as soap carving and having their silhouettes drawn by teachers and parents.
Fourth graders also explored both the work and leisure activities of the 49ers. They started the day off with a pancake and sausage breakfast, their plaid work shirts and red bandannas making them look like a work crew preparing for a long day of labor, before making their way down to the “camp,” Briner Gulch, so named after fourth grade teacher Charlotte Briner.
There they participated in panning for “gold” in troughs set up on the lower field. While some groups panned, others took part in some common leisure activities for gold miners such as dice games, card games and straight blade shavings (with tongue depressors, not razors.)
A laundry relay race melded the fun with the work, as the students tried to scrub their clothes with a bar of soap and a washboard quicker than the other half of the mining camp. They raced to hang their sopping clothes up on the long clothesline, splattering the concrete with long streaks of soapy water.
Gina O’Bryan, a middle school teacher who coordinated the event, told the students, “Good job doing the laundry, guys! You can come do the laundry at my house any day!” which brought about a chorus of cheers and jeers.
The students learned quite a bit about the everyday lives of people living during these eras. They learned from experience how hard they had to work. Although for some students, like fourth grader Christine Ko, the toil and labor went unnoticed.
As the students lined up to take the lower field, Ko was bouncing, unable to contain her enthusiasm.
“I am very excited. I can’t wait to get gold!”