On Friday, June 1 the fourth grade students of Valley View Elementary wrapped up this year’s social studies lesson on California’s history by participating in a daylong reenactment of what life was like for early California miners.
The fourth graders began the year learning about Native Americans, the state’s early settlers, California Missions and the Gold Rush era.
Parent volunteers dressed in Western wear and helped transform the school cafeteria and playground into the Old West.
Students came to school dressed in flannel shirts and dresses, cowboy hats and rugged boots and wore bandana scarves.
“The goal is to try to get the students to experience what it was like in 1849,” said social studies teacher Kyle Bender.
Fourth grader William Pryor said he learned a lot during the year and thought it was interesting finding out how the miners got their name.
“[I learned] why the miners were called the old 49ers. It was because the Gold Rush was happening in 1849,” said William.
Students were able to get hands-on experience as miners during the multiple educational, yet fun, “mining camps” that were set up on the field.
As the young miners waited for their hearty pancake breakfast, they prepared for a long day of mining by assembling pouches that they would use to hold the gold nuggets they later panned for and would take home as a souvenir of their labor.
A miner’s day was long and took concentration, which students learned during an exercise where they “mined” chocolate chips from cookies using toothpicks and other tools.
Life in 1849 was not only about working in the mines; household chores had to be tended to as well. Students learned how to hang washed laundry on clotheslines and became barbers as they shaved their faces the old-fashioned way, using shaving cream and Popsicle sticks in place of razors.
Students took a break during the workday and were treated to a barbecue lunch of hot links, baked beans, cornbread and root beer or lemonade.
Friends Rachel Diaz and Sophia Atin enjoyed panning for gold during the lesson.
“[I learned] that it was hard back then,” Rachel said of the miner’s lifestyle.
The day was a busy one for fifth grade students as well.
The fifth graders took part in Colonial Day activities where they enjoyed a colonial feast, played games, learned how to churn butter, made candles and a horn book, and danced the Virginia Reel.