Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thar's Gold in Them-Thar Hills!

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Last week I completed two activities with the boys to help them understand concepts related to the California Gold Rush.

First, I scattered bite-sized pieces of candy around the office and living room. In certain places, I hid a single piece but hid a stack of 5-6 pieces in other places. I saved the largest portion of candy (about 20 pieces) for a hard-to-find spot. Before I allowed the boys to enter the living room, I explained to them that they were going to be prospectors just like the "49ers" only they had to find candy instead of gold.

As I had hoped, they were civil at first. Each boy happily took a piece from here or there, not paying much attention to what his brother was doing. Then, Bruster found a larger stash. Immediately, BT made a run for the spot where his brother was collecting. They jumped from spot-to-spot trying to get in on the best finds until finally, BT found the largest stash. Then the race for who could get the most in his bag was on. This led to a great discussion about what motivated prospectors, claim jumping, and the need for laws and government in the west. This discussion was rooted in Pro 16:8. "Better is a little with righteousness than great increase without right."

The next morning, I had them read Chapter 12 of The History of US: Liberty for All? by Joy Hakim. This chapter described in detail the California Gold Rush. After each boy completed the reading, I asked him questions from the text and paid him in play money for correct or well-thought out responses. Some of the questions were factual and some were essay-style. All were asked and answered orally, and the amount I paid them varied according to the difficulty of the question and the thoroughness of the response.

Later that day, I held an auction to demonstrate the effects of the law of supply and demand on the economy of the west. They used the play money earned from the Q & A session to pay for the items they won. First, I offered a piece of styrofoam. The opening bid was $1, and there were no takers. Other failed items were a used fabric softener sheet, a bottle of saline nose spray, and a dried-up glue stick. The high demand items were a Rice Krispies treat, some MnM's, and a new box of crayons. The demand was high, and the supply was low, and so the bidding was furious. The surprising items were a pencil and one green paper clip. The starting bid for both items was really high, $5, and no one was willing to bid. So, I continued to lower the opening bid until I reached $1. Both times, one boy decided that the pencil or the paper clip was useful enough to spend one dollar on it and bid. Then, the other brother decided that he wanted in on the action, creating a bidding war. The pencil eventually sold for $7, and the green paper clip sold for $6.

After the auction, we discussed how supplies were low in the west. As the number of prospectors grew, so did the demand for food, clothes, and mining supplies. The boys understood how merchants profited and made more money than most prospectors.


Melissa Lester said...

What a great lesson, and a wonderful way to teach the boys about not fighting over blessings. I would say you struck gold with this one!

Christy@MercyEveryMorning said...

I want to come to your school. :) Love this idea, and I might use it with my co-op class when we hit this time period. :)