by Kurt’s 4th grade class
The fourth grader’s trip to Coloma was very fun and interesting. On the first day, we got to dress up and live life like a forty-niner. We were split into different towns that were actual mining towns in 1849. These were the groups that we would do activities in. We would stay in these towns for the rest of the trip.
Once we were organized into our towns, we met our naturalists and got our gold pouches and gold vials. Each town went off to do a different thing. There were two Gateway towns: Uniontown and Sierra City. Sierra City was the first to go gold panning. We panned for gold in long troughs with murky water and river dirt, also known as paydirt in them. In the paydirt, there were tiny flakes of gold that we panned for. Our naturalists taught us how to gold pan using three natural disasters. The three natural disasters were earthquake, tsunami, and flood. The first natural disaster we used was an earthquake. We would scoop paydirt into the pan with a small amount of water. Then we would shake the pan gently so all the paydirt would get mixed up. The second natural disaster we used was a flood. We would fill our gold pan full of water, in fact, so full that it was overflowing. The last natural disaster we used was a tsunami. After our pan was filled with water, we would gently slosh the water and some of the paydirt out in three slow motions into the trough. After that, we would repeat flood and tsunami several times until we were down to the finer bits if the paydirt. Then, we would repeat the earthquake motion a couple of times, scattering the paydirt, and hopefully, gold. Next, we would roll the remaining water softly around in the gold pan, making all the paydirt move to one side, while the gold stays on the other side. If there’s gold in the pan, we shout “Eureka!” and then put the gold in our vial.
While Sierra City was gold panning, Uniontown was learning fun gold rush games that every town learned at some point. The games they learned were Miners and Gold flakes and Salute James Marshall. The first game they played was Miners and Gold flakes. That game was similar to Sharks and Minnows but instead of sharks there were miners and instead of minnows, there were gold flakes. The second game Uniontown played was Salute James Marshall. This game is similar to Simon Says except if the caller does not say “at ease” after saying “salute James Marshall” the players have to stay in a salute. If the caller does say at ease, then there are other commands with different motions that the caller can choose from, such as “snake bite”, “gold panning”, “ fire in the hole”, “donkey riding”, and “upstream and downstream”.
After learning fun games and going gold panning, we made our shelter. Our naturalists really tricked us when they said we were sleeping in our shelter! We really slept in bunkhouses. When we made our shelter, there were three designs to choose from. We could make a lean-to, an A-frame tent, or a teepee. We had a lot of fun making those. After that, we washed laundry, made delicious cornbread, and wrote in our journals. We went to the general store to get supplies for making the cornbread. All of that was very fun!
The next day was Hike Day. We didn’t dress up on hike day because only the first day was living life like a forty-niner day. On the hike, we learned about the manzanita tree, which means little apple in Spanish, the buckeye tree, which has the largest seeds in North America, how to identify poison oak, which the Nisenan used to make waterproof baskets, and other things like why the miners used yerba santa, which is a type of plant, as gum. They used it as gum because it made their breath smell good. They didn’t have toothpaste with them. At one point in the hike, we got to look out on the rapid Troublemaker. Then we did a blind walk where we held onto each other’s backpacks and used our bandanas as blindfolds, but a few people tripped It was the best view on the whole hike! We saw a whole lot of fuzzy caterpillars, bumblebees, butterflies, dragonflies, and even a few spittlebugs. At the end of the hike, we did a silent walk down the rest of the way. We got to see Sutter’s Mill, well the second replica. But they still have some of the timbers that were part of the original mill. We also got to visit the spot where the original Sutter’s Mill was, and then we went back to Coloma Outdoor Discovery School campus. When we got back, our naturalists had a surprise for us. Popsicles!! That evening, a descendant of the Native Americans who lived in the area around the South fork of the American River. Her name was Kimberly Shiningstar. She told us about her ancestors and how they lived. She showed us some of the different instruments the Nisenan used like the blackfoot deer rattle. We learned that these Native Americans were the most peaceful of the Native Americans because they had everything they needed. There was no need to steal from your neighbor or go raid another village in the middle of the night. She also talked about doing things to help the earth. Now we are all ready to help do things like picking up trash, walking to school, and planting gardens.
On our last day, we were getting ready to move out our bunkhouses. There was a clean cabin award that everybody was trying to get. What most of us didn’t know was that multiple cabins could get the award. Before lunch, Sierra City went down to the river to draw pictures of the rapids. Uniontown had done this on the first day. When we first got there, they called us greenhorns. That means we are new to the mines. Now that we have had experience here, we became sourdoughs. So we went down to a sandy spot on the river and dipped our gold pouches in. We went to lunch and found out that all the Gateway cabins had won the clean cabin award! After lunch, it was time to get everything all packed up and into the cars. Some fuzzy caterpillars wanted to hitch a ride with us, but we let them stay in Coloma.
Our time at Coloma was very exciting and fun!!! Overall, the trip was very positive and nobody got upset. We all wished that trip was much longer! We learned lots of things about plants, animals, and the Gold Rush. To the grades that have yet to go to Coloma, you’re in for a treat!