Teacher's Guide



     The Discovery of Gold uses thought-provoking questions to take students back in time to explore what it might have been like during the Alaska gold rush period, 1880-1914. Using primary source documents students think about what it means to take a risk and become an adventurer. Questions about specific people and places guide students to evaluate historical facts. Students are challenged to consider different perspectives or points of view.

Alaska State Content Standards

     Alaska State Content Standards addressed in Discovery. Students will be able to:

  • Understand that history is a narrative told in many voices and expresses various perspectives (History: A5)
  • Know that cultural belief systems reflect the ideas and attitudes of a specific time and know that cultural elements influence human interaction (History: A6)
  • Use historical data from a variety of sources (History: C2)
  • Use information to understand self (Eng/L.A: E1)
  • Use maps to locate places and regions (Geo:A1)
  • Understand how and why maps are changing documents (Geo:A3)
  • Analyze how places are named (Geo:B2)
  • Understand the importance of the historical and current role of Alaskan Native communities (Gov/Civ: C4)
Assessing Student Learning in Discovery

     We have prepared an overview of selected standards and activities using the Edgren Saga to help you evaluate how well the students are mastering the standard. This is provided as one example to help you design appropriate projects or other activities that demonstrate learning.

Assessing student progress toward standards based on the Edgren Saga: Chapter 1: Gold Fever Reaches Wisconsin


Students who meet the standards can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through discussion, in writing or in a project

When discussing or writing about the Edgren letters students are able to: (answers will vary)

Understand that history is a narrative told in many voices and expresses various perspectives (History:A5)

Explain that there are two different people who are telling the story. It is their view of going to the Klondike in 1898. Jesse is an educated man with dreams of finding riches in the gold fields. He is focused on the activities along the way. Mae is a newly married young woman who seems to be having an adventure, gives lots of details about the people and places, focuses on the day-to-day events along the way.

Know that cultural belief systems reflect the ideas and attitudes of a specific time and know that cultural elements influence human interaction (History: A6)

Explain that the writers come from another part of the United States, Mae sees her role as a helper to her husband, worries about how her family in Wisconsin, likes popular magazines, garden parties, dancing, singing, etc.

Use historical data from a variety of sources (History: C2)

Can put the events of Jesse and Mae's life in sequence from documents and newspaper articles

Use information to understand self (Eng/L.A : E1)

Use reflective statements:

How would I have felt about getting married and immediately going off to the gold fields?

Would I being willing to leave my family?

Use maps to locate places and regions (Geo.:A1)

Locate Madison Wisconsin, Seattle, and Klondike and forecast the route they will take.

Can predict possible route from Madison to Seattle.

Additional Resources for Discovery
Getting Started

     Before students begin the activities, brainstorm what they already know about the discovery of gold in Alaska. As a class or individually create a graphic organizer or a Time Line of Alaska Gold Rushes to help sequence events and people. Use it during your study of the Alaska gold rush.

Classroom Extension Ideas for the theme Discovery

Question 1: Why Take a Risk?

  • What does an adventurer look like?
    • Do we have adventurers today? Visit the GOALS website. Follow the adventurers who are tracking the Alaska wolf or caribou. How are they alike or different from the early gold-seekers? What characteristics are similar?

  • What things inspired them?
    • Have a music teacher come to the class and help with singing or performing the music.
    • Find music from the gold rush era and play it.

  • What risks did they take to find gold?
    • Use English or reading text to help you check students' understanding of author's purpose.

Question 2: Who Strikes it Rich?

  • The May 1903 Fairbanks Miner was the first paper printed in Fairbanks. Point out that it was typed on a typewriter. Students may enjoy researching what a typewriter from 1903 looked like. Visit the following site: Typewriter Collectors
    • Do a Readers Theatre.
    • Have students use the newspaper to write a script, creating as many characters as possible to re-enact the story of the gold discovery. Students can research the clothing and appropriate objects that would have been used at this time.

  • Stump Felix: An Interview with Felix Pedro.
    • Divide the class into two teams. Both teams research the discovery at Pedro Creek using the newspaper and other available sources. Be sure to keep track of where you learned the information. Make up a list of questions about Felix's discovery you would like to ask him. Each group takes a turn asking a question to the other group. One person on each team is designated "Felix" but the whole team can help him or her respond. The team that asked the question must be able to give an answer based on "documented" evidence. The team that can successfully stump the other team with three questions, wins the game.
    • Ask different students to select and report on the other articles in the paper.
    • Students can check for historical accuracy by comparing facts in an Alaska history textbook and what they read in the newspaper.
    • Use the enlarged area of the Fairbanks map to approximately locate Pedro Creek. (It is not named on the map.) How did Pedro and the surrounding creeks get their names? How many other locations on the map can students identify and guess how the names were recorded? Check for answers in an Alaska Geographic Source book like Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, Geological Survey (1967) #567.

  • Did Joe Juneau get rich?
    • How does a town get its name? Students may want to follow the controversy between Joe Juneau and Richard Harris to see why the name of one is used to day. Resources: The Founding of Juneau by Robert N. DeArmond, (1967) Gastineau Channel Centennial Association, Juneau, AK. Also see page 69 in Alaska, A History of the 49th State by Claus-M. Naske.
    • Juneau Webpage

  • Where in Alaska was gold discovered? Who discovered it?
    • Use additional web sites, books and materials to help fill in the historical chronology.
    • Create a timeline or other graphic organizer to use throughout the activities.
    • The History of the Alaska Gold Rush
    • This picture is of the largest nugget found by miners Joseph and Phillip Ernst, who operated the first gold dredge in Nome. The nugget was found circa 1905. Alaska State Museum

Question 3: Is It Fair?

  • Who really found the gold?
    • Identifying people in old photographs is a challenge because records either weren't kept or don't survive. Ask students to go home and see how many photographs they can find with the name, place and date written neatly in pencil on the back. Encourage student to start documenting their own history by labeling things like photographs.

  • Who owns the land?
    • Ask students to consider the need to survey and establish exact boundaries in neighborhood and between people's property.
    • Challenge your students to do more research: On March 6, 1903 the committee to decide the boundaries was appointed. When was the decision finally reached?

  • Could Natives own land?
    • The SA notation on this activity alerts you to this topic possibly being a sensitive area for discussion. It is important that you feel prepared and comfortable when students begin to debate and think about this issue. The concept of Alaska Native rights is also explored in the theme, Our Legacy.

  • Read:
    • Alaska, A History of the 49th State, by Claus-M. Naske (1987) pp. 186-208.
    • Alaska's History by Harry Ritter (1997) pp.120-121

  • Visit informative web sites:

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Alaska's Gold was developed through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission by the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, the Alaska Dept. of Education and Early Development.  1999.  All rights reserved.   Alaska Gold Themes written by Cristine Crooks, Alaska Consultants in Education.  Alaska's Gold Themes website developed by WEBDesign.