Harker has been sending fourth graders to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School (CODS) to learn about the California Gold Rush for more than 20 years. This year, 17 Harker faculty members attended as chaperones, while students spent several adventurous days experiencing what it was like to be a gold miner.
The annual spring sojourn to Coloma is a highlight of the school year for grade 4 students. Located on the south fork of the American River, Coloma is where gold was first discovered in 1848, leading to the California Gold Rush. Today, Coloma is a designated National Historic Landmark District and tourist attraction best known for its ghost town and Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.
On the first day of the trip, the students had a fun time settling in and creating a Gold Rush encampment, recalled Kristin Giammona, elementary school head. “They built a shelter, washed laundry, baked cornbread and panned for gold. They finished the day with a hoedown and campfire,” she said.
On day two, the students ventured into the town of Coloma and visited the state park. There students learned about the plants and animals of the Sierra foothills. The evening was capped off by a Native American storyteller who brought native life and local lore alive for the students.
“On the last day, students talked about the 49ers of today – themselves! They learned that what they need to survive hasn’t changed very much … or has it?” said Giammona.