Each year, a highlight of the grade 4 curriculum is the annual spring sojourn to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School (CODS) to learn about the California Gold Rush. This year, the fourth graders spent several adventurous days experiencing what it was like to be a gold miner.
Located on the northern 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.
“Harker has been sending fourth graders to CODS for over 20 years,” said Kristin Giammona, elementary school head.
Highlights of the trip included an opportunity to view the site where James Marshall first discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill. “The students were in groups of 15 and had a naturalist assigned to each group. The naturalist taught them about the Gold Rush and its environmental impact,” recalled Giammona.
While on the trip, students took a 3-mile round-trip hike up to Monroe Ridge; along the walk, students studied native animals and plants, and sang songs. The students ate their meals outdoors and took turns doing kitchen cleanup. They slept in cabins and enjoyed evening entertainment, including a lively hoedown (a campfire with songs and skits).
One evening, a Native American guest speaker educated students about Native American culture. Among the many things they learned is that the name Coloma comes from the natives’ name for the surrounding valley, Cullumah, meaning “beautiful.”