Eureka! Gold Fever in Kindergarten

Audrey Soriano and Kendall Jones, Kindergarten South Teachers
The Gold Rush Unit is the final curricular theme each year in kindergarten, marking the end of an exciting year of learning and growth for Live Oak’s youngest students. This unit of study allows kindergartners to practice and refine many skills from the school year including reading, writing, drawing, and asking big questions as they learn why people came from all over the world to California in the 1800s.
All areas of the classroom reflect engagement with this subject matter: creative projects like painting and making toys, an imaginary play area filled with Gold Rush era dress-up clothing and tools, a class library with fiction and non-fiction books, and card games and board games from the olden days.

We start the unit with a thinking routine called SEE/THINK/WONDER to spark interest and curiosity while checking for prior knowledge. Students then dive into a variety of cross-curricular activities throughout each week to immerse themselves in Gold Rush learning.

Students work their way through “contracts” (work stations) to explore this historical unit, further developing skills across the curriculum. Built-in time for free choice and play activities occur daily and connect to our theme. In the ChangeMaker Lab, students decorate pioneer trunks that will be filled with handmade keepsakes and treasures they create. These include travel journals, weavings, jewelry, old-timey framed photographs, handmade toys, and more.

Math work during this unit focuses on number sense. We use real coins to count and combine numbers, introducing fundamental addition and subtraction concepts. Specialist classes (music, art, library) also embrace this theme, taking on projects like hand-sewn gold pouches, music and songs from bygone days, and read-alouds connected to the Gold Rush and Camp Live Oak. Sharing (Show and Tell) takes on its final form as The Antiques Roadshow: students bring in old objects or photos to share with the class, deepening their understanding of the way our lives have changed over time.

Weekly Friday field trips provide real world experiences like hands on water pumps and troughs at the new Presidio Tunnel Tops Playground and a ride on a real train.

The unit culminates with a top secret tradition at Camp Live Oak: hunting for gold in the stream at Camp Jones Gulch. Students call out “Eureka!” as they discover gold nuggets. 

The Gold Rush Unit in kindergarten is a fan favorite, and many students report keeping their wooden trunk and its contents for many years. It is always incredible to see the culmination of the students’ hard work and engagement in their final projects from kindergarten. Eureka!


Live Oak School welcomes and admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, citizenship status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and faith to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities of Live Oak School. Live Oak School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, citizenship status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and faith in administration of its educational policies and programs, admissions policies, Adjusted Tuition program, and athletic and other school-administered programs.