BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Gold Rush

Grade 4


Gold Rush

Big Idea

The pursuit of valuable natural resources has played a key role in changing the land, people, and communities of Canada.

Essential Question

How did gold rushes affect the population of British Columbia?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • economic and political factors that influenced the colonization of British Columbia and its entry into Confederation
    • gold rush population boom and bust

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • Construct arguments defending the significance of individuals/groups, places, events, or developments (significance)

Core Competencies

I can explain how gold attracted people to BC.

I can analyze the impact of gold rushes on the people, environment, economy, and politics of BC.

I can share my ideas about how gold rushes impacted First Peoples and increased the diversity of people in our province.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning is embedded in memory, history and story.
  • Project or provide students with the images on the handout “Gold!”.
  • Ask: What do you know about gold? What do people use it for? Why is it important?
  • Encourage students to think about all the ways that gold is used today (eg. money, jewelry, science & technology, awards…).
  • Using a Think Pair Share strategy, have student discuss:
    • What do you know about gold rushes?
    • Who came to BC to try to find gold?
    • Where did they come from?
    • What happened if they didn’t find any gold?
    • What happened to the people and places after miners stopped finding gold?”

Part 1: Fraser River Gold Rush

  • Explain that when gold was discovered in the Fraser River in 1858, over 30,000 people came to BC from around the world in search for gold. Population boomed and the area became the colony of British Columbia.
  • Show the short video 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush (2:12).
  • Provide students with the handout “Video--Fraser River Goldrush” and show the video again, stopping to allow students to record answers to each question.
  • Ask: Why would people get so excited about gold? Why would people want to keep gold to themselves? Why would people in BC worry about so many Americans coming to the area?
  • Provide students with the handout “Reading—Fraser River Gold Rush”. Either read aloud or have students work in pairs to read.
  • Have students use the chart on the bottom of the handout to record the affects of the gold rush on the population, environment, economy, and politics of BC.


Part 2: The Cariboo Gold Rush

  • Explain that the gold rush extended hundreds of kilometers north along the Fraser River into the Cariboo. Miners travelled north along the Cariboo wagon road with mules, horses and even camels. At times, the treacherous road was just two metres wide on the edge of cliffs above a raging river.
  • Point out that a gold-seeker’s life was tough: they lived tents, worked from dawn to dusk, and had limited supplies because prices in the small mining towns were extremely high.
  • Read The Cariboo Gold Rush Timeline as a class or have students read with a partner.
  • Have students create brochures to attract people to come to the Cariboo region to find gold. Students should use the handout “Cariboo Gold Rush Brochure” to plan their brochure and organize their information.


Part 3: Chinese and the Gold Rush

  • Explain that gold caused the first large scale immigration to BC. People had a chance to seek their fortune or try to live a better life than they had before.
  • Show the video Gold Mountain: The True Story of the BC Gold Rush (13:08).
  • Have students imagine that they have heard news that gold has been found halfway across the world, in a place where they’ve never been to and where they don’t know anyone. Ask:
    • Would you risk everything you have for a chance to become rich or have a better life?
    • How would it feel if you didn’t speak the same language as people there?
    • What would happen if you didn’t find any gold?


Part 4: First Nations and the Gold Rush

  • Explain that immigrants arriving to the gold rush didn’t encounter an empty land. In BC, First Nations civilizations were thousands of years old. Europeans and First Nations built fur-trading partnerships in the territory. However, these relationships became strained as miners began to be violent and disrespectful to the First Nations people they encountered. Mining often left Indigenous communities displaced, environments ruined, and resources depleted.
  • Have students imagine how they would feel if people started to come to their community because they heard gold was buried there. They set up camps, cut down trees, dug up the ground and used local watersheds to help wash dirt away from the rocks they found.
    • What would you do?
    • What if you didn’t speak the same language as them?”


Part 5: Legacy of the Gold Rush

  • Explain that BC was created by the gold rush, when people came from all over the world to seek fortune and a chance for a better life. The gold rush led to co-operation, competition, and sometimes even conflict between individuals and communities.
  • Show the video British Columbia’s Gold Rush Legacy (6:36).
  • Ask:
    • How did the gold rush make BC a diverse, multicultural province?
    • What impact did the gold rush have on the First Peoples of BC?
    • What happened when people stopped finding gold in BC?
  • Explain that when gold became scarce on the Fraser and in the Cariboo by the mid-1860s, some prospectors returned home or looked for gold elsewhere. But many miners stayed to log, fish, farm or ranch in BC.
  • Divide students into groups of 4 or 5 and have them use a Placemat Strategy to respond to the following question:
    • How did the gold rush impact the population of BC?

Barman, J. 2019. "The Fraser River Gold Rush and the Founding of British Columbia." The Canadian Encyclopedia.



BC Campus. [n.d.] “Case Study 1: The Gold Rush.” British Columbia in a Global Context.



Canada: A Country by Consent. [n.d.] “Gold Rush Fever in B.C. 1858-63.” Canada History Project.  http://www.canadahistoryproject.ca/1871/1871-05-gold-rush.html


Douglas, J. [n.d.] “Barkerville”. Rich in History.



“The Fraser River Gold Rush.” 2022. National Park Service.U.S. Department of the Interior



“Ghost Towns of Canada - Barkerville PART ONE (of three).” 2010. YouTube.


“Ghost Towns of Canada - Barkerville PART TWO (of three).” 2010. YouTube.


“Ghost Towns of Canada - Barkerville PART THREE (of three).” 2010. YouTube



“The History, Culture and Raw Nature of British Columbia's Gold Rush Trail Await Your Exploration.’ 2021. Gold Rush Trail. British Columbia.



Marshall, D. P., L. Neilson Bonikowsky and E. Wright. 2019. "Fraser River Gold Rush". The Canadian Encyclopedia.



Newell, D. 2019. "Gold Rushes." The Canadian Encyclopedia.



Royal B.C. Museum.2021. “B.C.’s Gold Rush.” Learning Portal.


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Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

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