Hahn students get in spirit of gold mining
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By Dave Williams  April 25, 2014 12:00 am

The fourth-grade students at Marguerite Hahn Elementary School took a trip back in time on Wednesday.

They went back to the days when gold ruled and claim jumping was commonplace.

As part of an annual tradition in the classrooms of Shawne Kearney and John Boarman, students celebrated Gold Mining Day set back in the 1850s. The students dressed up as if they were back in the Sierra Foothills mining gold.

Dressing up was only part of the fun for the students, according to Kearney. They also panned and dug for gold and took their claims to get weighed by an assayer. 

Then, they got to spend their money at a trading post, which had several different toys and things fourth-graders enjoy. Kearney said the variety of toys helped create a type of gold-rush fever, which plagued the west back in the 1850s.

The students also got to go into a makeshift saloon, where they gulped down sarsaparilla (root beer), gobbled up peanuts and then played blackjack.

They also go to the post office, where they received letters from home, written by their parents a week earlier.

“It’s a living history day,” Kearney said. “We do this once a year. 

It’s the same theme every year. We’re fourth grade and this is part of California history.”

Kearney started this event 23 years ago, and all it consisted of at the time was panning for gold outside her classroom door. But it has evolved into a more in-depth program.

“But it’s been at this extent for the past 10 years,” Kearney said.

Each year, Kearney and Boarman put in a lot of work to make this day a success. And each year, Kearney wonders if she’ll continue this event. But then…

“Every year, I say I’m not going to do it, but when I see the smiles on the kids’ faces, it’s worth it,” Kearney said. “It’s a ton of work and the kids love it. It makes all the hard work worth it.”

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