Friday, July 9, 2010

Tales of the Gold Rush

Not so long ago there was a homeschool fair. It was called the Not School Carnival and kids came and set up booths to make a little money for themselves and for The Peregrine Fund and The Berkeley Humane Society (which coincidentally burned down the evening after the fair). There were Ball Toss Booths and Hot Pretzels and Ancient Mesopotamian biscuits and K'Nex creations for sale.

And there were the storytelling booths. Kids spread across the fair dressed as Gold Rush era historical figures, telling tales from their lives, and selling CDs of their stories. They weren't sure if anyone would want to listen, but when they counted the cash in the till there was over $80. They sold every CD and more than 40 people paid $1 to hear their tales.

Evelyn was Black Bart, infamous stage coach robber, and Clementine was Sam Brannan, the gold rush's first millionaire. Their friends portrayed the famous, the infamous and the everyday figures of the gold rush. You can listen to their tales below--the death of semi-legendary bandit Joaquin Murrieta, the rise to riches of gold rush entrepreneurs Levi Strauss and Domingo Ghirardelli, the biographies of rights activists Helen Hunt Jackson and Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, the escapades of Chilean miner Vincente Perez Rosales, the lives of writers Mark Twain and Dame Shirley, and the secret of Charley Parkhurst, stage coach driver.

Domingo Ghirardelli selling cocoa.

Left to right Black Bart, Mark Twain and Charley Parkhurst

Sam Brannan showing a vial of gold and announcing, "Gold, gold in the American River!"

CD cover art by the kids:

The kids told their tales 20 times or more each to kids and parents, to homeschoolers and parkgoers who just happened by.  They went home with $5 in their pockets and the fair raised $667.44 for the Peregrine Fund and The Berkeley Humane Society.  In a word--it was enriching.


Kristin said...

I saw them "working/playing" that day, but I missed the opportunity to hear a whole tale, which I regret.

Now Cecil and I will get a chance to listen to all of their tales, since you so graciously provided them in this post--but I would buy the CD too!

The kids must have spent hours to learn their tales and to practice telling them engagingly.

It proves that when a child has an interest in something, their interest will enable them to acquire skills--in this case, the ability to focus, have self-discipline to practice, memorize, comprehend and translate the history they have read into a story (analytical reasoning)and tell it (public speaking); these are just a few that I can think of.

How did they get the idea to do this in the first place?

Thanks for sharing.

Lise said...

What a cool project!

Susan said...

Kristin, the idea for this project was mine. But the kids really dove in. They chose such a variety of historical figures to portray. I thought everyone would be interested in miners, but I was so wrong.

Two of the kids were passionate about human rights advocates and others were interested in the entrepreneurs, bandits and writers of the time.

The kids particularly enjoyed editing their audio tracks--I learned a bunch from them about audio editing.

Lise, thanks! I have the CD in the car. I never get tired of listening to it. The tracks are all 3-5 minutes or so. Listen to one!