Family Book Club: Gold Rush Kid

Finally! We finished our read aloud book and had our book club last night.  Here's the book we read

I love reading historical fiction, and this one is set fairly close to home, so it was even more fun to learn about.

So, in planning our book club there were SO many topics that could have been covered, but so little time to hold the meeting!

I ended up sharing a little bit of the geography of the area.  The National Park Service was very helpful in providing maps and background information.

To help the kids understand the weight, size and cost of an outfit I used information from THIS SITE and shared bits about Mont Hawthorne's outfit.

When I was reading the book, I got a little impatient reading about Soapy Smith.  I wasn't really interested in his dealings.  But during my prep and research I discovered that he was an actual person and he really did do the horrid things described in the book!  That was eye opening for me and made his "character" much more real.  So I wanted to share more about him with the kids from THIS SITE.

By that time, the kids were sick of talking and wanted to get on to the fun stuff!  I was ready for that too.

I had invited two other families to come to the club, so my plan was to set up six stations, each of which would be supervised by one of the parents.  We ended up with only 4 parents present, but it still worked out and the kids had a super fun time!

The stations were
1. Photo Booth
2. Chilkoot Trail
3.  Mizz Mulrooney's
4.  Pan for Gold
5. Try Your Luck
6. Cook Your Grub

I gave each parent a little blurb about the station and how it was supposed to work.

I'll give more details on each station and how they worked in a sec.

I asked the kids to bring a sock to act as their "poke" (small leather money back for carrying gold nuggets) because I just didn't have time to make anything cooler for the poke.  To get them started I filled their pokes with 5 nuggets each.  The nuggets were rocks that I had washed and spray painted gold.

Then I gave each of the kids a Klondike Passport and folded them into mini books.  I wanted to use a cool western font so I downloaded a font called Saloon Girl.

Here is the passport template:

Here's what it looks like folded up.

Here's a little video on how to fold your mini book into a passport.  I did it a different way but this works too!

The kids got a sticker in their passport for each station they completed.

I split the kids into three teams by ages.  The teams were

Klondike Kids
Stampede Studs
Skagway Sweethearts

I assigned my oldest daughter to be a team leader for the Klondike Kids (5 year olds) so that they wouldn't get lost or confused or hurt as they went along.  Each team had a "schedule" that told them which station to go to and in what order.

Station One: The Photo Booth
I loved putting this station together.  I wanted it to look somewhat authentic so I went to a local antique shop to look for props.  Everything was so overpriced!  I explained my situation to the store owner and he was so kind!  He let me take the items I needed on loan and I will bring them back later this week. Of course, he has my check for $125 as collateral....but still, I felt so fortunate! I took an old rope, lantern, washboard, barrel, wide flat pan, miner's helmet and a pickax.  I think the pick ax didn't actually make it out into the photo booth,unfortunately. Details...details.
I also added in a little western cowgirl hat and bandanna for effect.  I had my daughter make up some mustaches and hats on a stick.  And then I found this really cool tutorial on how to make dynamite props.  Super authentic looking! (It fooled my husband...)

So here's the station before the kids came:

And here are pics of the kids using the photo booth

While the kids were at the photo booth I asked them to give a one-or-two sentence statement about their experience looking for gold in the Yukon.  My intention was to write up their comments in an "article" and create our own little version of The Alaskan news paper.

Here's how the paper turned out (two separate pages)

Station Two: Chilkoot Trail
The kids had to lug a bunch of nonsense items up the deck stairs, but they had to do it in multiple trips just like BIlly and Ed.  When they got to the top the Canadian Mounties (my husband) inspected their outfit and stamped their passports, but only for a price!

Station Three: Mizz Mulrooney's
Here was a chance for the kids to earn back some of their gold!  Instead of chopping wood, I had them washing socks with a plunger type hand washing mechanism and some fels naptha soap.  They had to rinse, squeeze and hang the socks by hand as well.  They also had brooms to do some sweeping.  They earned lots of money here.  I wasn't really worried about anyone showing up to the cafe with no gold to buy their snack.

Station Four: Pan for Gold
This was probably the best station!  This was the heart of the experience.  I asked the dad in charge to hide 10-12 pieces of gold for each team in the sand.  To make the experience more authentic I also froze some gold nuggets inside of ice cube molds and hid a few of those in the sand too.  I kept them cold in a cooler off to the side of the sand box and refilled the sandbox between each team.  If the kids found an ice cube nugget, they had to use really skinny screw drivers (like mini ice picks) to chip away the ice and get the nugget.  It was hard and took some time! But those kids wanted their gold!

Station Five: Try Your Luck
This was my station. I picked it because it was inside and I had the baby with me.  She was getting super tired and cranky so this allowed me to sooth her and care for her in between teams.  The gist of this station was to give the kids an idea of the value of gold, then and now.  But also to show them how easy it was to be conned out of their money by slippery characters like Soapy Smith and the like.

I set up a cup and ball game for the kids. They won money for guessing where the ball was hidden and lost money for an incorrect guess.  Some kids got it right!

Then I used a food scale to weigh one ounce of nuggets (rocks) and show them how much an ounce of gold was.  I then told them the current price of gold .  Yesterday it was $1,233.75.  Then I showed them a big thick heavy book and asked them to make a guess about how much the book would cost in today's money if it were made of solid gold.

The younger girls went WAY over.  The older girls were WAY under. The boys were closest and my 8yo won.  he came in with a guess of 23K and the answer was 28K.  Incorrect guesses had to pay me money and correct guesses won money.

Station Six: Cook Your Grub
The closest thing I had to a folding Yukon stove was a sterno stove.  I wasn't sure if we'd have enough time for each team to boil water and cook a hot dog or anything else on that tiny little stove.  So I also had a big bag of marshmallows and let them pick if they wanted to boil a hot dog (one third of a dog) or roast a marshmallow on that little flame. Of course they all picked the sugar.  I should have just left the dogs in the fridge.
Since one of our families couldn't' come my daughter sort of helped to man the station, seeing how there was a flame involved.  I'm happy to announce there were no accidents.  I had the sticks soaking in water for along time to make sure they wouldn't burn.  Everyone loved this station, but it did cost some nuggets!!

Oyster Cafe
When we had all made it through the stations we met up on the deck at Oyster Cafe for some grub and to hear the winner of the guessing game announced.
For eats we had:
raisin cups with a few chocolate chips - cost 1 nugget
Biscuits - 2 nuggets
jam cups - 1 nugget
baked beans in a cup- 2 nuggets
watering hole - free.

None of it was homemade. I just didn't have time yesterday since we were in our co-op classes until 2:30 pm and book club was at 6:30.  But nobody complained.  Most of it got eaten up and the kids had fun paying nuggets for their grub.

By then it was getting dark and kids were getting very dirty and tired!  So we wrapped it up pretty quick and said goodbye to our fellow prospectors.

It was a fun night.