Panning for Gold (45 minutes)


Did you know that there is gold in the Connecticut hills? In this experience in your classroom students will actually pan for fool's gold. Discover how gold is found and examine various rock samples containing gold and other precious metals.


This hands-on classroom presentation begins with the students seated at their desks with a brief discussion of natural resource usage in Colonial Connecticut. The mining of ores and minerals in the State has had a bright and colorful history; however, gold mining was not an integral part of that history. Gold is found in the state, but has never been that abundant, mostly in the form of placer (secondary) deposits, rather than the more richly concentrated lode (primary) deposits. The Lead Mine Brook in Thomaston is a source of placer deposits. Instructor will show a sample of gold found at the brook, (four small flakes that required 11/2 hours of gold panning!) Next a variety of Connecticut ores and minerals will be shown, where they are found, their uses today and where they might be found in your house. Example will include iron, copper, nickel and lead ores, and minerals like quartz, feldspar, chlorite, fluorite, steatite, barite, kyanite, muscovite, dolomite, and garnet.     Historically, gold rushes happened in other parts of the U.S., North Carolina, California, and Alaska. The people who profited the most from these rushes weren’t the miners, but the suppliers of mining equipment, picks, shovels and clothing, the instructor will tell the Levi-Strauss story. To pan for gold the property of specific gravity must be understood. This property is demonstrated by a student who is asked to hold a piece of pumice, an extremely lightweight volcanic rock in one hand and similarly sized piece of magnetite, an extremely heavy iron ore, in the other hand. The students in the class can easily see the difference in the density of these two samples, by the student’s reaction. Gold panning works because gold is extremely dense and tends to settle down in placer sands. Students are then gathered around a water tub to see a panning demonstration. Placer sand containing iron pyrite (fool’s gold) is put into the pan, water added, and the water swirled in a circular motion, throwing a bit of water and waste sand into the tub with each motion. This process is continued until ‘gold nuggets’ appear, these are removed and placed into a plastic bag i.e. a ‘poke’ (in mining days was a leather pouch used to hold gold.) This gold will be collected by the students and assayed (weighed out for its value) at the end of the program. Students are then divided into groups of four, which “stake a claim” at a water tub complete with a gold pan and a ‘poke’. The instructor will bring placer sand around to claims, students will pan as time permits, students will then return to their seats, and the assay will take place. The value of gold has historically been influenced by economic, political and social condition. Gold has always been viewed as a safe investment. Gold is also measured in troy ounces. Twelve troy ounces equal one pound as opposed to sixteen avoirdupois ounces per pound. By this measure there are 31 grams per troy ounce. The student will measure the weight of their gold in grams, multiply this by the current value per gram to obtain the total value of their sample. After the assay of all the teams gold samples additional ‘pokes’ will be handed out to all students and the gold divided among the ‘claimholders’. Access to water, a sink and six, four foot by four foot floor space areas for students to work at is necessary for this program.




 ELCCT Home Page E-mail us!   Outreach Programs How to Schedule