Gold Panning

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Variety of Minerals

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  • Classroom Activities


Chabot Space & Science Center, Earth Science Week (ESW), American Geosciences Institute (AGI)


"Thar's gold in them thar classrooms!" History meets Earth science in the fun, hands-on activity below. Students pan for gold and other minerals, experiencing what early settlers of the Western US went through. Some gold deposits, or lodes, are found in veins of fractured rock. After millions of years of weathering, gold nuggets and flakes are eroded out of the veins and carried away by streams and rivers. Gold is 19 times heavier than water and tends to settle on the bottom and in the bends of rivers, streams, and lakes with sand and gravel, forming deposits called placer. From Georgia to California and Alaska, it is in these deposits that adventurous fortune seekers have panned for gold during the gold rushes of the 1800s. Some are still trying their luck today.

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