Students ‘strike gold’ in social studies musical

Students dressed as horses pull another student in a covered wagon during a performance of "Gold Dust or Bust" at Sulphur Springs Community School on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Fourth grade students in the Sulphur Springs Union School District put their classroom lessons to song and dance as they performed their renditions of “Gold Dust or Bust” Thursday.

Both Sulphur Springs Community School and Fair Oaks Ranch Community School presented the social studies musical to crowds of proud parents in each school’s multi-purpose rooms.

“What they really got out of it is they understood the importance of the Gold Rush to the history of California and how we evolved with the population and the increased diversity,” said Stacy Barr, a fourth grade teacher at Sulphur Springs Community School.  “They also understood the technology and the transportation after that.”

In total, 101 students Barr’s, Kristi Hilton’s, Malissa Monroe’s and Kayla Bastedo’s classes at Sulphur Springs Community School and 145 students April Brewer’s, Stacy Atwood’s, Brie Grimes’, Chistine Wallace’s and Austin Pearce’s classes performed the musical.

Fourth grade students at Fair Oaks Ranch Community School perform their rendition of “Gold Dust or Bust” on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Christina Cox/The Signal

At both schools, students began learning about the Gold Rush in early-April.  However, they began practicing for the performances at different times with Sulphur Springs in May and Fair Oaks Ranch in April.

“The kids learn the songs before they come here and then I teach them all the hand motions,” Brewer said.  “It helps solidify what they learned in class and it gives kids an opportunity to shine in a way they don’t normally in the classroom.”

The “Gold Dust or Bust” musical follows the history of the Gold Rush from 1849 to 1855 using characters like John Sutter and James Marshall and narrators Luzena Wilson and Becky.

Using 10 different songs, the students detailed the discovery of gold in 1848, the movement of people across the United States and on the Overland Trail and the history of the Argonauts or people from around the world who moved to California during the Gold Rush.

They also detailed the life of the miners’ children, the struggles with panning and mining for gold, the emergence of merchants and the end of the Gold Rush in 1855.

Amayah Taylor, 10, who played Becky at Fair Oaks Ranch said she loved acting as the play’s comedic relief and storyteller.

“I was very excited,” Taylor said.  “I love acting. I love being the one that tells all the stories.”

Sulphur Springs Community School students dance and sing about the California gold rush during their annual performance of “Gold Dust or Bust” on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The two schools used their own originality to put their own spins on “Gold Dust or Bust.”

At Fair Oaks Ranch, which has presented the play for six years, students all dressed in flannel shirts and wore blue and red bananas around their necks as they sat and sang songs with hand motions.

The play was also part of the school’s larger Gold Rush Day where students ate pancakes, panned for gold, tried tinsmithing and completed a STEM activity.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Brewer said.  “This is the fun stuff.”

At Sulphur Springs, students wore dresses, flannel shirts, cowboy hats and overalls and used more props like buckets, blocks, miniature railroads and signs.

“This is the first time we did this play.  We were doing a different play for many years and decided to kind of spruce it up this year,” Barr said.  “Mrs. Monroe brought in this idea of doing a different play and I jumped on it and said ‘alright let’s do it and let’s do it big.’”

The musical also include jokes that hinted at life today and involved every student as characters, dancers or prop masters.

“Each one had their own small little part whether it was coming out and dancing or having a speaking part, everyone got off that riser at one point,” Barr said.  “I’m really proud of them, they did a great job.”

Both schools used the musical to teach students in a new way, integrate classroom lessons into songs and expose students to the arts.

“This is why we need to continue to fund the arts because it provides opportunities to kids who normally wouldn’t have them,” Brewer said.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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