Badger History Bulletin - Review
The Rush for Grey Gold: How Wisconsin Began
Dave Erickson, Producer. Wisconsin Public Television, 1 (800) 422-9707, OOTEK Productions, S 12229 Round River Trail, Spring Green, WI 53588, 1998. Color, 120 minutes, $24.95 plus $3 shipping and handling.
Teachers in search of materials to teach about Wisconsin's Sesquicentennial will be pleased to find The Rush for Grey Gold: How Wisconsin Began, a lively two-hour documentary film. It will take the viewer on a tour of people, places and events of Wisconsin from 1820s to the creation of the Wisconsin Territory in 1836. Its focus is the lead-mining regions of southwest Wisconsin and the upper Mississippi area, which was then The Wild West.
The strength of this film is the photography of the Wisconsin area today with the people in authentic period dress. Lively first-hand accounts of seventy-five people who lived the history tell their stories. The historical documentation is of great interest to adults and older students. It is equally valuable to younger students such as my fourth graders, though it was difficult for them to follow and understand the wording and accents from quotations of another time. Younger students will need to be prepared to listen to primary source material so they know what to expect.
Fourth graders commented that the visuals gave details to their imagined ideas. It also brought about a deepening of interest and excellent questions that clarified what they saw or still wondered about. Fourth graders quickly identified with the plight, treatment, and injustices of women, African-Americans, and American Indians. They understood both the romance and roughness of the times and had an appreciation for hardships endured. The film gave faces and personalities to Wisconsinites engaged in the dangers of mining and helped students understand the courage of early settlers. Historical figures were not glorified or presented as heroes or villains, giving students insight into complex personalities.
The film covers many aspects of fourth-grade study of Wisconsin's geography, geology, ethnicity, government, industry, politics, and peoples. In its current form, the film is usable for fourth-grade students, though extensive preparation and background must be given first. Its use would be enhanced by providing additional study guide materials for the teacher such as:
- Breaking the film into four distinct parts noted on film
- Providing a detailed study guide for each separate section of the film
- Outlining each part according to a.. historical events and time line b. all geographical locations, place names, and their new names c. vocabulary terms d. names of people e. quotes and sources f. Concepts to be developed for understanding g. Points of discussion for debate
Providing the written script text is very useful. In the interest of teacher time, a detailed study guide could serve the same purpose and help in previewing. Even teachers who find time to preview the film in advance will find a comprehensive listing of concepts, terms, and locations useful.
The fast-paced action pleased students, but teachers felt important concepts needed to be developed at a slower pace or it might be desirable to pause the film and discuss. Captioning identifying times and places on film needed to remain on screen longer in order for the information to be absorbed.
Educators look forward to material of this caliber and hope there is more to come. Adapting the study guide to be "user friendly" for a wider audience may be well worth extra effort to ensure student success and understanding. Our students took pride in their challenge to help preview this new film. Students and adults will find The Rush for Grey Gold filled with factual and thought-provoking information about our state. We think it will continue to be a useful and interesting tool even after this Sesquicentennial year has passed.
Northside Elementary School