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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Ship of Gold
Overview Procedures for Teachers

Procedures for Teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities
Tips -- Managing resources and student activities


Computer Resources:

You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

-- Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
-- Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
-- Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MBs of RAM.
-- IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 95 or higher.

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.


-- Any word processing program (i.e., MS Word, Corel WordPerfect, AppleWorks)
-- MS PowerPoint or HyperStudio can be used by students to add multimedia presentations to their final projects. For more information on how to use these programs, see wNetSchool's HyperStudio and PowerPoint Tutorials.


Before students begin the activities, have them bookmark the following site.



  • Read the following excerpt taken from the SS CENTRAL AMERICA Web site:

    Today many nations around the world admire and emulate what it means to be American. Americans, both as individuals and as a nation, are characterized as spirited, optimistic, visionary, forward-thinking, adaptable, and entrepreneurial, traits symbolized by the pioneers, adventurers, and nation-builders aboard the Central America.

    Ask students if they share this view of America and its people.

    Ask the class to brainstorm current-day as well as historic examples of events and people that embody this statement.

    Write and display the words "spirited," "optimistic," "visionary," "forward thinking," "adaptable" and "entrepreneurial" somewhere in the classroom. Ask students to look for examples of these descriptive words throughout the lesson.

  • Read the following quote from Gary Kinder's book SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA:

    Realizing that impossibility dwelt only in the imagination was the gateway to a new world of thinking, and this was the world in which Tommy lived. The idea of finding the Central America and recovering her "treasure" quickly became a rich metaphor for all that was possible: We find the ship, we recover the gold; what can we learn along the way?

    "We were into the idea," said Tommy, "that within this project, all kinds of things can happen. We might be successful at this; we're going to give it our best shot. In the meantime, we're going to learn all these other things."

    Divide the class into small groups. Each group will be asked to think about different aspects of motivation. Ask the class to develop a list of what they think are the primary motivators for each of the groups below.

    Group One: Athletes
    Group Two: Medical Researchers
    Group Three: Musicians
    Group Four: Veterinarians
    Group Five: Teachers

    Read the following quote from Gary Kinder's book SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA aloud to the class:

    "The discovery of the Central America was an engineering success, and the shipwreck itself was a spectacular scientific discovery, but it was the gold that financed the expedition and that would allow us to stay and learn."

    Have each group discuss this quote.

    • Ask the students to think about the role that money plays in motivation for each of the above professions.

    • Ask the students to think about the role that learning plays in each of the above professions.

    • Have students work in pairs and discuss what motivates them in different areas of their lives.

    • Ask the students to discuss what they think has been the most important thing learned from the recovery of the SS CENTRAL AMERICA.

  • In this activity students will work in teams to discover important pieces of the AMERICA'S LOST TREASURE saga. Divide the class into groups. They will each research one part of the story, create a visual representation of the information, and share their work with the class.

    Group 1 -- The Overview
    Have the students write a letter to their congressional representatives to convince them that the lost treasure from the SS CENTRAL AMERICA should be made our country's official national treasure.

    Group 2 -- Brief History
    Have the students use the events on this Web site, as well as the events listed below, to create a time line.

    Add the following events to the line:

    • Invention of the telegraph
    • Discovery of gold in California
    • California declares statehood
    • Civil War

    Fill in major U.S. events in the time period between 1857-1985.

    Make sure that the time line is a size that can be displayed in the classroom.

    Group 3 -- The Gold Rush
    Have the students conduct an Internet search to gather more information about the California gold rush. They can choose a format in which to present this information to the class.

    Group 4 -- The Last Voyage
    Send the students to the following Web site to learn about people who were aboard the SS CENTRAL AMERICA at

    Have them read the letters from a man who died when the SS CENTRAL AMERICA sank at:

    Have the students design a project vividly describing the people who left San Francisco on the SS SONORA (the ship that would bring them to Panama, where they would transfer to the SS CENTRAL AMERICA).

    Group 5 -- The Captain
    Have the students write either an obituary or a resume to educate their fellow students about the life of the captain of the SS CENTRAL AMERICA.

    Group 6 -- The Hurricane
    Have the students write a first-person account of or create a skit depicting the situation on board the ship during the hurricane.

    Read the following passage from Gary Kinder's book SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA:

    "The sea broke over us in avalanches," said Virginia Birch, "completely swamping the cabin and staterooms, and the vessel would be so completely buried that it was as dark as Erebus. The ladies never spoke a loud word and kept perfectly calm and collected. I never saw a calmer set of women in my life; one or two asked to be permitted to share in the labor of bailing, but were told by the gentlemen to keep quiet and all would yet be well."

    Discuss the passage using the following questions as a guide:

    • Have each group member respond to the gentleman's comment about keeping quiet and all would be well.

    • Do you think the women should have helped with the bailing?

    • Do you think that this scenario would be different if it happened today? How?

    • Do you think women and children should be rescued first in an emergency? Why?

    The group should repeat this activity with the whole class during their presentation.

    Group 7 -- The Great Wreck
    Have the students read the following passage from Gary Kinder's book SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA:

    As if to dramatize the hysteria of such a dilemma, one man ripped open a bag containing twenty thousand dollars in gold dust and sprayed it about the main cabin as though he were a pixie and the gold were nothing more than tiny grains of sand. Others unhitched treasure belts, upended purses, and snapped open carpetbags, flinging the shiny coins and dust across the floor. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars were thus thrown away," said a passenger.

    Ask the students to create a visual representation to convey the information from the Web site and the passage from Kinder's book to the class.

    Group 8 -- The Search
    Send the students to the following Web sites:

    Have this group create a story map that illustrates the process and the events that took place during the search for the gold.

    Group 9 -- Gold Discovered
    Send the students to the following Web sites:

    Have the students imagine that they were on the ARCTIC DISCOVERER when the gold was discovered. Ask them to prepare an oral presentation describing the events surrounding the discovery of the gold.

    Group 10 -- Nuggets and Dust, Coins and Ingots
    Send the students to the following Web sites:

    Create a poster that shows the different kinds of gold that were found on the SS CENTRAL AMERICA.

    Group 11 -- Recovery
    Send the students to the following Web site:

    1. Prepare a presentation that explains the unique challenges that the project faced, the equipment that was used, and how it functioned.

    2. Have the groups take turns presenting what they have learned to the entire class.

    3. Tell the students to take notes on the information presented by their classmates.

    4. Students will respond in writing to the following excerpts from the "Gold of the SS CENTRAL AMERICA" Web site. They should incorporate information they have learned from their small group research and other groups' presentations.

    Despite our exhilaration and wonder, a magnificent gravity -- perhaps radiating from the beauty, silence, and the timelessness of the scene-underscored the overpowering significance of the find. We knew we were looking at the wealth of early California, the hopes and dreams of true pioneers, a thousand stories of the 19th-century America, and of tragedy and success.

    We also knew that no other quantities of California gold still existed in original form. The gold we encountered was "priceless" not only because of its extraordinary intrinsic value, but also because of its history and uniqueness. This was the very gold that drew people to California and fueled the nation's economy in the mid-19th century. It was the same gold that passengers cast onto the decks of the Central America in the panic of the storm and that bankers in New York had been awaiting so anxiously in September 1857. Part of our American heritage, this was history in the form of a national treasure. And we had found it.

  • 1. Read the following passage describing an event in young Tommy Thompson's life.

    One day when Tommy was no older than eight, a man from the telephone company knocked on the front door of the Thompson home. When Phyllis [Tommy's mother] answered, the man told her it was against the law to have two telephones unless she paid for both of them"
    Phyllis said, "We don't have two phones."
    "Yeah, you do," said the man. "Come here."
    Phyllis went outside and saw a line coming off the telephone pole and looping down into the window of Tommy's room. "Wait a minute," she said, "I'll call Tom."
    A little boy in the third grade came out the front door, and Phyllis said, "Tom, this man wants to ask you something about that wire going out of your window."
    Tommy took the man into his room while Phyllis waited outside. When the man came out, he said, "That kid's made a telephone."
    Tommy had wired the phone inside an old jewelry box Phyllis had given him, and although he couldn't dial out with it, he could open it up and listen when the phone rang. He liked to hear what Patty and Sandee said to their boyfriends.
    The phone man told Phyllis, "This kid knows more about the telephone than I do. Why don't you just let him play with it."

    2. Involve students in a discussion regarding things that they have made.

    3. Tell students that they are going to invent something to solve a problem in their lives.

    4. Ask students to take a few days to record problems such as a backpack strap that is constantly slipping off their shoulder or a pen rolling off their desk in an "Invention Journal."

    5. Read the speech given by Lewis W. Lehr, 3M Chairman and CEO, as it appears on the following Web site:

    6. After students have generated a list of several problems, send them to the following inventors' Web site:

    7. Students will work through to find solutions to their problems using the process outlined in the inventors' Web site.

    8. Provide time for students to share their inventions with the class.


    For applicable standards see:

    Students will be assessed on the quality of their participation, their presentations, their written responses, and their Invention Journals.


    1. Use the book AMERICA'S LOST TREASURE by Tommy Thompson to research the environmental effects of the shipwreck, such as the sea life that has grown around the SS CENTRAL AMERICA.


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one group to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, and other materials from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working, have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. They can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also arrange the computers so that each is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three so they can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers