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Science of the Comstock - Lesson Plans

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Lesson Plans:
Earth Science


An Overview of Virginia City and Mining on the Comstock

This lesson presents introductory material to provide the student with a visual impression of the land in and around Virginia City and some basic understanding of the mining process. With this introduction, the student can have a more complete understanding of activities in other subject areas.

By Elisabeth M. Price, Washoe County School District

Grade Level: Middle and High School

Educational Standards Addressed (Taken from: National Academy Press, National Science Education Standards, Washington, DC, 1996) (National Science Education Standards In Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format) (For Nevada, see also the Nevada State Science Standards, Welcome to the Nevada Department of Education):

Content Standard for Earth Science (Standard D), Grades 5-8

--Structure of Earth System
--Earth's history

Content Standard for Earth Science (Standard D), Grades 9-12

--Geochemical cycles

Content Standard for Personal and Social Perspectives (Standard F), Grades 9-12

--Natural resources

Content Standard for Science and Technology (Standard E), Grades 9-12

--Understandings about science and technology

Lesson Overview

Students view the panoramic QTVR tour of Virginia City and write response papers about suggested or student developed topics. Next, students read the Mining Tour in order to gain an understanding of the steps in mining, most of which are essentially the same today. Students read the vocabular page for further insight into mining.

Time Resources

Viewing and reading the QTVR tour, about 10 minutes. Response papers, about 30 minutes.

Mining Tour, about 10 minutes. Listing steps of mining, about 10 minutes.

Vocabulary, about 5 minutes.

Instructional Methods and Strategies

Students explore the Virginia City area through reading and taking the QTVR tour. This step is to simulate an actual field trip to the area. The visualization of the area is encouraged through the response papers.

Students explore the steps of mining and summarize in an outline or visual organization (web). They apply the vocabulary as much as possible.


Activity 1: As a substitute for a tour of the Virginia City area that takes only a little time, students take the QTVR tour including the description of the sights. After they have read the material, they are encouraged to write response papers. Suggested topics might focus in on the science, but students may also be encouraged to generate their own topics.

Describe the weather on the day you made your trip to the top of Mount Davidson. How did the weather affect the way you made the trip? What supplies did you have to bring with you?

Deduce the climate in the area by looking at the topography, vegetation, and plants you can see. What adaptations would people living in the area have to make?

Describe the topography and possible geologic reasons for that topography. Several geologic notes are made in the tour.

Activity 2: Read the Mining Tour and Vocabulary sections in order to gain an understanding of the steps of mining. Summarize the steps in outline or web form using the vocabulary words when possible. Students should discuss the steps with partners. As an extension, suggest ways the mining could be made more efficient, or safer for the people and environment citing modern inventions or future inventions.


The response papers and outlines of the steps of mining can be used as assessments. Look for evidence taken from the written tours or from the photos to support statements the students write.