Ākonga from M4, along with Mr and Mrs Potter visited Cromwell this week, with the aim to deepen students' understanding of the consequences of the 1860’s gold discoveries in Otago. ⛏️ 🌟 Their itinerary was filled with trips to the Cromwell Museum and Goldfields Mining Centre, and they even panned for their own gold! Read more about their trip...

Understanding the Otago Gold Mining Era

On Monday M4 (Year 10) went on a trip to Cromwell. The aim was  to deepen students' understanding of the consequences of the 1860’s gold discoveries in Otago. The students had already studied some aspects of the initial gold rushes and were interested in finding out more. Interests ranged from how and where gold was discovered, to how the miners lived, how gold was extracted, the economic viability of a gold rush, how buildings and infrastructure developed, the importance of transportation and the contribution of Chinese miners to this period.


The Cromwell Museum was our first port of call.The Museum is run by volunteers who were ready and willing to develop our students’ knowledge. After their initial shyness students became engaged in discussion with these volunteers, learning new aspects of the gold rush era. They were particularly engaged with the models of a gold dredge, a stamper battery and of Old Cromwell. As a result, we spent a short time looking over the Historic Precinct of what is still left of Old Cromwell or The Junction as it was known in the 1860s.


We then travelled to the Goldfields Mining Centre. A comprehensive lecture from Declan about the history of gold mining in the area set the scene. Students were able to handle gold nuggets worth many thousands of dollars in today's currency. They were shown the veins of gold found in quartz as well as the flakes found in alluvial deposits. They then were taken to the stamper battery run on water power. This crushed the rock so that the gold could be extracted. An older and more environmentally unfriendly method was sluicing which required large amounts of water that could wear down hillsides over time. Some students had a go at manoeuvring the heavy sluice.

Next, students were able to pan for gold themselves.They were told that if  they found any they were allowed to keep it! However, many students found it harder than they had supposed. A few kept at it and did come home with a few specks in their little bottles.

After lunch students were able to walk around other places of interest such as the water races, the chinese rock shelter, forge and storerooms, and the display tunnel.

Students and teachers agreed that the day was very worthwhile and we all learnt a lot.