Polly Bemis: A Chinese American Pioneer, by Priscilla Wegars
(Cambridge, ID: Backeddy Books, 2003)
Lessons created by Mary Wells, 4th grade teacher, Southside Elementary, Cocolalla, ID, 2003
Polly Bemis was brought to a gold camp in Warren, Idaho in 1872. Therefore, these lessons are most effectively used when studying the discovery of gold in Idaho and the time period following.
When studying the gold rush in Idaho, the Chinese are an integral part of this period and the ensuing growth. Depending on what resources your school uses for Idaho history, the section on the Chinese is most likely small. Using this poignant true life story about Polly Bemis will help bring to life what living in remote areas was like before Idaho became a state, as well as how difficult it was for a Chinese woman during this time. This is a good time to connect to the study of Asian cultures if that is part of your 4th grade curriculum.
After reading the book, Polly Bemis: A Chinese American Pioneer, you will want to use the variety of worksheets to help keep thoughts of Polly and her life vivid in the minds of your students and to help activate the discussions of this period of Idaho history.
The Idaho Timeline (PDF) interrelates major events in Polly's life with significant milestones in Idaho history. One of the math worksheets uses data from the Idaho Timeline.
The following are quick, easy-to-use worksheets designed for the 4th grade classroom. They meet Idaho state standards in vocabulary, math, language and reading.