Gold throughout Art History and the Search for Something Greater
Meets the learning standards for grades 4-5 (can be adapted)
Media Type: drawing, pantomime, and ephemeral
Subject Integration: Fine Arts, English Language Arts and Reading, Social Studies, Science
Formal Lesson Plan and TEKS information

An entire WEEK of activities introducing the origin, properties, and significance of gold in history, art, science!


What do you know about gold? Where does it come from? How is it commonly used? Is its value purely aesthetic, or does it also have practical merit?


  • Explore this website to learn all about gold.
  • Now, create a list of 10 new facts you learned!
  • Where does gold ORIGINALLY come from? Take a guess or reflect on think about what you’ve learned in Social Studies or Science classes.
  • Now, let’s check out this video:
  • Draw a picture interpreting how YOU THINK gold arrived on earth. Be as creative and imaginative as you’d like!



  • Talk about any new or lingering ideas you have about gold. Were you inspired or curious after the information from Day 1?
  • Read Gold in Art History based on an article by Jon Mann. How many different techniques (e.g., sculpting, casting, leafing, etc.) can you identify for incorporating gold into artwork? What were common reasons artists throughout history used gold? Do you think gold is necessary for the effectiveness of the artwork? Could other materials be as impactful? Why?
  • Think about the kind of art you could create a piece of art that would incorporate gold.


Activity 1:

  • Have you ever searched for gold? Were you successful? Where do you think gold mining and production happen?
  • Did you know you could mine for gold in Texas?? You can! Take a look at this website to learn more about where and how you can mine for gold.
  • Let’s chart our course! Use this map to create a (pretend) trip to one of the mining/panning locations mentioned in the previous article. What equipment would you need to bring to hunt for gold at that location?

Activity 2:

Image: NASA

In 1977, “NASA placed a more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2, a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on earth.”

The Voyager Gold Record also includes a symbol representing the earth’s exact location (i.e., a map). Based on our previous lessons, why do you think the record was made of gold? What properties or significance of gold would make it suitable for space travel?

Do some independent research on the NASA website dedicated to the Golden Records and share your findings.



  • Say your name and briefly describe yourself and your personality/interests/beliefs. Was it difficult to define who you are?
  • How would you communicate the same introduction and description to someone who speaks a different language? Can you introduce yourself without using words? Practice pantomiming and test it out with a classmate or family member.
  • What did you learn from patomiming? What are the IMPORTANT concepts to communicate?
  • Now, let’s watch this video explaining the symbols on the Voyager Golden Record:


Activity 1:

Let’s watch this modern music and video remix of the Voyager Gold Record to start the day:

  • What important message would you wish to communicate about yourself to an extraterrestrial? How would unfamiliar language or physiology create challenges in communicating?
  • Sketch a design that would convey their message. Share and discuss!

Activity 2:

  • Imagine you’ve crashed on a strange planet and need to send an S.O.S to any lifeforms passing by. What would that S.O.S look like? What would it be made from?
  • Create a model of your message using things around you right now. What would use if you were outside? Would you draw in the dirt, stack rocks, or arrange different color leaves in a pattern? How effective were the materials you used? What are some potential challenges (e.g., wind, rain, isn’t visible from a distance)?
  • What other materials could you use: Building blocks?
    Sand? Salt? Dried beans or rice? Experiment to find the best solution with what you have around you.


How does choice of materials communicate information about our lives and our reality? If you had limitless resources, what material would best represent your message?