Humboldt Elementary School students swished water and gravel in gold pans, hoping to find a flash of gold at the bottom, during the school's Pioneer Day on April 26.
Woody Wampler, Dewey-Humboldt resident, and other volunteers from the Gold Prospectors Association of Phoenix, demonstrated how to pan for gold at several tables set up outside. Students practiced sifting through sand to find flakes of gold that settled to the bottom.
Or sometimes floated to the top. Wait, gold is heavier than water, so how does that happen?
"Gold floats if there's water tension. We use a drop of soap to break the tension," Wampler said. "It's oil sometimes from the fingers that causes it."
Inside the gym, members of the Dewey-Humboldt Historical Society worked the stations where students could practice roping skills, match rocks and minerals to labels, stamp leather scraps with images or symbols, and learn to weave.
Students also tried their hands at flint napping after Bart Brush, former HES music teacher, demonstrated how to make arrowheads and projectiles. They worked up a sweat creating fire through friction, and cheered every time a wisp of smoke appeared.
At another station, D-HHS member Sue Palacios provided "clue" cards to each student who then matched the information to black and white photos from long ago historic Dewey and Humboldt sites.
A big attraction was the old-time children's games where students attempted to balance a configuration of long nails on a short pedestal, or tilt a table top so a marble rolls through a maze. Students found spinning a top through another maze to knock down wooden pins similar to modern-day pinball machines.
GPAP event organizer Leo Martin said gold prospecting is "good family fun," although one would not get rich from the activity.
"You meet nice people, get out in the fresh air, and camp out. If you find gold, that's a bonus," Martin said.
The GPAP club hosts a free ice cream social every summer at Fain Park. Gold panning contests for beginners and pros and other activities take place from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, June 15.
GPAP members also clean up prospecting sites on a regular basis locally and in the Phoenix area.