Lessons using
 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.

Idaho Timeline
The Idaho Timeline 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.


Paper action figures:
These are intended as a tool for the teacher to use as desired. One option would be to arrange different scenes with the colored and cutout figures and write stories about what the characters (Polly and Charlie) are doing. This works well with the use of dialogue and how it is written. Dialogues can be exchanged and scenes recreated by other students.

Another way to use the action figures is to make them into stick puppets with students writing and giving short plays. A teacher can incorporate as much Idaho history into the model/art/language process as desired, and students will enjoy the creative aspect that the models provide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Reviews of, or commentary on, Polly Bemis: A Chinese American Pioneer
    Asian Reporter, May 4, 2004, p. 15  
    CRM Journal, Fall 2003, page 115
    PNLA Quarterly (Pacific Northwest Library Association), Winter 2004, pp. 4, 5

Contact us

Return to list of lessons.