The Quest for El Dorado

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11949

Have you heard of the City of Atlantis, the Fountain of Youth, or Utopia? They're all legends that entice our imaginations at times. The same is true of El Dorado — a tale of greed with lessons!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Unlock the realm of ancient myths and daring quests as you unravel the compelling mystery of El Dorado: the legendary city of gold.

  • Can you think of any tales of legends that have stood the test of time?
  • Do you know any legends that intertwine reality with awe-inspiring imagination?

One such legend that echoes through the annals of time is that of El Dorado, a fabled city said to be adorned with unimaginable riches.

  • But what lies beneath the shimmering surface of this mesmerizing myth?

a building with gold and white walls

Peer through the mists of time and delve into the historical context that gave rise to the El Dorado legend.

  • What was the genuine history that sparked the imagination and inspired generations to embark on treacherous expeditions?

Prepare to witness the incredible journey of exploration and adventure that transformed reality into an extraordinary legend.

  • Why did people twist and distort the true story over time?
  • What led to the embellishments and exaggerations that transformed El Dorado into an irresistible fantasy?

Through a critical lens, unravel the intricate web of human motivations, cultural dynamics, and the innate allure of fantastical tales that motivated people to warp and embellish the true account.

Get ready to be captivated by a journey that bridges history, legend, and the unwavering human spirit!

You've probably heard of the California Gold Rush, and you've certainly heard of the San Francisco 49ers football team.

The team's name commemorates the thousands of men who migrated to California in the late 1840s in search of quick wealth — in the form of gold. The real gold rush began centuries before when the Spanish conquistadores ravaged Central and South America to gather as much gold as possible.

The Spaniards arrived in the New World to find Indians with vast stores of gold riches. These natives didn't view gold and other precious metals the same way as the newly-arrived Europeans, for whom gold was a form of money.

Then, a small misunderstanding launched many frantic adventures in searching for this shiny mineral. It became known as the legend of El Dorado.

As you watch the video clip below, write down answers to the following questions.

  • How did the legend of El Dorado get started?
  • What were the long-term impacts of this legend? For natives? For Europeans?
  • What did the natives want to do with the gold?
  • What did the Europeans want to do with the gold?

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After learning about the legend, consider these questions.

  • How did the natives and the Europeans view gold differently?
  • Why do you think they had different views about this mineral?
  • What do you think El Dorado represented in the European imagination?

The discovery of the New World triggered fantasies about quick wealth, a healthier and longer life, and untold freedom. It was easy for Europeans to project their highest hopes onto this giant, abundant land.

In the Got It? section, take a look at how the legend of El Dorado took on a life of its own.

a small misunderstanding

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