Fourth graders in the state of California must complete a study of the California mission system as part of learning about California history. Mandated by the state government, students write papers, make mission models and prepare other various mission projects during the course of study.
Studying the missions provide students with an understanding of California's native and Spanish heritages. The Missions stand as unique opportunities to study not only the founding of California, but the Native American who lived in the state before Europeans arrived.
Fourth graders are expected to learn the following:
* The social, political, cultural and economic life and interactions between native Californians, from the time before Christopher Columbus discovered American through the Spanish mission period to the Mexican rancho period.
* The major nations of California Native Americans, including where they lived, their economic activities, religions and how they used the land and sea as resources.
* Early land and sea routes to European settlements in California.
* Spanish exploration and colonization efforts.
* The placement of the Spanish mission with relation to geography and economic factors.
* The effect of the Mexican War for Independence on Alta California.
* The period of Mexican rule in California and the secularization of the missions.
Ideas for Mission Projects
Students usually get to choose the mission on which to base their assigned project. Depending on the teacher, they can usually come up with a project idea on their own. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Model of a Mission
Students can make a model of one of the 21 missions as a way to learn how the mission was organized, the types of building materials used and the layout. Models can be made of cardboard, clay, dough, toothpicks, sugar cubes and wood. Mission kits are also available for purchase.
Diorama of a Mission
Choosing one aspect of mission life on which to base a diorama is another idea. Students would create a scene of mission life using a shoe box. How the missions grew food or made tools are potential topics. The scene can be made from a variety of materials including wood, construction paper, sand, dirt, twigs, cardboard and paint.
Students who don't want to do art for their project can look at other aspects of mission life. Studying what the missionaries ate at the time would be a good topic. Books are available that discuss foods of the period. Students and their parents can prepare a selection of these foods and try them out. Then, they report back to the class about their efforts. Make a video of the student preparing and eating the food. Bring samples to the class. Or, write a report about how modern conveniences take the place of traditional food preparation methods, such as using a mortar and pestle.