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Mission To Early California
Fair Oaks fourth grader Jazmin Rodriguez shows off the California mission she chose for her project, Mission Santa Clara de Asis. - photo by COURTESY OF LISA GRAHAM

A recent hands-on California missions project helped students get a better picture of the structures and functions of the missions in early California history. All fourth graders at Fair Oaks Elementary School in Wendi Petroni’s, Heather O’Hearn’s, and Lisa Graham’s classes recently presented their historic California missions projects, which were represented in different forms and showed the investment of time made by the students.

“It is a fourth grade tradition, as part of our study of California History, for students to demonstrate what they learned about this part of our history,” said teacher Lisa Graham.

There are 21 historic missions that comprise California’s mission trail that were originally connected by El Camino Real (The Royal Road).

The missions are all along or near Highway 101, stretching from San Diego to beyond San Francisco. For the project, students each chose a mission. Some decided they wanted to make the mission building, including the church, surrounding walls, and its grounds. Each also researched and shared an example of mission life through use of a storyboard, journal, collage, video, model, or other visual aid; and the students also had to include basic information about the mission they selected.

“Mission Day is always fun to see how creative students can be,” Graham said. “As a grade level we had PowerPoints, scrapbooks, videos, posters, missions made out of food, candy, paper, sugar cubes, Legos, popsicle sticks, cardboard, kits with tons of added detail, and one made and created on the computer. Each student also made a presentation describing their project and what they learned. We had a fabulous turnout of projects.”

The California Missions project meets a portion of the state’s fourth grade History/Social Science standards, where students describe the social, political, cultural, and economic life and interactions among people of California from the pre-Columbian societies to the Spanish mission and Mexican rancho periods.