California 4th Grade Mission Project

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The California 4th Grade Mission Project is an assignment in which fourth grade students in California public schools (and private Catholic schools) learn about the state's California missions.

Content Standard[edit]

The Study of the Early California Missions is part of California's 4th Grade Curriculum. Most California school districts use this study as the first primary source experience for elementary school children. The study involves a visit to a California Mission, the writing of a paper, and the creation of a model of the student's Mission of choice.[1]

The California State Board of Education has identified the following as the standard content for this project:

  • 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.
    • Discuss the major nations of California Native Americans, including their geographic distribution, economic activities, legends, and religious beliefs; and describe how they depended on, adapted to, and modified the physical environment by cultivation of land and use of sea resources.
    • Identify the early land and sea routes to, and European settlements in, California with a focus on the exploration of the North Pacific (e.g., by James Cook, Vitus Bering, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo), noting especially the importance of mountains, deserts, ocean currents, and wind patterns.
    • Describe the Spanish exploration and colonization of California, including the relationships among soldiers, missionaries, and Indians (e.g., Juan Crespí, Junípero Serra, Gaspar de Portolà).
    • Describe the mapping of, geographic basis of, and economic factors in the placement and function of the Spanish missions; and understand how the mission system expanded the influence of Spain and Catholicism throughout New Spain and Latin America.
    • Describe the daily lives of the people, native and nonnative, who occupied the presidios, missions, ranchos, and pueblos.
    • Discuss the role of the Franciscans in changing economy of California from a hunter-gatherer economy to an agricultural economy.
    • Describe the effects of the Mexican War for Independence on Alta California, including its effects on the territorial boundaries of North America.
    • Discuss the period of Mexican rule in California and its attributes, including land grants, secularization of the missions, and the rise of the rancho economy.[citation needed]


This topic is controversial in that it is often taught in a way that shows the missions as cultural centers for the California natives without mentioning that they were used to convert local natives to Catholicism, sometimes coercively. Discussion of revolts where Native Americans attacked missions are generally missing from the Fourth-grade curriculum.


External links[edit]