Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Oh, California

Life of a Mission — From Beginning to Now

Objective: Students research the history of a specific Spanish mission and make a timeline showing the major events in the life of the mission.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
5-6 hours over 4-5 days

Building Background:
Review with students a brief history of Spanish missions in California: when they were founded, for what purpose, and when and why the Spanish finally left them. Locate on a map and discuss the El Camino Real, the Spanish royal highway, pointing out that missions were established, one after another, along its length. Tell students they will learn more about a specific mission and make a timeline to show its entire history, from founding until today.

What To Do:

1. Organize students into small study groups and assign each group one of the 21 missions built on El Camino Real during the years that Spain controlled California. Have each study group research the history of their assigned mission.

2. Tell students they can begin their research by reading selected encyclopedia articles or non-fiction books about their missions. Encourage them to take notes using the Life of a Mission worksheet to keep track of their research.

3. Once research is completed, have groups work together to create a timeline showing the information they have gathered. Remind students that their timelines should include the information from their worksheets, but they are not limited to that. Encourage students to be creative in making their timelines: using words, drawings, and annotations. (They also might want to put several pieces of paper together to have more space in which to write and draw.)

4. Encourage volunteers from each study group to present the history of its mission, using the timeline as a visual aid. Challenge students to ask questions of each other.

Ask students to tell you one piece of information about their assigned mission that surprised them the most, and one piece of information that they believe they will always remember.


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