Lesson Plan

A New Mission for California

As a culminating project after studying the California Missions, collaborative teams of students are given the task of creating their own mission using the knowledge they have about the locations, designs, and purposes of the first 21 missions.
Barbara T.
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Arts, English Language Learning, Health & Wellness
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Students will be able to...

Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

Social Studies
Grades 4
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Teacher Notes
Student Notes


Activity: Other — Setting the Purpose

This lesson is adapted from The 22nd California Mission by Cynthia Bergez on the Buck Institute for Education website. She hooks her students by presenting  them with a letter from the Archbishop of Mexico in 1818 asking  them to create the 22nd California mission. They can choose the location and name, design the layout and facade, and create interviews with a missionary and a neophyte who live and work there.


Choose a location for the mission. Will it be in the south or north? Are there benefits to being closer to the coast or inland? Will it be between other missions or at the southernmost or northernmost end? View the satellite map and zoom in on the missions. Look at the arrangements of buildings that make up at least three missions. Your mission should follow a similar plan. Create a new layer to the class map of missions and place a pin to mark the new mission and label it with its name.

Reference: Google Maps of 21 Missions


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Design the architecture and layout of the mission. What buildings will you need? What types of industries will be housed there? Think of the purpose of the mission, the activities that will go on there, and the people who will live and work there. Construct a 3-D model using an app like Google Sketch-Up or Minecraft, or draw your ideas on paper.

Plans should include a floor plan and an image of the facade. Be sure to label each room or area so its purpose and function are clear.

Consider including
-Refectory (dining hall)
-Priest’s quarters
-Workshops (for making candles, wine, pottery, leather goods, ironworks, weaving, and carpentry)
-Farming and ranching areas
-Aqueduct for water and irrigation
-Storage areas
-Soldiers’ quarters
-Patio or courtyard

Reference: Mission San Juan Capistrano Plan


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Interview the mission inhabitants using talking avatars, animated faces, or a voice recording app. At least one missionary and one neophyte must be interviewed. Students may use Creative Commons images or photos of themselves acting as the characters. Discuss daily life at the mission. Describe the routines, work, and events at the mission. What are interactions like between the neophytes and the missionaries? What is the role of the soldiers? How do the missionaries view the neophytes? How do the neophytes view the missionaries?