Buck Institute for Education

The 22nd California Mission

Author: Cynthia Bergez

What will my students be doing?

In The 22nd California Mission project, students gain knowledge about the mission period of California history by engaging in a task that requires critical thinking and creativity.

What's Included:

  • Project Overview
  • 8 Essential Elements of PBL
  • Sequence of the Project
  • Step-By-Step Teaching Guide
  • Student Handouts
  • Teacher Materials

Current Version: April 22, 2014

The “Mission Project” is almost a cliché in California elementary school classrooms — and there are projects like it in every state.

For generations, fourth grade teachers have been assigning virtually the same project: students either choose or are assigned to research one of the 21 missions built by Spain in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The children then search for information according to an outline or prescribed list of questions. They write a report, make a poster, build a model, or turn in some combination of these products and perhaps present their research in class.

But in The 22nd California Mission project, students gain knowledge about the mission period of California history by engaging in a task that requires critical thinking and creativity. They also build Common Core aligned skills in informational reading, constructing an argument, and making presentations. The project begins when students are placed in a scenario in 1818 with a letter from the Archbishop of Mexico, asking them to recommend a location for a new mission. Working in teams, students choose a site, create a design for the layout and buildings, make maps, and then present their proposals to an audience. A written proposal may also be added. The 22nd California Mission project is multi-curricular, including social studies, language arts, art, and even some mathematics. As such, project activities can fit into many different time slots of the school day.



Project Notes

  • Subjects: ELA, Social Studies
  • Grade Level: 4th
  • Common Core Aligned
  • Time Required: 10-15 Hours
  • CC BY

Sponsored By

FAQs

The traditional Mission project is so common that arts and crafts stores even sell complete kits for building a mission. But what does a student really gain from doing such a project? It does not require much in the way of critical thinking, collaboration, or creativity, nor does it teach students much about the history and purpose of the missions—that is done through traditional teaching methods. The idea for a more complex task originally came from Kate Jamentz, director of the Western Assessment Collaborative at WestEd, where it was picked up by John Larmer, now with the Buck Institute for Education (BIE). In its workshops, BIE has used the traditional Mission project as an example of a “dessert project” in contrast to “main course” Project Based Learning. When BIE put out the call for teachers to try the idea of the 22nd Mission Project with their students, local 4th grade teacher Cynthia Bergez recognized the need for it and took up the challenge.

Student Work

Site Layout #1
A site layout for a proposed location. view photo »
Site Layout #2
A site layout for a proposed location. view photo »
Architecture Draft #1
A team member's draft of the architecture. view photo »
Architecture Draft #2
Another team member's draft of the architecture. view photo »
Final Draft
A collaborative final version of the architecture taking into account all the team members' ideas. view photo »

Project Documents

Project Author

Cynthia began her career in education at the age of twenty-one, and taught in several grade levels in three different parochial elementary schools in San Francisco. Fourth Grade has always been Cynthia’s favorite grade to teach, and social studies is one of her favorite subjects. She authored two workbooks on San Francisco history and wrote and directed student plays about the city. She was given the San Francisco Star Teacher Award and was nominated for California Social Studies Teacher of the year. Cynthia became the principal of an elementary school in Marin County, CA, a job she found interesting, but she missed teaching. She has taught fourth grade at Our Lady of Loretto School in Novato, California for the past three years and has no plans to retire because it “keeps her young and it’s so much fun.”

Cynthia majored in Psychology and minored in Art at San Fernando Valley State, now called California State University Northridge. After taking graduate classes at California State University San Francisco, she received a Life Credential, one of the last ones issued.