For decades, fourth-grade students in California traditionally made models of a California mission to fulfill the California history curriculum requirement mandated by the state Department of Education.
However, the new educational framework adopted by the state Department of Education is sending the annual mission model project into the dustbin of history:
“Attention should focus on the daily experience of missions rather than the building structures themselves. Building missions from sugar cubes or popsicle sticks does not help students understand the period and is offensive to many,” said the new History-Social Science Framework adopted in 2016. “Missions were sites of conflict, conquest and forced labor. Students should consider cultural differences, such as gender roles and religious beliefs, in order to better understand the dynamics of Native and Spanish interaction.”
California missions remain an influential part of the state’s history. The surviving mission buildings often have beautiful architecture and include some of the oldest buildings in California.
Spring break will occur April 1-5 in the William S. Hart Union High School District, Sulphur Springs School District, Saugus School District, Newhall School District and Castaic School District.
Make history come alive this spring break and visit a California mission.
Hours, accessibility and fees vary from mission to mission, so visit the mission websites for details.
History of California’s missions
There were 21 missions built in California, the earliest missions were built between 1769 and 1777. The missions were constructed by Franciscan padres in order to “colonize” the territory of Alta California, which was “discovered” by Spain more two centuries earlier. Franciscan padres were motivated primarily to undertake the effort because of the opportunity to convert the Native Americans to the Catholic faith.
St. Junipero Serra (sainted in 2015) founded the first California mission, and a total of nine of the 21 missions before his death.
Mission San Diego de Alcalá
10818 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego
This was the first California mission founded by Saint Junipero Serra in 1769. The location was chosen to provide easy access by sea to Alta California from Spanish Mexico. Tours available by advance request. Info: missionsandiego.org
Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo
3080 Rio Road, Carmel-By-The-Sea
The second of the California missions was founded in 1770. The mission built the first library of thirty books in 1778. It is the burial place of St. Junipero Serra. Info: carmelmission.org/visit/museum
Mission San Antonio de Padua
End of Mission Road, Jolon
Founded in 1771, this mission was strategically chosen as a key central California location by Spanish Mexico. One of the first known marriages in early California was celebrated here in 1773. Info: missionsanantonio.net
Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
428 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel
Entrance to the mission museum is at the gift shop: 427 Junipero Serra Drive, San Gabriel 91776. The fourth California mission was founded in 1771. More than 6,000 Native Americans were buried on mission grounds. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the mission was known for its vineyard and wines. Info: parish.sangabrielmissionchurch.org
Mission San Luis Obispo
751 Palm St., San Luis Obispo, 93401 Established in 1772 the mission vineyard became so productive by the 19th century wine was exported to Russia and Great Britain Info: https://missionsanluisobispo.org
Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores)
3321 16th St., San Francisco
Established in 1776 at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War, the mission was named for Catholic saint Francis of Assisi. Mission Dolores is the oldest intact building in the City of San Francisco and the only intact Mission Chapel in the chain of 21 missions. Info: missiondolores.org/64
Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano
Founded in 1775, the chapel built by St. Junipero Serra, though enlarged, is still original and the only one surviving in which Serra is known to have celebrated Mass. The mission church’s original altar came from Barcelona, Spain. The mission is famous for celebrating the annual “return of the swallows to Capistrano.” Info: missionsjc.com
Mission Santa Clara de Asís
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
Founded in 1777 the mission is located next to the oldest university in California, the University of Santa Clara. The Franciscans used colorful cactus-based paint to create a vibrant chapel. Info: scu.edu/missionchurch
Mission San Buenaventura
225 E. Main St., Ventura
Founded in 1782, this mission is known for beautiful gardens and is one of the most-visited missions. An easy drive from the SCV, the mission is open daily, with self-guided tours. Info: sanbuenaventuramission.org
Mission Santa Barbara
2201 Laguna St., Santa Barbara
Founded in 1786 it is known as the “Queen” of the missions and the 10th California mission. It is home to a community of Franciscan friars, a church with a large and active parish; a museum and gift shop; a cemetery and mausoleum and 12 acres of gardens. Info: santabarbaramission.org
Mission La Purísima Concepción
2295 Purisima Road, Lompoc
Established in 1787 the mission was best known for its hides and blankets, and at its peak inhabitants herded as many as 24,000 cattle and sheep.
Mission Santa Cruz
144 School St., Santa Cruz
Established 1791 the mission is now managed by the California State Parks as Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park. It is a popular wedding site. Info: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=548
Mission Nuestra Señora de La Soledad
36641 Fort Romie Road, Soledad
Founded in 1791, the mission has reconstructed the South Wing and Chapel. Visitors can also view remains of the historic original walls. Info: missionsoledad.com/history
Mission San Jose
43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont
Founded in 1797 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen (who founded nine of the 21 California missions after the death of St. Junipero Serra), it’s the 14th California mission. Info: missionsanjose.org
Mission San Juan Bautista
406 Second St., San Juan Bautista
Established in 1797. When visiting the Mission, pay special attention to the church floor tiles. There are animal prints in the tiles that were made while the tiles were left outside to dry in the sun. Also, note the “Cat Door” carved into the blue side door in the Guadalupe Chapel. This allowed cats access at all times to catch mice that used to munch on mission crops stored inside. Info: oldmissionsjb.org
Mission San Miguel Arcángel
775 Mission St., San Miguel
Founded in 1797 this is a state and federal historical landmark. The church’s appearance today is much the same as when it was built. The inside of the church has never been repainted. The wall frescos are the originals that were painted by Salinan artists under the direction of Esteban Munras. Info: missionsanmiguel.org
Mission San Fernando Rey de España
15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills
Founded in 1797, this is the 17th California mission. It was named to honor Saint Ferdinand III, King of Spain. The closest mission to the Santa Clarita Valley, the mission is open daily. Info: discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/mission-san-fernando-rey-de-espana
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
4050 Mission Ave., Oceanside
Established in 1798, this was considered the “king” of California missions because of its large size. The first known pepper tree planted in California is found here. Info:sanluisrey.org
Mission Santa Inés
1760 Mission Drive, Solvang
The last of the southern California missions was built in 1804. The mission’s nearby town, Solvang, was founded by Danish settlers. The Mission museum displays four bells. The 1804 Juan Baptisia bell is the oldest. The Ave Maria Purisima bell was cast in 1807. Still hanging in the top arch of the bell wall is the 1818 Lima bell which was recast in 1953. The 1912 St. Agnes bell was used for the dedication of the new tower that same year. Info: missionsantaines.org
Mission San Rafael Arcángel
1104 Fifth Ave., San Rafael
Constructed in 1817, no structures from the original mission still exist, however the Hearst Foundations rebuilt the razed original buildings in 1949. Info: visitmarin.org/business/mission-san-rafael-arcangel
Mission San Francisco Solano
114 E. Spain St., Sonoma
The final California mission was built in 1823. The location of the mission in Sonoma intersected many mission trails in northern Alta California. When California declared independence from Mexico in 1846, the new flag was hoisted over Mission San Francisco Solano.