Growing up in California, the missions were a part of life. We stopped and visited if we were traveling through one of the mission cities. Like all Californian fourth grade students, I wrote a report and made a model of a mission. This tradition continues in many schools to this day. And, most schools have their fourth graders visit the nearest mission.
There are 21 Spanish missions that were built along the Camino Real between 1769 and 1833 by the Franciscan order of Catholic priests. The history is controversial, especially in regards to the California Native Americans, but the Missions are fascinating and you can really gain a great understanding of the beginnings of California.
When my oldest daughter was about to go into 4th grade, I had the great idea that we should visit each of the missions. I loaded the four children in the car and off we went. It took us about a year to complete our self-guided tour. We did not do it in chronological order but rather divided the state into sections. Our favorites were Santa Barbara, La Purisima de Conception, and San Antonia de Padua.
I am tempted to make the journey again.
The pictures above are of my mother’s prized copy of The Mission Bell by Leo Politi, an car ad at the SB Mission where my dear traveling companion Carolyn and I were the models, and a picture of my most recent visit to the Santa Barbara Mission where I attended a SCBWI writing retreat.
Here are some links that can help in planning field trips to the California Missions: