Your Mission:
The Last Mission
A problem based learning project for fourth grade students

Students study the existing missions to find characteristics of a successful mission. Led by their discoveries, students search for the perfect location for the final California mission.


Introduction Letter

The Task

How to Begin


Research Tips


Using Your Research Findings

Your mission

How You Will Be Graded

Presentation Rubric

Teachers Guide

Imagine that you were there as the last California Mission was being completed. You have worked hard bringing the supplies, raising the buildings, and learning the ways of the native people. You have a satisfied feeling as the mission is up and running. As you begin your morning prayers, you hear a rider approaching with a message from a land far away...

Click here to read the letter!

The Task

You and your group will work together to search for a final mission site. Research the original missions to find what they have in common. You will need to become experts in the following areas to answer important questions:

Geography: What kinds of land are the missions located on? What natural resources are found nearby? Did transportation influence the mission placement?

Native People: What tribes lived near the missions? What kind of people were they?

Natural Resources (plants & animals): What plants and animals could be found nearby the missions? How did the missionaries and native people use these resources?

Once you have discovered the traits that the original missions have in common, search for another location to create YOUR MISSION. Choose well and be ready to convince others that your site is best. Use facts and thought out reasons to guide your decision. The fourth area you need to become skilled in is:

Presentation: How do you convince Spain and The Church that your site would be best? What charts, pictures, and words will be effective in proving your point? How do you present your findings in a way that others will understand and agree with?

How to Begin

1. Each member of your team must choose an area of expertise to specialize in. The four choices are: Geography, Native People, Natural Resources (plants & animals), and Presentation.

2. As a group, choose a minimum of three missions to study. Try to choose a mission from the north, south, and central parts of California.

3. Begin your research on the original missions. Use the Student Links below to find information on the internet about the creation of the missions. Bookmark pages which might be useful in the future. Take notes about what you find. Save important photos and maps. Don't overlook other resources in your classroom and library. Brainstorm other topics to research and questions to ask yourself.

4. The presentation expert will help members collect and organize their findings. Make charts, Venn diagrams, lists, anything that will assist your team in comparing the facts you are gathering. Study the missions thoroughly before making any assumptions about what a "good" mission site is.

5. Once you have determined what a "good" mission site is, begin your search for a new site. Use your expertise in geography, native people, and natural resources to guide your choice. Be specific when describing the new site location and its desirable features.

6. Create your presentation. Your team will have ten minutes to present your facts and opinions to the class and an impartial judge. Make sure that all members take part in the creation and presentation of your final report.


Follow the link to the project timeline worksheet. Use this timeline to keep track of the completion of the various components.

Student Research Tips

Bookmark pages: Keep track of terrific web pages by moving your cursor to the Bookmark icon at the very top of your screen (in Netscape), click and hold, move down to "add bookmark" and let go! Whenever you want to return to the page just pull down the bookmark menu, find the title of the page and let go. 

Save photos: Place your cursor on top of picture desired. Click and hold. Follow pop-up menu options to save or download the picture to your hard drive or disk. 

Save text: (Don't forget the words in your report should be yours, not just copied words from someone else. Find important information and find a new way of saying it)

Mission Links

Note: With your teacher, please review your school's acceptable use policy for work on the Internet. Links to the Web often change. Tell your teacher when you find a poor link in this guide. Do not conduct e-mail inquiries over the Internet without supervision.

These links are included because they: 1. contained specific information about the missions and related subjects, 2. were appropriate for fourth grade students, 3. had limited links to outside sites. Teachers note that some sites contain advertisement.

Mission Links

California mission Internet Trail

California Mission Sketches by Henry Miller, 1856

California mission Interactive Website

History of Missions

Directory of California Mission Websites

California Geography Links

Images of the California Environment

Index of California maps

Search tool to find info about environment in specific areas

Historical Maps of California

Relief map of California

California Indian Links

Map of CA Indian Tribe names

Map of CA Indian languages

Time line of Indian history for San Diego area

Index of "The North American Indian Tribes"

California Wildlife Links

Wildlife Photo Gallery

California's Plant Life

California's Wildlife

California Natural Resource Fun Page

Images (Photographs, Art, etc.)
Available From the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Search Engines

Making of America Search primary sources of American history

Google Search Engine.

Megasearch engine. Contains advertising

Using Your Research Findings

Now that you have completed your fact finding, organize the facts. Use these links to organizational tools to help you.

Comparing and contrasting chart

Venn diagram

Can you answer these question?

  • On what type of land are the missions located?
    (plain, mountainous, coastal, inland)
  • What Native people live nearby?
  • What is the history of relationships with these people?
  • What natural resources are near the mission?
    (plants, animals, etc.)
  • Was it easy to travel to these missions by foot? horse? boat?

Your mission

Now that you have information about three missions, it's time to decide on your new site. Return to your research resources and use your expertise to find another location that fits the description of a perfect site. All members should agree on the final section.

Find the longitude and latitude. Draw a map of the area. Draw a picture of how the mission might look when completed Include illustrations of the natural resources and native people.

How You Will Be Graded

In the final part of this project, your student group will make a presentation on a site that they have selected to be the home of a new mission. In the presentation you will:

  • Provide information on the three missions (minimum) that you have studied. Include facts about geography, native people living nearby, and natural resources (plants, animals, water sources, etc.).
  • Compare and contrast the missions. You might include Venn diagrams, charts, or pictures.
  • Describe the site you have chosen for another mission and give reasons why you have chosen this particular site.

Before the presentation of the teams recommendations is made your class should create a presentation rubric to judge the quality of the work. Here is a sample rubric that can be completed by your class.

Presentation Rubric

Use the presentation rubric for grading your presentation.


Anderson Dooley-Miller
Resource Specialist
Napa Valley USD

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Last Revised: 04/05/06