California Mission Project Now History

SAN GABRIEL (CBSLA.com) – It’s lesson-over for a long-running education project in Southern California.

The fourth grade requirement to build models of California missions is on its way to the history books.

The California curriculum framework adopted last year states: “Building missions from sugar cubes or Popsicle sticks does not help students understand the period.”

Colleen Mackenzie disagrees.

“Based upon the questions that the children ask because they want more information, I would say they’re learning,” she said, insisting the project isn’t just a history lesson but teaches kids about architecture as well.

“It’s also an art lesson,” she said.

Alex Tu says she has fond memories of her fourth grade Spanish mission project. She grew up in San Gabriel and used Styrofoam to make a model of Mission San Gabriel.

“By having us do these mission projects and like presenting them, we learned a little bit about our history as Californians,” Tu said.

That’s why this former teacher and now docent at the mission says projects like the one Tu created should stick around.

“It’s a huge part of history and a learning opportunity that should not be taken away from the children,” she said.

Tu says she learned lessons from her Spanish mission project she still uses today.

“Teamwork skills,” she said. “And I think asking for help when I need it.”

The state curriculum framework also claims the mission project is offensive to many.

“I don’t think it’s offensive. I don’t know why someone would,” Tu insisted.

“I don’t know what’s offensive about studying history,” Mackenzie added.

Some teachers have found other ways to teach about the period. A teacher in Manhattan Beach has her students do water color paintings.

The history of the missions will still be taught – but those Popsicle sticks and sugar cubes will now be a distant memory.

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