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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

California dumps ‘mission’ project

When California fourth-graders study state history, they build a model of a mission out of clay, cardboard, sugar cubes, popsicle sticks, styrofoam or perhaps Legos. But all that is changing with a new K-12 social studies framework, reports Amy Graff in the San Francisco Chronicle. The mission project is history.

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“What are students learning by building model missions?” asks Nancy McTygue, executive director of the California History-Social Science Project and one of the lead writers of the new framework. “Building a mission doesn’t really teach anything of substance about the period and it’s offensive to many.”

But, but . . . It’s hands-on learning!

Native Americans complained about romanticizing the missions, where many California Indians died, reports Karen Nikos-Rose in the Sierra Sun Times. (See Elias Castillo’s A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions.)

Instead of the mission project, the framework suggests fourth-graders investigate the lives of “people who lived in California’s missions, presidios, haciendas and pueblos,” writes Nikos-Rose.

In other parts of the framework, U.S. history teachers are encouraged to develop investigations, or research, on the Gold Rush and statehood, LGBTQ figures in history and the role of labor leaders and farmworkers in California agriculture.

Lori Rushford, a fourth-grade teacher in Sacramento, dropped the mission-building project last year after a Native American parent complained, reports Diana Lambert in the Sacramento Bee.

It wasn’t much of a loss, said Rushford. Parents were doing too much of the work — or buying prefabricated mission kits. “Nowadays they buy a kit and put it together, then complain about the cost of the kit.”

Now her students do a presentation and diorama about a California plant or animal.

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