Missions in California : Start here to write that report. Title over an image of a California mission.

Missions in California : Start Here to Write That Report!

It’s that time of year for California Missions Reports and research to start popping up in 4th grade classrooms and homeschools all around the state. I call it California mission report season! 

It’s a big component of the California History and Social Studies standards for teaching. Yet it’s undergone some changes in recent years, and for the better. Let’s find out how it’s changed and why. Then I have some helpful resources to share with you!


California Missions Project – Where Did It Go?

During the years when my son was growing up, practically every student in 4th grade completed a California Missions Project. They would build a model of a Spanish mission out of popsicle sticks, or sugar cubes, or flour and salt dough. 

It was a huge undertaking, and if we can all be perfectly honest here, many of the mission models weren’t built by the students. They were constructed by the parents. Or with a large helping of parental oversight. 

By the early 2000s, many of the California mission projects were made with a kit that was purchased from a hobby store or online.

What did the students learn during this project?

As it turns out, not much. 

In fact, it may have done more harm than good. The students, while focusing on the architecture of the model, missed out on critical understanding about the social, cultural, and economic impacts the Spanish mission system had in California. The project focused on buildings and glossed over the enslavement of the indigenous people in California. 

Missions in California research report templates.
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The California Missions Research Report

A better way to have students learn critical lessons about the impact of of the missions on the people and the land, both positive and negative.

As students research the missions, they’re not only learning basics, such as the timeline, the events around each mission. They also are learning to use their critical thinking muscles. Two good questions to include in a California missions report are these:

  • What were the positive impacts of the California Missions?
  • What were the negative impacts of the California Missions?

Teaching about the missions, we need to be sensitive to the stories of the indigenous people of California. Authentic resources spoken or written by descendants of the people affected by the missions can be immeasurably helpful.

There are many different ways of doing this report. One way to not do the report is just to hand out books about the missions and let the students write a summary. 

Templates and Graphic Organizers Help With the Research  and Writing

Instead, try having graphic organizers for important events. Try out having different types of report presentation. Maybe it’s a one-page report. Another favorite of students is to create a slides presentation. Some students love to make a brochure full of mission facts. I like to use flipbooks for this because each aspect of the report is clearly delineated for the students.

That’s why I created two different types of reports for you to use with your class. They’re basically No-Prep print and go. You can assign websites. One I found to be very helpful and on a level for fourth grade understanding is California Missions

You can head to the library to select books. I’ve listed a few books and a map at the end of this post that you might be interested in. 

I also wrote some simple informational text about each of the 21 missions in California, to make this whole process as easy as possible for you! You can see the product down below, along with a couple of videos about them. You don’t want to miss these great products!

The Spanish Missions in California

I could never remember the order of the 21 missions. So I created a California Missions List in order of the date each one was founded. This comes with any of my California Research Report products.

Video and Map of the California Missions

Visuals are so helpful. I created a short introductory video of the missions that includes a map. Watching the video, you can get an idea of the locations of each mission. It includes a bit of trivia about each mission. It’s just enough to get your students interested and eager to start their research.

If you want to have your students choose which mission they research for their report, this video might help them choose. You might also want to simply have them do their reports on California missions near you. You can choose to just buy one research report product for one particular mission. 

Teachers Love These California Missions Report Templates!

Why? They give you choices. You can buy one, or do like many teachers are doing, buy the bundle!

Check out all the options!

Flip Book Research Report

This is my favorite. Flip books are so much fun for students to create. Instead of looking at a big, blank paper, they tackle one small part at a time. Then they put it all together to create something they’re proud of. 

California Mission Report cover for San Diego de Alcalá. It has an image of the flipbook and a timeline.
Click to see full details. There are flipbooks for all 21 California missions.

The best thing? You can purchase all 21 flipbooks in a bundle, or just buy one. Are you going to visit a mission with your class? These are especially good to use as a note taking tool on a field trip.

Check out this video preview of what’s included in each of these fabulous flipbooks.

Foldable Booklet Research Report

This report can be a one-page report for display on a bulletin board, or it could be a foldbable booklet perfect for display on a student’s desk for a gallery walk.

An image of a California mission and a Mission Research Report booklet.
Students use this to create a foldable booklet or a one-page report. Click the image for full details.

The super cool feature about this product is you can also turn it into a one or two page report. It’s also both digital and printable!

California missions in a foldable booklet report.
This product includes a report template for all 21 California missions. Click the image to see the full details and preview.

Do you only need informational text passages about the missions?

I’ve got you covered! Here are 21 reading comprehension passages about each of the missions.

California missions reading comprehension passages.


You can also buy the informational text bundled with the templates for the one-page and foldable research reports. How easy is that?

California missions research report bundle with an image of a Spanish mission.

Thanks for stopping by the blog today, friend! I hope you found some things here to help you while you head into the season of California mission reports!

Before you go, check out some of these books I found that might be helpful to you while you teach all about the California missions!


This is a general overview of the missions.

This is an academic history of the indigenous people of California. It’s a great addition to your teaching library.

This book is a pictorial guide to the missions. It has stunning photography that your students might enjoy.

This map of the missions along the El Camino Real includes historical footnotes and original artwork.

Here is a coloring book for your students to enjoy and get to know the appearance of the missions.

Heads up…I am an Amazon affiliate. These books contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to use them, however, there is no additions cost to you. You can read the full disclosure right here.



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