Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

NOTE TO EDUCATORS: The movie featured in this lesson plan describes the abuse of the Native people of California under the Mission system. Due to the sensitivity of this topic, consider previewing the movies before showing it to the class.

*Click to open and customize your own copy of the California Missions Lesson Plan.

This lesson accompanies the BrainPOP topic California Missions, and supports the standard of describing interactions between European settlers and native peoples. Students demonstrate understanding through a variety of creative projects.


Ask students: Why do you think so many cities and towns in California and other states have Spanish names?


  • Read aloud the description on the California Missions topic page
  • Play the Movie, pausing to check for understanding. 
  • Have students read one of the four Related Reading articles. Partner them with someone who read a different article to share what they learned with each other.

Step 3: APPLY
Students synthesize their ideas and express them through one or more of the following creative projects. They can work individually or collaborate.  

  • Make-a-Movie: Create a mini-documentary about the first California mission, and its impact on the Kumeyaay.   
  • Make-a-Map: Make a concept map identifying the effects of Spanish missions on the lives and cultures of the Kumeyaay and Chumash. 
  • Creative Coding: Code a museum with artifacts representing the interactions between the Kumeyaay and Chumash, and the Spanish Missionaries.


Reflect: After sharing creative projects with each other, students reflect on what they’ve learned about California Missions.  Prompt them by asking questions such as: 

  • Why might some Indigenous peoples’ actions, like continuing to use their own languages and secretly continuing their traditions, be considered acts of “quiet rebellion?” 
  • How did the shift to European agricultural practices impact the relationship between the Indigenous peoples and the missionaries? 
  • How did the Indigenous people preserve their culture? Why is this important? 

Assess: Wrap up the lesson with the California Missions Challenge.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments