Piecing Together History at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Summary

Students will research the history of the San Antonio missions and early colonization of the United States and understand the role that the Spanish missions played in the development of Texas and the San Antonio region.

Objectives

  • Students will learn about the San Antonio missions and understand the role that Spanish missions played in the development of Texas and the San Antonio region.
  • Students will conduct research from multimedia and online resources to examine the various components of the San Antonio missions and share their research with a group to develop a classroom project or presentation.

Subject Area Connections

  • Coins & Mint
  • History & Government

Grades

  • 3rd
  • 4th
  • 5th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Total Time: 91-120 minutes

Materials

Background Knowledge

Students will have a basic knowledge of the following: 

  • San Antonio
  • Spanish missions
  • Texas
  • Native Americans
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Presentation
  • Farming
  • Agriculture
  • Community 

Lesson Steps

Session One

  1. Display a picture of the Alamo and ask students to identify what historic landmark is in the picture. Explain that the Alamo was originally founded as a Spanish mission known as the Misión San Antonio de Valero. The Alamo is one of many missions along the San Antonio River that was established between 1718 and 1731. The missions were built to spread the Catholic faith of the Spanish as well as support the colonial expansion efforts of the Spanish Empire. Other missions, including Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada, make up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Explain that students will learn about the San Antonio missions and their purpose, explore daily life in the missions, and understand the Spanish missions' influence on Texas and the San Antonio region.
  2. Ask students why they think the Spanish built missions in Texas. What was the purpose of the missions? Write their answers on graph paper or ask them record their responses in a journal or on a piece of paper.
  3. Show students the NPS video, "East Texas Beginnings" (www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=009F22EA-155D-451F-67DC8E9CCDE1C850).
  4. After watching the video, ask students again why the Spanish built missions in Texas? Potential responses include: as a way to control the area from the French, claim their spot in new territory, convert natives to Catholicism, and establish military presence via presidios. Write their responses on the right side of the graph paper.
  5. Ask students why the Spanish missions were not successful in East Texas. Responses may include: East Texas Indians had little need for what the Spanish had to offer because their society was already well developed with advanced trade networks, political systems, and was agriculturally self-sufficient.
  6. Ask students why the Spanish missions in East Texas moved to the San Antonio region. Potential responses include: Too few native conversions, lack of French threat, and hunter-gatherer tribes known as the Coahuiltecans (kwa-weel-tekens) near the San Antonio River were more receptive to the Spanish because they were being threatened by other tribes (i.e., the Apaches).
  7. Summarize to students that the San Antonio missions were a major part of Spain's plan to establish and manage a colonial frontier in the American Southwest. The missions were directly involved in the military, religious, and cultural development of the Southwest. They influenced agriculture and commerce, including the development of the cattle industry, and influenced the growth of Texas and the city of San Antonio.
  8. Explain that each year, the United States Mint issues quarters that highlight a different national site in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia. The program, called America the Beautiful Quarters® Program is releasing a new quarter featuring the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
  9. Display an enlarged image of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park quarter reverse. Ask students to identify some of the images they see on the quarter and brainstorm what they mean.
    1. San Antonio Missions Quarter reverse image: www.usmint.gov/coins/coin-medal-programs/america-the-beautiful-quarters/san-antonio-missions-national-historical-park

Session Two

  1. Explain to students that their mission is to investigate what each of these symbols mean. Demonstrate how the students will select one piece of the Puzzle Piece Worksheet and investigate what that symbol means using multimedia and/or online resources. Explain that their job is to answer the following questions:
    1. What is the symbol on your coin piece?
    2. What does the symbol mean?
    3. Why was this symbol included on the quarter?
    4. Why is this symbol important to the San Antonio missions?
    5. What historical significance does this symbol have today?
    6. If you could change this symbol, what would you include?
  2. Either pass out or allow students to draw a coin piece at random out of a box or bag. Make sure each student has one piece of the quarter. Pass out the Graphic Organizer Worksheet to guide students in their research.
  3. Based on the symbol they chose, also provide the following list of resources for them to research the quarter and learn more about the San Antonio missions. Allow students to use computers and/or other resources to research their symbol and learn more about the missions. Have students write down what they learned either on the Graphic Organizer Worksheet or in a journal or notebook.
    1. General Resources
      1. U.S. Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change website: www.usmint.gov/learn/kids/coins-and-medals/america-the-beautiful-quarters/san-antonio-missions
      2. NPS San Antonio Missions National Historical Park website: www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm
    2. Piece One: Arches and bell (represents community)
      1. NPS video: A Child's Life: www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=278AF4D1-155D-451F-67AF3CA4D04F12ED
      2. NPS text: A Day in the Life of Mission Espada, 1778: www.nps.gov/saan/learn/education/upload/A-Day-in-the-Life-of-Mission-Espada.pdf
    3. Piece Two: Lion (represents Spanish cultural heritage)
      1. NPS video: New Skills, New Life: www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=FFC356F1-155D-451F-6768170E67032241
    4. Piece Three: Water (represents the San Antonio River and irrigation methods and life-sustaining resources)
      1. NPS video: Farming and Ranching: www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=28B17402-155D-451F-67E8672F90097230
    5. Piece Four: Wheat (represents farming) 
      1. NPS video: Farming and Ranching: www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=28B17402-155D-451F-67E8672F90097230

Session Three

  1. Once students have completed their research, have the students divide into groups of four, so that each group has one symbol represented, making a complete quarter between the four of them. Using the Puzzle Piece Key Worksheet, have the students either glue or tape the complete quarter together.
  2. Once the students are grouped, explain that they are going to share what they learned with their group about their respective symbol. Have students discuss their research and its overall significance to the San Antonio missions and the development of Texas.
  3. Once students have shared their research, explain that they are going to create a presentation and/or project based on what they learned. Ideas for a presentation or project include:
    1. Powerpoint presentation that includes photographs from the missions that help visually explain the significance to each symbol on the quarter.
    2. Skit or play that showcases a day in the life of someone who lived in a mission and explains the significance of each symbol on the quarter.
    3. Mini-documentary that explains the history of the San Antonio missions and how the four symbols contributed to the culture and/or architecture of Texas and San Antonio.
    4. Interactive photo album or slide show of pictures of present day San Antonio that reflects each of the four symbols and their historical significance.
    5. Short story or informational text that highlights the history of the San Antonio Missions that covers the four components included on the quarter.
    6. Series of letters or diary entries that reflects the perspectives of a child, man, or woman living in a mission, a missionary, or a representative of the Spanish Empire, as it relates to the San Antonio missions and incorporates the four components of the quarter.
    7. A poster that explains the historical significance of the San Antonio Missions and the various components included on the quarter that represent its historical significance, both then and now.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Group students together during the research phase.
  • Have students present their research and written response orally.
  • Allow students to use a scribe or computer to complete graphic organizer, project, and/or presentation.

Assess

  • Evaluate the research, project/presentation, and students' participation to assess how well the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any National Standards.