A fourth grader living in the state of California will most likely reach a point in the school year when the history of California missions is covered. The curriculum often requires that each student complete a Mission Project. While project requirements and guidelines may vary, there are typically some basic similarities. A Mission Project normally requires a visual representation of one of California's 21 missions. There is also usually creative latitude for visual reports, with the students free to try different mediums and methods for construction.

Hand paintings

An original hand-painted representation of a California mission may seem like a difficult task, but a few tips can make this a great way to complete a Mission Project. Find a picture of the mission you would like your project to focus on. Have the picture enlarged to the size you would like to paint it, and place a piece of tracing paper over the picture. Carefully trace the contours and lines in the photo with a black marker. Now flip the tracing paper over. Use a soft-lead No. 1 pencil to shade over the marker lines and "carbon up" the back of the paper. Once again, flip the tracing paper over. Place it atop the canvas or other surface you will paint. You will see the lines you made with the marker. Now take a pencil and simply retrace the outline you made. The pressure of the pencil will transfer those lines onto the canvas and give you the outline for your mission painting. Using watercolor, oil paints or acrylics, paint your mission. Either try to adhere to the original colors from the picture or add a creative touch by altering the colors or making it a bit more abstract.

Murals

A mural is an excellent way to visually represent a mission. First, sketch out the idea for your mural. Murals are typically able to depict a story in the painting. Think about the history of the mission you have chosen, and try to draw some key aspects of this history in a linear fashion. Using butcher paper or shelf paper, make an enlarged version of your sketched-out idea. First draw in pencil; then go back and add color with crayons, colored chalk or paints. Below the images, add a few words or sentences sharing the history of the mission and what the images represent. If project guidelines permit, a mural is a great group activity as well.

Dioramas

A diorama is a three-dimensional representation of an event or image. Dioramas are usually constructed within a box with one of the sides removed so as to display the contents. Think about what your mission may have looked like during its time. Using cardboard, draw and cut out the images of Indians and a priest, or try to find images in magazines you can cut out and glue to cardboard. Stand the cutout figures up with glue. Draw a mission on the backside of the box. Use old sponges painted green as shrubbery and trees. Add real sand, if available, to the floor of the diorama. Use cotton balls to represent clouds in the background. Dioramas allow for creativity, and there is really no limit to the materials you can use in constructing yours.

Models

A mission model is one of the most popular representations of a mission project. Models can literally be built from anything, so start looking around the house for materials and get creative. Small cardboard boxes, such as cereal boxes or tissue boxes, work well, and paper towel rolls serve as a nice addition. Styrofoam blocks can be cut with the help of an adult to form into the parts of a mission. Legos can be constructed into a mission model. Whatever you use, remember to get creative with your details. If using something like cardboard, paint it to make it look more authentic, or try gluing pieces of pasta to the surface of the cardboard. Sketch out your model before you begin building.