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History comes alive for fourth graders during overnight stay at Mission San Antonio 

–Earlier this month, fourth-grade students of Almond Acres Charter Academy had the unique experience of being transported back in time during an overnight field trip to the Mission San Antonio de Padua located near Fort Hunter Liggett.

Established in 1771, the well-preserved mission is steeped in California history. It can accommodate up to 65 guests in its renovated living quarters.

The trip was one that students will likely never forget. “I loved this field trip because it was a great learning experience,” said student Amelia Baker. “I learned very valuable information like the San Antonio Mission was the third mission established.”

“It was like a step through a time machine,” said another student, Marshall Hutchinson.

Over the course of two days, students were encouraged to learn through docent-led tours and self-discovery. During their stay, the students sought to answer the question, “What artifact best tells the story of the California missions?” They investigated the grist mill, threshing floor, and reservoirs; measured cemetery walls; sketched pictures; inspected architecture, artifacts, and plants; and wrote down thoughts and observations. They interviewed experts, like Joan, a mission docent, and used the knowledge they gained to adjust their conclusions.

Not only did the students explore during the day, but also in the evening. Three community astronomers, Glen, Scott, and Larry, came and shared their passion for the night sky. They connected how the Native Americans used the night sky to tell stories and how some cave paintings reflect that knowledge. They showed the students how the mission padres may have used the planets for navigation. Using current technology with their telescopes, they pointed out clusters, planets, and constellations.

“I liked the overnight field trip because we got to see Jupiter and Saturn,” said Roman Sanchez Ramirez, a fourth-grade student.

Incorporating state standards for math, science, history, and English into creative projects and field trips boosts students’ knowledge retention levels. This style of education is called project-based learning.

“In traditional education, we focus on one subject one at a time,” said Bob Bourgault, Executive Director at Almond Acres. “We’re doing everything we can in our educational programs to tie all subjects together and let kids be creative. This increases the students’ neurological strength, and more importantly, it makes learning fun!”

The trip was made possible thanks to the generosity of a fourth-grade parent.

“What a memorable and incredible experience! This visit to Mission San Antonio was a powerful first-hand acquaintance with mission life that will stay with students throughout their lifetime,” said Lisa Leopard, a fourth-grade teacher.

“We had such a remarkable field trip with our students,” said Joanna Lisonbee, a fourth-grade teacher. “We not only experienced, hands-on, what mission life was like and the impact it had on California history, we also had a unique opportunity to connect with our students in a whole new way. We all built a great understanding of the mission era, great memories, and great connection that will last!”



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