Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -William Butler Yeats
As a fourth grade teacher, I am charged with teaching my students about California history. The text book is good at presenting dates, maps, and a summary of events that shaped the Golden State. But for many students this approach leaves our past lifeless and seemingly nontransferable to their everyday lives. We learn better about the past by making it come alive: by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. How can you understand what it’s like to pan for gold if you haven’t done it? Do you really know how to make an adobe brick until you try it yourself? I have always been a practitioner of living history. And I also need real world experience when I learn about our history. This is very much true for me when it comes to our 21 Spanish Missions. To understand a mission I needed to visit a few. To have a look around and kick the tires. I first started with the local missions: San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Jose. Then branched out to the ones farther afield: Santa Cruz and Carmel. I then knew that seeing five was not enough, I must see all 21, and sketch each and every one of them. And Mission Rally 2014 was born!
I sketched my first mission (San Francisco de Asis) in December of 2013 and I just finished my last mission (San Fernando Rey) in August 2014. Over the eight months of the Mission Rally I developed a style and layout for each spread. The anchor for each drawing was the mission, which I always sketched in the field. Too often the church is considered the “mission” when in reality, the church was part of a much bigger compound. The reason for this is that the church is often times the only thing left standing. I headed the page with the name of each mission, using the font: Puritan, of course. In a mission icon I showed the number of the mission and its founding date. I supplemented the anchor field sketch with a smaller drawing, sometimes from one of my photos.
After having visited and sketched all of California’s Spanish missions, I certainly feel like I know them much better and I understand the differences in size, geography and architectural style. So when a student asks a question about a mission, I can answer with a sense of knowing, because I do know. I’ve been there and I sketched that!
Over the next few weeks I will be adding pages from Mission Rally 2014.