The day has come... the day your 4th grader comes home and says they want to build a mission for their California project. Writing a paper does not sound like fun to them, they want to make something!
Some people make crafts and build things all the time. Others need simple instructions that can be followed step by step. I hope that by sharing our experiences, that this page will help and inspire others in their mission building adventure.
Here's the assignment our son was given:
A. Make an accurate, scaled model of a mission church, quadrangle, the surrounding mission buildings, and gardens. The base should be no larger than 25" X 18", and the height should be no larger than 15". PLEASE include a picture you used to create your mission model. YOU MAY NOT USE A MISSION KIT FOR THIS PROJECT!
B. All models should have a mission church, quadrangle with a plaza area, and landscaping.
C. Include a small typed or printed Identification Card with the following information:
1) Your name and date due, 2) Name of the mission, 3) Location, 4) Founder and date founded, 5) A paragraph about any interesting facts you learned about your mission.
D. The mission may be made out of cardboard, sugar cubes, clay, spackle, styrofoam, noodles for tiles, or anything your imagination can come up with! You may receive help, but the major part of the mission should be your own.
Okay.... accurate scaled model, church and surrounding buildings, quadrangle, landscaping, and no mission kit. Now what???
CreativityThere is certainly research to be done to create the mission, including grounds layout, sizes of buildings, and locations of wells or fountains. There is also a lot of room for creative interpretation. Will you include fields, a garden, orchard, benches, trellises, woodpiles, outdoor kitchen, people, or animals? What will you use to build the walls - cardboard, foam board, sugar cubes, clay, or a combination for different areas? Before racing out to buy your materials and possible decorations, begin your research and get the layout for your project charted out. Then you will know about how thick your walls will need to be, and about how much material you'll need. Most 'miniatures' ended up being far too large for use with my son's mission, but I saw other projects that were able to use them.
ResearchRobin chose Mission Santa Clara de Asís, but the steps we used can be applied to other missions, too.
Many children in California go through this process every year; I expected to find a lot of information available. I didn't find as much as I expected. These are the three books that we found with helpful information:
The Missions: California's Heritage by Mary Null Boulé, Merryant Publishing
The Missions of California: Mission Santa Clara de Asís by Amy Margaret, Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
California Missions Projects and Layouts by Libby Nelson with Kari A. Cornell, Lerner Publications Company.
I believe there are books by Mary Null Boulé and Amy Margaret for all the missions.
We also looked through a couple coffee table books on missions while visiting the bookstore.
I highly recommend visiting the mission and getting every bit of information you can. Robin's class went on a guided tour, where many little bits of information were included that were not in the books, including the location of the well (now a beautifully landscaped area with a statue).
The mission is located in the center of Santa Clara University, and they happen to have a map of the mission area online. This has the current layout of the grounds, which includes part of the original buildings. As the mission has been used as a college, some modifications occurred over the years, but this map still gives valuable 'scale' information. All three of the books contained layouts of the grounds from the 1800's, although they were not identical.
Note: The photos and information in Amy Margaret's Mission Santa Clara are great. Unfortunately the 'make your own mission' project at the end is not very accurate. The bell tower extends the entire length of the church, the lower side walls are missing, and the church is a square building, instead of rectangular. I'm sure you can design something better. I do not know if the mission projects in her other books are more accurate.
In order to get the correct shape and height of the church front, we used a straight-on photo of the church. There is a nice one at California / Southwest for Visitors.
MaterialsIt could be easy to spend a lot on this project - landscaping, crosses, bells, etc. Robin's teacher specifically said not to spend too much on the project. The projects book mentioned above has many ideas for materials and different building techniques. This is what we used:
Large piece of cardboard from a moving box
Pencil, scissors, ruler, razor cutter
Printer and software that allowed scaling an image
Thick tacky craft glue
Corrugated paper (small roll)
Green Lychen (found in model railroad section)
Sculpey clay, green, brown, beige (tiny amounts)
Plate for paint
Small piece of beige construction paper or cardboard
Brown construction paper
Paper for creating roof patterns
Toothpicks (flat) and wooden kitchen matches for crosses. You might also need popsicle sticks, depending on the size of your crosses and buildings
Acrylic Paints (small) in antique white, medium foliage green, light foliage green, adobe red, dark brown and tan
Light blue fabric paint (dries shiny) for water
Styrofoam packing sheets from furniture that I knew we'd need for something someday. One piece was about 1/2" thick, which was used for many of the walls, and there was a 1" by 1" length that was used for the bell tower and quadrangle buildings. Foam core board should also work well.
Please note that the church in this project ended up being 4.5 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall at the peak. This is a SMALL building.
The list above looks long, but we happened to have most of the materials in our home; we needed to purchase the corrugated paper, paints, and lychen.
Sculpey is a polymer clay which comes in different colors and stays soft until you bake it at low temperatures. Once baked it is not as brittle as most clays. If you haven't worked with this yet, I highly recommend getting a small starter set with a variety of colors, and having some fun, beyond this project. It makes great small ornaments and sculptures. We used only very small amounts of sculpey.
We looked at pre-made trees, but the very small ones were both expensive and a very boring perfect round shape. Instructions for making your own trees follow.
Mapping the GroundsThe project began with a piece of corrugated cardboard 25" x 18" and a printout of the mission garden map from Santa Clara University. A grid of evenly spaced lines was drawn onto the map, and then the board was marked with the same number of lines. Then the lines for the edges of buildings, walls, and pathways were marked. Because this map does not depict all the buildings as they were in the 1830's, the current adobe lodge and adobe wall were modified into long narrow buildings, and formed the quadrangle as shown in the books. Pathways around all the buildings were included. If you can't print your map, you could photocopy it and then draw your lines on the photocopy.
Along with the basic buildings and paths, this is the time to consider the placement of an orchard, garden, or field.
When all the layout was drawn on the board, the grassy areas were painted the darker green and allowed to dry. Then some lighter green paint was put on a plate, and a 2.5" square section of sponge dipped into the paint and then patted onto the dark green in a random overlapping pattern. Practice a bit on paper to get an interesting pattern by barely touching the sponge to the board. Go all the way to (actually past) the edges, you'll be painting over any paint that got on the paths shortly.
Once the green paint was dry, the paths were painted in brown.
The BuildingsTo get the shape of the front of the church in proportion, we measured the front of the church as it was charted on the board. We did not include the bell tower in that measurement. Using a graphics program, we scaled the photo of the church to match the area on the board. If you do not have a digital picture of your church, you can measure and use your math to compute the height of the walls and peak. Then we cut out the front of the church, and had a pattern for the front and back of the church. The little 1 story side sections do not extend all the way to the back of the church, so the lower wall piece was cut off the back section, to be used along the side of the building instead. Two identical pieces were cut out for the other side. (Show me the pattern)
To make the side walls, measure the length on the board, allowing for the thickness of the front and back of the church. Measure the height from the front and back patterns. Each side will have two rectangles, one from the ground to the eaves, and then another long thin one for the 1 story high section. Because of the bell tower, one side will have a shorter length of short wall than the other. I suggest cutting them identical, and then adjusting them later. Extra hands might be needed to hold the parts in place, to verify that the sizes are right.
Some simple detailing was added to the front of the church by using cardboard cutouts glued to the front, then painted over. Toothpicks might also work well for this. The 'statues' were added later, after all the painting and construction was finished, and they were simple bits of construction paper. This design reflects the current church, which was rebuilt after the fire in 1926. To be more accurate, as the grounds are from the 1830's, the design (which included columns and statues) would have been painted onto the church front.
Construct the bell tower - we happened to have a perfectly sized piece of styrofoam, you might need to construct one of cardboard or foam board. Measure the height and width of the bell tower from what's left of that scale photo you used for the pattern.
Paint any areas that will be visible after construction with antique white paint. Be sure to paint the edges/ends of the walls, as some will show. Set the pieces aside to dry. This will keep the paint off the beautiful grass and paths you painted earlier.
When it's all dry, use tacky glue and tape (if needed) to construct the center of the church with the two tall walls and front and back. Then add the bell tower. Then add the side walls. Let the glue dry before working on the roof.
Next measure and cut pieces to create the wall for the cemetery area and the quadrangle buildings, and paint those pieces and set them aside to dry. When dry, glue into place.
The shape for most of the roofs are just simple rectangles folded along the peak. Cut patterns out of plain paper, and then try them on the buildings, and keep trimming or adding to them as needed. The top roof of the church will need a small rectangle cut from it for the bell tower. The roofing on the lower walls of the church and on the cemetery are simple rectangles. The bell tower uses four triangles, and detailed instructions are in the projects book. For the quadrangle, cut long rectangles and then fold the corners to the correct shape until the pieces fit together.
Use your patterns and a ruler and pencil to mark the smooth side of the corrugated paper with cutting lines, and cut out the pieces
Fold the corrugated paper roofs to make the peaks, tape the quadrangle pieces and the bell tower pieces together on the smooth (hidden) side, and then paint adobe red, and set them aside to dry. Once dry, tape/glue them in place.
The Finishing Touches
This is the time for both attention to detail (what shape are those doors or windows) and for creativity.
Windows and Doors
Simply cut shapes from brown construction paper and glue into place. We found it was easier to put a dot of glue onto the building and then put the shape onto it than to put glue on the shapes and then stick them on. Do this before landscaping.
Mission Santa Clara has one very large cross in front of the church, and a smaller cross in the center of the cemetery. Wooden kitchen matches were used in this project. To make them stand upright, little bases of stryofoam were cut, although scupley bases could also be made. If you are going to use sculpey, insert the upright stick into the sculpey and bake before gluing on the cross piece.
The crosses for the top of the bell tower, church roof, and cemetery entrance are made with flat wooden toothpicks, and were left long at the base. After poking a small hole through the corrugated paper roof, they were stuck into the foam walls with a touch of glue.
Make a small ring of beige sculpey. Glue into place, let it dry, then put some shiny light blue paint inside. The well does not exist on the current grounds, this one is based on one we saw a photo of from another mission. Use your imagination.
Just a small flattened ball of brown sculpey. There is one on the campus.
Glue tiny bits of the lychen wherever you imagine plants might be
Take a small length of twig (remember the size of your buildings when picking twigs) and roll a small ball of green sculpey. Put the ball on the table, then push the stick into it. Use your fingers to further push the sculpey against the table and branch, creating a small flat base. Create however many sticks in sculpey as you want trees. Bake according to the sculpey directions. (about 15 mins at low heat). The wood should not burn. Then once it is cooled, you can wrap some larger pieces of lychen around the twig. Once you have found the right piece or pieces, put a liberal amount of thick tacky glue on the upper half of the twig, and wrap the lychen around it. You should get a wonderful assortment of trees of different shapes, some taller, some shorter, some wide, and some thin.
Please note that the only tree that has a fixed position in this particular project is the cork tree that is located in front of the cemetery. The rest of the trees and bushes are up to your imagination.
Mission by Robin Sylvan
Photos by Laura Sylvan
Web page, graphics, design by Tig (Grace) Sylvan
(c)2002 Grace Sylvan, all rights reserved