In Los Altos Elementary schools, the fourth grade always means studying the missions of California. The classes of Gloria Hardwick and Ellen Magnani at Loyola School celebrated the completion of their study unit with a special field trip to the Mission San Juan Bautista.
Sixty students and 30 parents strong, they spent the day visiting the 15th mission, established in the California mission chain by Father Lasuen, in June 1797, 200 years ago.
The church, the widest of all the California missions, was unfortunately located directly on the San Andreas Fault. The students, who had also studied a geology unit on earthquakes and volcanoes, were able to see the effects of this fault on the terrain at the mission.
Outer buildings around the mission square include the Castro-Breen Adobe, the Breen family being survivors of the ill-fated Donner party who later settled in this area.
Many of the students said this was the best field trip on which they had ever been.
"I liked the hotel best because you could see how people lived back then," said Riley Anderson.
"I thought the footprints - animal tracks - on the floor of the church were really cool," said Sara Galatolo.
"I really liked seeing the roosters because I got to get up close and take pictures of them," added Robert Gregg. Another student, Neal Serpa-Flack, echoed many student sentiments when he said, "It was the very best field trip - we all got to get ice cream, and we don't usually do that!"
Parents also acknowledged that the trip had been a learning experience, as well as a fine way to spend the day. "It's been wonderful," Sara Galatolo said. "I loved the garden, the landscaping, the olive trees - the way the gardens tie in to the old world mission.
Parent Chris Rosano gamely jumped in behind the counter to help ease the crowds at the local ice cream parlor. Chris said, "I scooped ice cream for 20 fourth grade kids!"
Teacher Gloria Hardwick had praise for class and volunteers alike. "The parents were superb, which in turn meant that the children were absolute jewels," she said.
"I enjoyed the day entirely." So did everyone else.