The Mission

Discovering Cultural Identity in San Francisco's Mission District

This lesson relates to the following elective course from the History-Social Sciences Framework for Grade Nine:

"Ethnic Studies"

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Students will gain an appreciation of the difficulties and challenges faced by immigration to this country, as well as the contributions they have made to American culture.

Time Required

2 class periods - student interviews
1 class period - screening and discussing the video
Additional time for research projects


    Ethnic - The characteristics possessed by members of a group because of their common heredity and cultural tradition.

    Immigrant - A person who comes to a country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence.


1. Explain to students that they are going to find out more about each other's background. Divide them into pairs. Using the question below, have students interview one another and record their responses either on tape or on paper.

  • Where were you born?
  • When did your family first come to America?
  • What customs did they bring here from their homeland?
  • What was themost difficult thing for them to get used to here?

2. Have students share some of the interviews with the class. They will discover that everyone in the room comes from an immigrant family.

3. Next class, before playing the videotape, instruct students to note the dominant ethnic groups being featured in The Mission. Play the video segment (approx. 13 min.), beginning at the following point in the narration: "By the time Frank Quinn attended parochial school at Saint Peter's in the 1920's..." and ending with..."A rainbow of children now play in Dolores Park..." This segment is between the labor segment and World War II. Use the videolog to locate the segment.

4. Discuss the video, using the following questions as a guide:

  • What was the Mission neighborhood like when it was predominantly Irish?
  • How did the Mission neighborhood became a Latin barrio?
  • How did that change the character of the neighborhood?
  • What are some of the difficulties that Latinos have faced living in the Mission District?
  • How have they dealt with these difficulties?

5. Next class, assign the students research projects about an ethnic group of their choice, from their own neighborhood or city. Instruct them to research their group's history in depth - their country of origin, what brought them here, their lives in the old country, their original customs, customs they've retained, the influence of other cultures, how they've retained their ethnic identity, etc. Encourage them to be creative in their presentation to the class. They could act out a significant event in the history of their group, or present audiotaped or videotaped interviews of representatives of their group of choice.

Extension Activities

1. Do an online project exchange about the cultural history of names. Kidlink, available through KQED Learning Link, has an online project that you can join. Or create your own e-mail exchange.

2. Explore the art or music of an ethnic group of your choice. Do your own drawings or murals imitating the art of that group.Invite musicians to perform for the class.

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Take me to The Mission home page

Take me to the Neighborhoods Menu page

PBS Online