Exploration & Discovery
Things to See & Do in California
Presidio of San Francisco
For thousands of years, Native Americans called the Ohlone managed and harvested the natural bounty of what is now the Presidio. In 1776, Spanish soldiers and missionaries arrived, forever disrupting Ohlone culture and beginning 218 years of military use of the area just south of the Golden Gate. The Presidio served as a military post under the flags of Spain (1776-1822), Mexico (1822-48), and the United States (1848-1994). Today, visitors enjoy the history and beauty of the Presidio. Within its boundaries are more than 500 historic buildings, a collection of coastal defense fortifications, a national cemetery, an historic airfield, a saltwater marsh, forests, beaches, native plant habitats, coastal bluffs, miles of hiking and biking, and some of the most spectacular vistas in the world.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is one of the largest urban national parks in the world. GGNRA’s 75,398 acres of land and water extend north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Tomales Bay in Marin County and south to San Mateo County, encompassing 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline. The park contains numerous historical and cultural resources, including Alcatraz, Marin Headlands, Nike Missile Site, Fort Mason, as well as Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, and the Presidio of San Francisco. These sites contain a variety of archeological sites, military forts and other historic structures which present a rich chronicle of two hundred years of history, including Native American culture, the Spanish Empire frontier, the Mexican Republic, evolution of American coastal fortifications, maritime history, 18th century and early 20th century agriculture, military history, California Gold Rush, Buffalo Soldiers, and the growth of urban San Francisco. Golden Gate National Recreation Area is also rich in natural resources—it is comprised of 19 separate ecosystems in 7 distinct watersheds and is home to 1,273 plant and animal species. With 80 sensitive, rare, threatened, or endangered species —including the Northern Spotted Owl, California Red-legged Frog, and Coho Salmon— the park has the fourth largest number (33) of federally protected or endangered species of all units in the National Park System.
Cabrillo National Monument
On September 28, 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo landed at San Diego Bay. This event marked the first time that a European expedition had set foot on what later became the west coast of the United States. His accomplishments were memorialized on October 14, 1913 with the establishment of Cabrillo National Monument. The park offers a superb view of San Diego’s harbor and skyline. At the highest point of the park stands the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which has been a San Diego icon since 1854. A statue and museum in the Visitor Center commemorate Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo's exploration of the coast of California. In a former army building an exhibit tells the story of the coast artillery on Point Loma. In the winter, migrating gray whales can be seen off the coast. Native coastal sage scrub habitat along the Bayside Trail offers a quiet place to reflect and relax. On the west side of the park is a small but beautiful stretch of rocky-intertidal coastline.
Teaching Tips & Ideas
Knowledge Quest
Knowledge Quest offers historical outline maps and timelines designed for the interactive study of world history and geography.
How I Teach a Large Family in a Relaxed, Classical Way: History
A look at teaching history across several grades using the classical method of education and a rotation of history every four years.
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