Sul Ross Middle School gifted and talented teacher Lizette Gallardo teaches her class about Canary Island.
Lizette Gallardo, gifted and talented teacher at Sul Ross Middle School, tells her class about settlers from the Canary Islands. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

From birthday cake in elementary schools to history lessons in middle-school classrooms, students across San Antonio celebrated the City’s Tricentennial on Wednesday.

Students at Sul Ross Middle School on the city’s Westside streamed into classrooms on Wednesday morning to “Felíz Cumpleaños” playing in celebration of San Antonio’s 300th birthday. Morning announcements featured a 30-second recap of the city’s history that included momentous events like the building of the Missions and the Spurs’s first championship victory in 1999.

“That’s about the length of students’ morning attention span,” said Lizette Gallardo, gifted and talented specialist at Sul Ross. “It helps to include the Spurs.”

After morning announcements, Gallardo taught a class of seventh graders about San Antonio’s history as part of a lesson plan that Northside ISD disseminated to all seventh-grade teachers. Students typically learn Texas history in seventh grade.

The district adapted the lesson, which the City originally sent to elementary school teachers for Commemorative Week, to make it appropriate for older students. Commemorative Week, which celebrates San Antonio’s Tricentennial, runs from May 1-6. Wednesday was History and Education Day.

Gallardo’s lesson focused on the role of the Canary Islanders in the city’s history: she recapped the journey the group took from their home islands off the northwestern coast of Africa, to North America, and then to where San Antonio is now located. King Philip V sent an envoy of 56 Islanders to the area to populate the missions and retain the area for Spain, she said.

Gallardo, who works at the Alamo in the summertime, focused on the European cultural influences brought by the Canary Islanders to the San Antonio area, and asked students to envision what their city would look like without them.

Students identified elements of San Antonio that came to the area from Europe: bratwurst, Christianity, and rounded doorways were some of the answers.

After watching an informational video, students used markers to draw their vision for a San Antonio without the Canary Islanders’ influence.

“If [Canary Islanders] never came here, does that mean the French would be here now?” one student asked.

Students draw what San Antonio would be like if the Canary Islander's hadn't
Students draw pictures of what San Antonio would look like if the Canary Islanders hadn’t settled here in 1731. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Some pictures included French influences like beignets and croissants, while others showed the city without San Fernando Cathedral.

A few miles away, third graders gathered in the library of Madison Elementary School in San Antonio ISD. The group of 8- and 9-year-olds arrived in the library, excited but slightly confused about what they were told was a celebration for San Antonio’s birthday.

As part of the event, Councilwoman and Madison alumna Ana Sandoval (D7) told students about her own experience at the school. Nine of 10 San Antonio City Council members visited a school in their district Wednesday morning.

Sandoval told the group that San Antonio was turning 300, which some children remarked was “very, very old.” The councilwoman said it is important to include young students in the Tricentennial, because it will be an event they will look back on years later.

Sandoval recalled celebrating Texas’ Sesquicentennial – the 150th anniversary – in 1986, and said the students she spoke to Wednesday will be able to look back at the celebration and appreciate the history of it.

Not all students knew why they had gathered for the day, but after being told there was cake, they cheered loudly.

Third-grade students Analia, 8, and Isaac, 9, said they knew what the Tricentennial was, but were mainly excited about the possibility of dessert. Isaac said he understood the event was important because it was his own birthday soon, and he would be turning 10.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.