Elementary School

Elementary students learning from artist Hatsuko Mary Highuchi

See below for elementary school education recommended reading*, viewing, and activities for students in grades 3 – 5 about the “Heart Mountain Relocation Center” and Japanese American Confinement during World War II.

Tours are available for all age groups, including those younger than 3rd grade. Tours can be customized to best fit the elementary school education goals of each class. Book your field trip HERE.

Need help? Check out our suggested activities below or contact us for other curriculum suggestions.

*Most of the books and movies below are available through the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation online store.


The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida

Emi is given a golden bracelet by a friend as she and her family are forced to leave their home. Emi loses the bracelet but learns that sometimes all you can carry are the memories in your heart.

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

This is a story about how baseball pulled together a community while enduring the injustice of confinement.

A Boy of Heart Mountain by Barbara Bazaldua

At the onset of WWII, nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in concentration camps. Inspired by Shigeru Yabu’s youthful camp experiences, A Boy of Heart Mountain is a poignant coming-of-age story and a celebration of the human spirit under duress. An audio version also is available.

The Journal of Ben Uchida

In diary form, the author tells 12-year-old Ben’s story of being interned, living in a camp, and what his family goes through. This book ends with some insights into the historical events of that time and what happened to the characters after the war.
(Out of print. Check your local library)

Hello Maggie by Shigeru Yabu

In this delightful children’s story, Shigeru Yabu tells how, as a young boy living in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, he befriended a magpie, named it Maggie and trained it to talk.

So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting

Laura Iwasaki is moving across the country. Before she goes, she and her family are visiting Laura’s grandfather’s grave at Manzanar for what will probably the last time. How will she say goodbye?


All We Could Carry

Students gain insight from the incarcerees’ hardships. They will experience what it was like to leave their homes, possessions, and normal daily life behind to be confined at Heart Mountain. They will explore camp life, pass-time activities, and social structure and be able to compare and contrast these experiences to their own life experiences.



Students visit the Interpretive Center at Heart Mountain to see the memorabilia of those confined here, learning the scope of the camp, and follow the incarcerees’ footsteps through history. They should have a more personal understanding of the emotional injustices that the Japanese Americans faced upon leaving.

Activity 1:

Pre-tour lesson in class before coming to the Center

a) Imagine This: Have students imagine they are leaving home for a long trip. They don’t know where they are going or how long the trip will be, but they need to pack. They will make a list and draw what they think they’ll need. Once they have made their list or drawing, tell them everything they put on their list must fit in one suitcase. If it doesn’t fit they have to take it off their list. Once students are finished explain to them that once Japanese Americans were forced from their homes they could only bring what they could carry in a single suitcase.* 
*for smaller classes using an actual suitcase and small items like toys, shoes, and clothes will also work for this activity

b) Kids Meet a Survivor of the Japanese American Incarceration: watch an 8-minute film of kids meeting a former incarceree. It will introduce students to the concept of confinement sites and what the general experience was like for Japanese Americans in the camps.

Activity 2:

Interpretive Center Tour

a) Students will be given a tag similar to the tags given to the Japanese Americans before they left home. The tag will have one of two family numbers on it. Students will be asked to find the family number in the exhibit and write down the family name that corresponds with the number. They will need to take these tags back to school with them.

b) Students will watch the short film A Flicker in Eternity. This film details the life of Stanley Hayami, a teenager coming of age at Heart Mountain. Stanley kept a diary of comics and daily observations of life behind barbed wire and as a soldier in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

c) While touring the Center, students will be asked to either complete a scavenger hunt or Interpretive Center worksheet. These worksheets can be used as part of the post-tour class discussion.

Activity 3:

Setsuko Saito Higuchi Memorial Walking Trail and Honor Roll

Using a brochure map, have students identify various camp buildings such as barracks, the hospital complex, root cellar, and high school.

Activity 4:

Post-tour lesson in class after visiting the Center

Students will reference the tags they were given and find the family name and number on the census sheets. Students will discuss in class where their family came from, how many people were in their family, what their address was, and where they went when the camp was closed.


Students should gain a sense of value and work ethic. They will also explore feelings of loss and confusion not unlike what the Japanese Americans had to go through being incarcerated and taken to confinement camps. The Japanese Americans retained their moral ethics and pride and tried to keep busy to make the time go as fast as possible not knowing how long they would be there.

Activity 1:

A Day at Camp: Stanley Hayami was a teenager when his family left for Heart Mountain. While at camp he kept a diary of his daily life. In his writings he described life at camp and even created drawings of what he saw at camp or missed from his home in California. Have students write a short journal entry about what they think life was like at Heart Mountain. They can include sketches, poems, or anecdotes they heard at the museum.


Introduce students to various books about the WWII Japanese American confinement and their use of personal stories to express thoughts and feelings about how this relatively short period affected their whole life. The students should be able to identify the issues of segregation, prejudice, and the sense of loss and confusion. (See recommended reading list)

Students can read and discuss books from our suggested reading list. For younger elementary school students, we recommend The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida, Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, and Hello Maggie! by Shigeru Yabu. For older elementary school students, we recommend A Boy of Heart Mountain by Barbara Bazaldua.

We have prepared a reading guide for A Boy of Heart Mountain by Barbara Bazaldua, with discussion questions and activities.


Students look at eating habits and crops grown in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and compare them to today’s eating style. Students will also explore how those confined here coped with imprisonment and challenged themselves mentally as well as physically to create a sense of survival, rather than defeat, through recreational activities. They can look at the health care of the camp’s self-contained hospital, too.

Activity 1:

Students research the activities Japanese Americans participated in while at camp. What sports or games were played? How does that compare to their own activities to get exercise?

Visit the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive (JARDA) website for additional information.

Activity 2:

Students research the hospital at Heart Mountain and find out what services were supplied or offered.


Students will research personal genealogy to understand all the different races and ethnic cultures that make up the United States population today. Students will also study state, U.S. and World history relationships and gain knowledge of prejudice and personal rights and values. They will explore the habitat and social aspects of the camp by studying the barracks.

Activity 1:

In Japanese culture, the generations are named as Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei and so on to differentiate between individuals since the same first and last name tended to carry on for several generations. The students will research their family tree to discover when and why their ancestors immigrated to America. They will answer the question of how many generations have lived in the United States. Students can explore who in their families have the same names, too!

Explanation of terms:
Issei (ees-say) – first generation
Nisei (nee-say) – second generation
Sansei (sahn-say) – third generation
Yonsei (yohn-say) – fourth generation

Activity 2:

Students will interview a family member or look through family records to research a family member. Questions can include the following:

a) What were some activities that they did at your age, or favorite things?

b) Were they discriminated against for anything?

c) What were some of their family traditions and are they still done today?

d) What was their family’s culture?

Activity 3:

Students research WWII and will be able to report when America entered into the war and when it ended through a timeline.

Activity 4:

Students study the Bill of Rights and how it related to the WWII confinement of Japanese Americans.


Those living at Heart Mountain got together to make beautiful works of art from anything they could get their hands on like scrap wood, sagebrush or cedar pieces, scrap fabric or paper. The students can create art and crafts that are representative to these made in camps by incarcerees to pass the time as well as show individuality in an overpopulated community. They can be creative and gain an understanding of art in our history.

Activity 1:

The students will study and make Origami creations with reference to Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.

Activity 2:

Students make seashell pins to represent the ones made at Heart Mountain and Tule Lake.

Activity 3:

Create a card or postcard with a drawing of their home and mail it to a friend or family member. Students could add poetry or haiku.

Activity 4:

Students create impressionistic or mood paintings of the “Heart Mountain Relocation Center: or a common subject comparing them to the art work done by incarcerees in classes and for personal enjoyment.


Students will learn about the diversity of crops grown and consumed at Heart Mountain. They will share their own efforts with others to encourage mental peace as well as physical activity, social interaction, and a healthier diet. The incarcerees planted flowers and herbs for beautification by and inside their barracks. They also had arrangement classes and competitions.

Activity 1:

Have students research the crops grown at Heart Mountain and the irrigation system used to water crops.