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High School

1943 Heart Mountain High School class photo

See below for high school education recommended reading*, viewing, and activities for students in grades 9 – 12 about the “Heart Mountain Relocation Center” and Japanese American Confinement during World War II.

Tours are available for all age groups. Tour can be customized to best fit the high 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.

BOOKS


Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston

The true story of one spirited Japanese American family’s attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.

Free to Die For their Country by Eric Muller

In the spring of 1942, the federal government forced West Coast Japanese Americans into detainment camps on suspicion of disloyalty. Two years later, the government demanded even more, drafting them into the same military that had been guarding them as subversives. Most of these Americans complied, but Free to Die for Their Country is the first book to tell the powerful story of those who refused. Based on years of research and personal interviews, Eric L. Muller re-creates the emotions and events that followed the arrival of those draft notices, revealing a dark and complex chapter of America’s history.

Letters from the 442 by Minoru Masuda, Hana Masuda and Dianne Bridgman

This is the first collection of letters by a member of the legendary 442nd Combat Team, which served in Italy and France during World War II. Written to his wife by a medic serving with the segregated Japanese American unit, the letters describe a soldier’s daily life.

On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

A story of a Chinese boy who grows into a man during WWII and how he tried to live by his beliefs after befriending a Japanese American girl. (Fiction)

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

In 1954 a fisherman is found drowned near San Piedro Island and a Japanese American named Kubuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. (Fiction)

Displacement by Kiki Hughes

Kiku, a modern-day Japanese American, is visiting her late grandmother’s house in San Francisco when she is suddenly pulled back in time to 1940s California. Faced with the challenges of forced relocation and imprisonment, Kiku not only witnesses how Japanese Americans managed to create community and commit acts of resistance but gains a deeper understanding of her grandmother. (Fiction)

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

Fourteen Japanese American teenagers find their lives turned upside down when they are removed from their homes and forced into incarceration camps. In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart. (Fiction)

FILMS


All We Could Carry

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki, whose own father was sent to Heart Mountain, captures this essential piece of history in a way that is both compelling and relatable: providing vivid accounts of daily life in the camps as well as the resilience of those imprisoned there.

Days of Waiting

Days of Waiting is a poignant documentary about an extraordinary woman, artist Estelle Ishigo, one of the few Caucasians to be interned with 110,000 Japanese Americans in 1942. During her internment, Estelle recorded the rigors and deprivations of camp life with unusual insight, her sketches and watercolors forming a moving portrait of the lives of the internees, the struggle to keep their health, dignity and hope alive.

A Flicker in Eternity

A Flicker in Eternity is the coming-of-age tale of Stanley Hayami, a talented young teenager caught between his dream of becoming a writer/artist and his duty to his country. Based on Hayami’s own diary (like the book, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl), this documentary is the firsthand account of a 15-year-old thrust into the turmoil of World War II and is a poignant reminder of the indignity of incarceration and the tragedy of war. Through Stanley’s endearing cartoons and witty observations, this film chronicles his life behind barbed wire and as a soldier in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It is based on his diary and letters, which are archived at the Japanese American National Museum, and Joanne Oppenheim’s annotations from Stanley Hayami, Nisei Son.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

Objective:

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 Incarcerationwatch 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:

Tour of the Interpretive Center

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 Center Worksheet. These worksheets can be used as part of the post-tour class discussion.

Activity 3:

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.

Objective:

Students will explore the incarcerees’ lives, and how they communicated within camp and around the United States through their newspapers.

Activity 1:

Students will read a background article about The Heart Mountain Sentinel and break up into groups. Each group will be assigned a different edition of the Sentinel. As they read through the copy, have them take note of events happening at camp, language used to discuss those events, and when their edition was published. As a class, discuss how events progressed at Heart Mountain. What did they learn about the experience of Japanese Americans from these readings? Share with students that these articles are considered primary sources and inform students of the importance of primary sources and contextualization when reading them.

  1.   Articles about the Sentinel:
    • “The Sentinel Story” by Bill Hosokawa in Remembering Heart Mountain, edited by Mike Mackey
  2. Heart Mountain Sentinel issues:

Activity 2:

The students will compare The Cody EnterpriseThe Powell TribuneThe Lander Journal, or other local newspapers to the The Heart Mountain Sentinel. They can pick a day of publication and compare community attitudes, such as support or rejection of the incarcerees.

Activity 3:

The students will journal for a week about what they would do as an incarceree of their own age listing daily activities in and out of school.

Objective:

Students will look at the art work done by Japanese American incarcerees. The art was a source of communication and of recording history. Those confined in Relocation Centers created art to keep busy, share skills, and to have a sense of individuality in an over-crowded environment.

Activity 1:

Express Yourself: Using what you know about your cultural heritage, create an artwork. It can be a sketch or a poem or short story — whatever medium you think will best express your heritage. Include a brief explanation of your cultural background/heritage and how it relates to the work you created.

Activity 2:

A Day in Camp: Explain to students that some people incarcerated at Heart Mountain used art to document their experiences. Artists like Estelle Ishigo created detailed drawings depicting life at Heart Mountain. Others, like Stanley Hayami, kept detailed diaries with sketches and descriptions of camp life. Have students imagine what a day at Heart Mountain would have been like for them and write either a journal entry or sketch a picture of what their day was like.They should reference what they have learned about Heart Mountain.

Check out examples of Estelle Ishigo’s work HERE.

Check out examples of Stanley Hayami’s work HERE.

Activity 3:

Close at Hand: Incarcerees at Heart Mountain used whatever was available around them, including shells and sticks, to create art. Direct students to collect art “materials” like rocks and fallen leaves on a nature hike and use those materials to create an artwork about where they live.

Objective:

The students will compare the events of WWII, the different factions and their views. They will also see the consequences of their own actions, and gain a personal understanding of their rights as U.S. citizens.

Activity 1:

Direct students to discuss the term “concentration camp.” Lead the class in discussion about what they have learned, comparing and contrasting opinions regarding the term. Was Heart Mountain a concentration camp or not?

Activity 2:

Meet an Incarceree: Teachers can screen interviews with former incarcerees from Densho. Direct students to complete the Questions I Have For You worksheet and discuss their questions.

Interviews and themes:

  1. Bacon Sakatani – Pomona Assembly Center (segments 10-11), life at Heart Mountain (segments 13-15), Boy Scouts at Heart Mountain (segments 16-17)
  2. Kara Kondo – Anti-Japanese sentiment in America (segment 19), life at Heart Mountain (segments 31-32), The Heart Mountain Sentinel (segment 33)
  3. Takashi Hoshizaki – Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, draft resistance (segments 22-29)
  4. George Yoshinaga – The Heart Mountain Sentinel (segment 13), military service in the Pacific (segments 14-18) 

Activity 3:

Draft Resisters and Service Members: Direct students to listen to the following interviews with service members and draft resisters. Lead a discussion on the following questions.

How would students answer the following questions and why? 

  • Question 27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?
  • Question 28: Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power or organization?

Oral histories:

Activity 4:

The students can research the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. Students can then conduct short research projects on the following individuals to learn the stand each took during WWII.

  • Bill Hosokawa (newspaper columnist)
  • James “Jimmy” Omura (newspaper columnist)
  • Kiyoshi Okamoto (Fair Play Committee)

Activity 5:

Lead students in discussion to compare and contrast the events of 9/11 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. What was the general attitude toward Muslim people after 9/11? Was it the same as with the Japanese after 1941?

Objective:

The Students will learn about the agricultural crops raised at Heart Mountain and for what purpose. They will share the experience of gardening and gain personal accomplishment of having a tangible end product that can be used for economical and personal profit. Students explore all the different levels of individual and social aspects that gardening held for the interns from individual space, mental and physical activity, and the sense of survival while being imprisoned.

Activity 1:

Students can imagine they are in charge of feeding 500 people at a block in Heart Mountain. They have to grow crops and manage livestock to ensure that everyone has a healthy diet. In order to solve this problem, students can research the crops grown at Heart Mountain and how they were used.

Activity 2:

The Assistant Superintendent of the Heart Mountain Agriculture Department, James Ito, tested the soil at Heart Mountain to determine which crops to grow. Students can research how the soil tests affected what was grown at Heart Mountain and then conduct soil tests in their area to see which crops would grow well.

Activity 3:

Students can research the biome where they live, the sagebrush desert biome at Heart Mountain, and the southern California biome where many Japanese Americans lived before the war. Compare and contrast the weather, flora, fauna, and geology at each location. Discuss or write a short essay about the challenges Japanese Americans faced from relocating to such a different environment.

Activity 4:

Students explore the different recreational activities that were offered at Heart Mountain. Were the activities for personal productivity, healthier diets, social activity, or government sanctioned?

Objective:

The students will gain comprehension of Students will explore different pieces of literature written about the WWII era and the Japanese Americans’ struggle before, during, and after confinement to fit into American society. They will study prejudice, loss, friendships, and learn about another culture.

Activity 1:

Students can read and discuss books from our suggested reading list. For high school students, we recommend Farewell To Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston for an overview of life and family dynamics in one of the camps. Letters from the 442nd by Minoru Masuda, Hana Masuda, and Dianne Bridgman gives an in-depth look at the segregated 442nd Combat Team.

Activity 2:

We have prepared a reading guide for They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker, and We Are Not Free by Traci Chee. Each reading guide comes with discussion questions and activities.

Activity 3:

Students complete a writing project to explore how they would deal with being forcibly confined in the event of a war and what they would do to retain as normal a life as possible.