Middle School

Middle school school group at the Honor Roll

See below for middle school education recommended reading*, viewing, and activities for students in grades 6 – 8 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 middle 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.

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


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.


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.

The Journal of Ben Uchida 

In diary form, the author tells 12-year-old Ben’s story of being unjustly confined, 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)

Days of Waiting

Students will explore what life was like in a Relocation Center and all the social issues involved in a community governing itself. They will study how those confined here lived and communicated under strict conditions.

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.

Hiro: A Story of Japanese Internment

HIRO details the memories of Hiroshi “Hiro” Hoshizaki, a former incarceree of the Heart Mountain, Wyoming prison camps during World War II. At age twelve, Hiro, an American-born citizen, and his family were forcibly removed from their homes, along with 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States.

Stanley Hayami, Nisei Son Annotated by Joanne Oppenheim

Through his letters and diary entries, readers will have an intimate look at Stanley’s life at Heart Mountain and as a soldier on the battlefield during WWII.



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:

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:

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 knowledge of communicating through letter writing and expressing feelings through poetry and haiku. Stamps were the one thing everyone bought at 2 cents each for regular mail to communicate with relatives and friends. The incarcerees sent hand drawn pictures, haiku, poetry, announcements, and general information to keep in touch with the outside world.

Activity 1:

Students watch the film All We Could Carry by Steven Okazaki of A Flicker in Eternity by Sharon Yamato and Ann Kaneko.

a) Students can journal about what it might be like to be displaced and forced to move to an unknown place, or a place of the teacher’s choosing, for an indefinite period of time.

b) Students can journal about what they would miss taking with them and why.

c) Students can journal about what they would do to pass the time in their new “home.”

Activity 2:

The students will write their own haiku after listening to or reading Haiku by C.F. Kelly or researching other haikus on-line exploring the history and origin of haiku.


Introduce students to various books about the WWII confinement of the Japanese Americans and their use of personal stories to express thoughts and feelings about how this relatively brief period effected their whole life.

Activity 1:

a) Students can read and discuss books from our suggested reading list. For middle school students, we recommend Stanley Hayami: Nisei Son—His Diary, Letters, & Story: From American Concentration Camp to Battlefield, 1942-1945 annotated by Joanne Oppenheim, the diary of a young boy living at Heart Mountain. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker, a graphic novel, gives a good overview of life in two of the camps through the eyes of actor George Takei. The students read one of the books on our reading list and report on the theme, learning about prejudice and unjust treatment from the government and society.

b) We have prepared a reading guide for They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker, with discussion questions and activities.


The students study various recreational activities at Heart Mountain and learn how they helped those confined here not only pass the time but stay positive and social. Activities, art and gardens contributed to the general well-being of those incarceratetd at the camp. Students will be able to explore these as more than just pasttime activities.

Activity 1:

Students can read issues of The Heart Mountain Sentinel, which often included rosters of weekly activities. Challenge students to develop a weekly schedule of activities. Be sure to consider weather conditions and ages of participants. Explore indoor activities as well as night classes.


Students will study the social and government issues at Heart Mountain, both within the camp and in regards to the draft for WWII. Particular attention will be paid to internal government, draft resistance and/or accepance, and communition within and between Relocation Centers.  In addition, students will gain understanding about prejudice in the surrounding communities and how it affected life within Heart Mountain.

Activity 1:

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 YoshinagaThe Heart Mountain Sentinel (segment 13), military service in the Pacific (segments 14-18) 

Activity 2:

Have students read issues of The Heart Mountain Sentinel and compare it to local newspapers at the time. Direct students to write their own newspaper articles about an issue in the camps.

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:


The students will gain comprehension of artwork that was created in camp for home decoration, pastime activities, and school work.

Activity 1:

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.

Activity 2:

Express Yourself: Students will research traditional forms of Japanese art that were used in the camps. Then direct students to create artworks inspired by art in the camps. Students can use an artform that was popular in the camps (such as flower making) or use an artform that is part of their cultural heritage.

Activity 3:

Students can study the different types of Japanese music, plays, and traditional instruments using the internet and books like Kids Explore America’s Japanese American Heritage or other sources.

Activity 4:

Screen the short documentary For Joy for students. As a class, listen to some of the songs that were played by the George Igawa Orchestra at Heart Mountain. Students can learn to sing or play an instrument to one of these songs.


Students learn about the vegetables and crops raised at Heart Mountain for camp consumption and commercial distribution. They will grow plants to learn the growth cycles, plant parts, and soil types. They can share this with others through mentoring, as gifts, or for personal use like the internees, the students will learn this.

Activity 1:

Students can compare and contrast the sagebrush desert biome at Heart Mountain with the biome where they live. Discuss how the weather, flora, fauna, and geology differs. What would it be like to move to Heart Mountain?

Activity 2:

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

Activity 3:

Students can view the short film Pets of Heart Mountain and then choose a native animal to research for a report.