Elementary School

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. Tour 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.

*All 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.

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.

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.

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

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

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)

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) Have students read a brief history leading up to the confinement camps, life there, and life after camp. View the History section of our website for more information.

b) Students can read any of the books in our recommended reading prior to their visit to the Center.

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 All We Could Carry. This film features twelve men and women who were at Heart Mountain, children and young adults at the time, confined behind barbed wire and surrounded by armed guards in watchtowers. They share a moving account of their daily life in the camp and their resilience.

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 Tour and Honor Roll

This 1000 ft. walking tour guides students through key moments in the Heart Mountain history and references historic objects that are still present on the surrounding landscape. The Honor Roll honors the over 800 men and women who served in the U.S. military from Heart Mountain during WWII, including two Medal of Honor recipients. Students will be asked to write down one name from the honor roll.

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:

Have the students watch the film All We Could Carry. In addition, provide a copy of the Evacuation Notice and the Civilian Exclusion Notice that were posted during the war. Post both in the classroom.

a) Using a suitcase, have the students pack things like coats, shoes, books, or items from the classroom. Discuss picking the things that mean the most to them, what they would really need, and what they would just “want” to take. Also discuss the fact that the internees did not know where they would be going or for how long. Students will discover the limited amount of room one suitcase allows.

b) Students journal about what they would pack to take with them. They should be able to explain their choices.

c) Students journal how they would feel if they had to leave their home, friends, pets, possessions. A group or class discussion can follow.

Activity 2:

Using the WEBSITE from the Bancroft Library, students can pick a job held by incarcerees at Heart Mountain. They can journal how they would perform that job in camp for a day and how it affected the economics of camp. The students can answer the following questions:

a) What does the student think the job was like and how much time did it take?

b) How did that job affect the camp as a whole or how was it necessary to camp life?

c) How much did the job pay?


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 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 look at the menu plans from the camp records and compare them to menus from school or home. They can also compare traditional American food to Japanese food.
(Contact us for menu examples)

Activity 2:

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?

Activity 3:

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 the 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 their ancestry immigrated to America, when, and why. 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 families culture?

Activity 3:

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

Activity 4:

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

Activity 5:

Students can build a diorama of a barrack with a shoe box. They can make one of a whole barrack building or just a room with the stove, beds, clothes line, and other furnishings.


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 Sadaku 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. They can be used as Mother’s Day presents or other gifts.

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:

Students will research and grow Heart Mountain vegetable crops with the help of mentors.

a) Plants can be transplanted to the James O. Ito Historic garden at the Center to represent the crops and techniques used by those who farmed here.

b) Plants could also be used by students for fund raising purposes.

c) Plants or flowers can be used for arrangements for a holiday gift or another occasion.

Activity 2:

Students will research which crops were grown at Heart Mountain, why, and for what economical or personal purpose.

Activity 3:

The James O. Ito Historic Garden at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center hosts a combination of 12 raised beds and planters. Classes can choose to adopt a container for a month or for an entire school year. Students will have to maintain the bed in accordance to Center staff instruction. In the fall students will put the garden to bed for the winter which includes clean-up and seed collection. In the spring students will prepare the beds for plants and transplanting the plants researched and grown in Activity 1 and 2. Class photos can be posted in the adopted beds.

Elementary School Education

elementary education middle high school at heart mountain learning center powell
©2013-2021 Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation