• Elementary School Education

    photo of heart mountain interpretive center with school kids

    Recommended reading, viewing and activities for students in grades 3 - 5 about Heart Mountain Relocation Center and the Japanese American Internment of WWII

    Tours are avialable for all age groups, including those younger than 3rd graders.
    Tours can be customized to best fit the education goals of each class.


    All of the books and movies below are available through the Heart Mountain Book 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 internment.

    A Boy of Heart Mountain by Barbara Bazadua

    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.

    The Journal of Ben Uchida - (Out of Print-check your local library)

    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.

    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 internees' hardships. They will experience what it was like to leave their homes, possessions, and normal daily life behind to be interned 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.


    1) Heart Mountain Interpretive Center Tour


    Students visit the Interpretive Center at Heart Mountain to see the memorabilia of the internees, learning the scope of the camp, and follow the internees' footsteps through history. They should have a more personal understanding of the emotional injustices that the internees faced upon leaving.

    Activity 1:

    Pre-tour lesson in class before coming to the Center.

    a. Have students read brief history leading up to the internment camps, life there, and life after camp. See History section on our website
    b. Students can read any of the above books prior to their visit to the Center.

    Activity 2:

    Center Tour

    a. Students will be given a tag similar to the tags given to the Internees 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 video 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 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 RollThis 1000 feet 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.

    2) Journaling Lesson


    Students should gain a sense of value and work ethic. They will also explore feelings of loss and confusion not unlike what the internees had to go through being incarcerated and taken to internment camps. The Japanese 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 video All We Can 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: www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/jarda from the Bancroft Library, students can pick a job that the internees had at Heart Mountain. They can journal how they would do that job as an internee in camp for a day and how it effected 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 effect the camp as a whole or how was it necessary to camp life?
    c. How much did the job pay?

    3) Literature Lesson


    Introduce students to various books about the internment of the Japanese Americans and their use of personal stories to express thoughts and feelings about how internment effected their whole life. The students should be able to identify the issues of segregation, prejudice, and the sense of loss and confusion. (See above list)

    4) Health Lesson


    Students look at eating habits and crops grown in the Heart Mountain Internment Camp and compare them to today's eating style. Students will also explore how the internees coped with imprisonment, and mentally as well as physically, challenged themselves 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 it 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 what activities the interns participated in while at camp. What sports or games were played and how that compares 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.

    5) Social Studies / History Lesson


    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, they named their generations 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 will 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 Japanese internment process.

    Activity 5:

    Students can build a diorama of a barrack, using resource pg. 33, 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

    6) Arts / Crafts Lesson


    Internees 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 the internees 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. 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 Internment Camp or a common subject comparing them to the art work done by the internees in classes and for personal enjoyment.

    7) Biology / Earth Science Lesson


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

    Activity 1:

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

    a. Plants can be transplanted to the historic Center container garden to represent the crops and techniques used by the internees.
    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 Center historic garden will have 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.

    Need help? Contact us for other curriculum suggestions.

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