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Classroom Guide for the National Japanese Memorial to Patriotism (curricula)

Creators: Gary Mukai


The National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in Washington, D.C. was dedicated in 2000. It was initially developed in 1988 by the "Go For Broke" National Veterans Association Foundation; ownership was transferred to the United States Government in 2002. The Memorial is currently managed by the National Park Service. The classroom guides (one for upper elementary/middle school and another for high school) are designed for teachers to provide an overview of the Memorial and to provide some basic information about the World War II experience of Japanese Americans, particularly around forced removal, incarceration, and military service.

The elementary/middle school guide has six learning activities, handouts, and a list of Japanese American organizations with websites for more information.

Activity One: Civil Rights – Discussion of the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Students consider what they would take with them if they were forced from their homes.

Activity Two: Poetry – Students analyze the poem, "Legacy" by Akemi Matsumoto Ehrlich, which is inscribed on a Memorial wall, then write their own poems in the style of Japanese haiku or tanka.

Activity Three: Quotes – Students review five quotes about patriotism featured on the Memorial, then complete a group project based on one of the quotes.

Activity Four: Symbolism – Students review symbolic elements of the Memorial, then design a blueprint for a memorial that represents some aspect of their life of ethnic heritage.

Activity Five: Japanese Americans in the Military – Students review a sketch by Jack Matsuoka , showing Japanese Americans receiving an award from U.S. military officers for their son, who was killed in action in Europe while they were incarcerated at the Poston , Arizona, concentration camp. Then students complete a related assignment (e.g. write a eulogy for the soldier, write a letter to the parents, create a role play based on the sketch).

Activity Six: Literature – A list of books is provided, categorized by Illustrated Children's Books and Books for Upper Elementary or Middle School Students . The "into, through, and beyond" lesson framework developed by the California Literature Project is presented to promote student comprehension and interest in literature.

The high school guide recommends using the film, About the National Japanese American Memorial Site to Patriotism (7-minutes) by Kerry Yo Nakagawa. The film is available on the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation website. The guide lists questions about the film as well as the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans which can be discussed with textbook or other research on the topic.

The author recommends the following learning activities after debriefing the film:

Symbolism – Students examine a photo of the memorial sculpture and write about their own "battles" to overcome ignorance and/or prejudice.

Quotes – Students discuss the selection of quotes featured on the Memorial, including the poem "Legacy" by Akemi Matsumoto Ehrlich (the poem is available in the Elementary/Middle School Guide). Students then write a poem about the Memorial or their own experience with overcoming adversity.

Intergenerational Issues – Students interview someone about their war experience.

The Question of Loyalty – Students learn about the questionnaire that the War Relocation Authority used to assess the "loyalty" of Japanese Americans. Students discuss the questions and how they would have responded.

Camps – In pairs, students research one of the facilities where Japanese Americans were incarcerated, and develop a summary for posting on a "memorial" wall in the classroom.

Memorials and Controversy – Students research those who resisted incarceration and/or the draft from within the camps.

Closing Activity – Students conceptualize, design, and plan to develop a memorial that captures their ethnic history or heritage.

It is curious that the guides do not include any images or diagrams of the memorial, or any background on the development, interviews with the architect, sculptor or poet who participated in its creation. The National Japanese Memorial Foundation website has a video that features the dedication of the memorial with some background information (8-minutes), and About the National Japanese American Memorial Site to Patriotism , with two former incarcerees touring the Memorial, answering questions from their grandchildren (7-minutes).

Authored by Janet Hayakawa , Densho
For More Information

For More Information

Classroom guides and related videos- http://www.njamf.com/Education/index.html .

National Japanese American Memorial Foundation - http://www.njamf.com/ .

Slide show of the memorial - https://asla.org/guide/site.aspx?id=35744 .