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High School Students Engage with Living History

Bainbridge Island High School Students Learn about Japanese American Exclusion from Community Elders & BHS Alumni

May 2018


Kay Sakai Nakao, Hisa Matsudaira, and Lilly Kodama speak with 11th Grade Students

For the past three years, our Only What We Can Carry Program has been organizing a series of guest speakers for a panel discussion on Japanese American Exclusion the Bainbridge High School 11th grade American Studies classes.  These discussions are part of their unit of study of American Foreign Policy during WWII.

Bainbridge Island was ground zero for the beginning of the implementation of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which led to the detention of 120,000 Japanese Americans and immigrants living within 200 miles of the west coast of the United States.  In March 1942, close to 300 Bainbridge Islanders were forced from their homes, with only what they could carry, and sent under military escort to the Manzanar Relocation Center in Independence, CA, one of 10 concentration camps set up to intern Japanese Americans during the WWII.


Kay Sakai Nakao, age 98, sharing stories of life in Manzanar

Along with a variety of questions about life on Bainbridge Island before, during, and after WWII, and their family’s experience with exclusion, students commented to their guest speakers about how they were appreciative of to hear their voices and stories.  It is a special opportunity when students can experience living history in their own backyard, and when lived experiences can inform a more lived curriculum.  This was made even more relevant hearing from survivors and their relatives who grew up on their Island and attended their schools.

This year guest speakers included:
Donna Harui – Harui Family
Hisa Matsudaira – Hayashida Family
Lilly Kodama – Kitamoto Family
Vern Nataka -Nakata Family
Kay Sakai Nakao – Sakai & Nakao Families
Victor Takemoto – Takemoto Family


Lilly Kodama talks about being a child during WWII.

EduCulture, through our Only What We Can Carry Program, has been working with Bainbridge Island School District since 2009 to enrich and enhance school curriculum on the local Japanese American immigrant and exclusion experience.  This includes organizing delegations of Bainbridge Island Japanese American survivors of the exclusion during WWII and BISD teachers to the former Manzanar concentration camp.  In 2016, OWWCC brought three of these BHS American Studies teachers to Manzanar.  Educulture also the resident educators at Historic Suyematsu Farm and homestead on Bainbridge Island.  You can learn more about our OWWCC program work at: http://educultureproject.org/onlywhatwecancarry/
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