Launching ‘Teaching What We Can Carry’ Pilot Program



“We who are in education, cannot know, cannot truly know how it was, how it is, but we can attend to some of the voices, some of the stories.  And as we do so, our perspectives on the meanings of freedom and the possibility of freedom in this country may particularize and expand.” – Maxine Greene, The Dialectic of Freedom

Teaching What We Can Carry:
A Professional Field Program
on Integrating the Study of Japanese American Exclusion

Monthly Field Classes, December 2014 – August 2015
Based on Bainbridge Island, WA

The Teaching What We Can Carry Field Program is an in-depth, experiential professional and curriculum development program designed for elementary and secondary school educators responsible for teaching and learning about WWII and the Japanese American Exclusion, or those interested in integrating this subject of study into their curriculum.  EduCulture’s Only What We Can Carry Project is seeking a small cadre of Puget Sound educators to pilot this ground breaking program we are launching in late fall.

Situated on Bainbridge Island, and taking place over the course of the school year and summer, this teacher training program will use this small Puget Sound community’s unique and common story with WWII and the Japanese American Exclusion as a case study to bring important and relevant regional and global topics of study to life for 21st century students.

Educating young people in the 21st century involves helping them bear witness to realities past and present, and fostering responsible citizenship in a world of unprecedented interdependence, challenge, and possibility. How do we tend to the stories of the past and present that make up our curriculum? What is our calling as educators responsible for teaching and learning about sensitive and challenging subjects of study in our curriculum with which we have no personal, cultural or historical experience? How do we create more lived experiences that can inform a more lived curriculum for our students?

When President Roosevelt signed the Executive Order to uproot and incarcerate all people of Japanese Ancestry, mostly Japanese Americans, living within 200 miles of the US West Coast – 120,000 people in all – Bainbridge Island was the first community to receive the order.

“Only What We Could Carry” was the rule, so we carried Strength, Dignity and Soul.
– Lawson Inada

Frank Kitamoto points to himself as a young boy walking with his family and the rest of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community onto the ferry at Eagledale Dock on Bainbridge, March 30, 1942, as they were forced from their homes and shipped to concentration camps during WWII.

Frank Kitamoto points to himself as a young boy walking with his family and the rest of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community onto the ferry at Eagledale Dock on Bainbridge, March 30, 1942, as they were forced from their homes and shipped to concentration camps during WWII.

We now know that Bainbridge Island was one of the few communities throughout the entire west coast which openly welcomed back their Japanese American neighbors after WWII. However, even our Island community was complicit in a collective silence about the experience of exclusion that lasted four decades. In the 1980’s, people in the community began telling their stories, and the Bainbridge Island community began a process of healing and reconciliation that over 30 years has helped to normalize this episode and its legacy as part of our community’s story.  It is in the way we as community have confronted and wrestled with the intense and intimate issues of conflict, suffering, and fear that are at the heart of this experience that have allowed us to embrace this episode and its legacy with compassion and dignity.

This program was conceived to assist educators and schools in grounding a culture of curriculum and deepening their professional repertoire around teaching and learning about this period of local and global conflict and crisis. This is a special opportunity to bear witness to how one community experienced the tragic events of WWII and bring this period of history alive for your students, while modeling field classes and learning experiences you can facilitate for students.

Through monthly class meetings, the course content will follow the chronology of the United States entering WWII and the events leading to the Japanese Exclusion, while interacting with cultural and community assets of Bainbridge Island to model how educators can bring these topics to life for our students. The course will culminate over the summer with a presentation of curricular projects participants will be able to implement the following school year.

Jon Garfunkel leads an OWWCC class for educators near the Suyematsu historic barn.

Participants will visit key heritage sites and follow the lives of Bainbridge Island Japanese American Families who immigrated from Japan, established livelihoods, became citizens, then were forced into concentration camps during WWII. You will dialogue with original Bainbridge Islanders whose families lived through WWII and the Exclusion. Our aim is to focus on the experiences of inclusion as much as exclusion during this tragic period, and have carried forward to the present.

The following questions will guide the work of this professional learning experience:

  • How do we as educators tend to the stories that make up our curriculum?
  • How can the study of an experience of exclusion be a pathway to teach inclusion?
  • What are the components for K-12 education that make history come alive and bring the past to the present?
  • What can the study of the exclusion during WWII teach us about our community before, during and since?
  • How often do we as educators get the opportunity to teach some of the more essential lessons about about freedom, diversity, human rights, and democracy, using our own community as a case study and current residents as voices and role models?
  • How can our own lived experiences with this topic of study cultivate a more lived curriculum for our students and community?
  • How can this arena of education help us build stronger bridges between classrooms and community and stronger school-community relationships?

JA class8

Field Program Features:

o   Monthly Classes: Saturdays,10a-4p, December 2014-August 2015

o   This program will be situated among the many historical sites on Bainbridge Island that can bring this topic of study to life for our students. They include: historic Suyematsu Farm, Bainbridge Gardens, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, Sakai Intermediate School and Woodward Middle School.

o   We will experience a piece of the community’s history and heritage through the lenses of those who lived it. Through teacher-elder interviews, panel discussions, readings, and documentaries, participants will interact with Bainbridge Island residents, living and past, who experienced WWII, from Japanese Americans who were incarcerated to their neighbors who remained on the Island, and those who served in the war.

o   Through first hand voices, primary sources, documentary materials, and recent accounts of bearing witness, we will study the experience of incarceration at Manzanar and Minidoka concentration camps, other forms of exile, and life on Bainbridge Island during the WWII.

o   We will screen, preview and discuss local and national documentaries and films.

o   We will compile, display and share a collection of all the curricular and resource materials that have been created to teach and learn about the experience of internment on Bainbridge Island.

o   We will address and share best pedagogies and practices for teaching and learning about internment, along with looking at how we build a culture of curriculum that bridges classroom and community in bringing this area of study to life.

o   We will discuss ways to anchor and sustain the legacy, lessons and learning surrounding the experience of internment in our schools and community for this and future generations.

o   This is a rarely afforded opportunity to be in dedicated professional learning community around a common topic of study we, as local educators, feel responsible for in our curriculum and community.

o   Each participant will receive a teaching kit including a copy of In Defense of Our Neighbors, by Mary Woodward.

o   Clock Hours available

For more information on becoming a participant in this pilot program, contact EduCulture at:, or call 206 780-5797.

Click here for more information on OWWCC Professional Development.

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