YES and FLEX students hosted in the Greater Puget Sound area of Washington State, recently had a chance to visit the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, where docents (including 3 Nisei Japanese who were in WWII Relocation Camps) told them of local history, including the region's role in the Japanese American Exclusion Act. They were joined by Dawn Kepets, Program Officer at the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The group then spent several hours at IslandWood, an outdoor education school on Bainbridge Island. They learned about recycling, “green” construction, and the philanthropy that made the facility possible.
Here's what the students had to say about the experience!
Hassan from Oman : We visited Bainbridge Island's historical museum and learned a lot about how the island got popular, and how strawberries used to be the main crop over the island. We also learned about the Japanese- Americans’ history and how they were taken to camps after Pearl harbor's bombing just because they were Japanese although they were American and thought to be dangerous. It was interesting to listen to real people's stories and relate that to what we learned in our U.S History class about the immigration acts like the National Origins act of 1924 and how it affected Japanese immigrants. Later on we visited Woods Island and went around the place, looked at different trees grown there, and different activities the kids do while visiting the island. It was wet but interesting!
Ravi from Malaysia: I seriously learnt a lot from the activity we had recently. I related what I learned from the Japanese Americans to Indians living in home country of Malaysia. Indians were brought to Malaysia by the British as slaves to help in the rubber industry. back then we too did not have equal rights with the citizens of Malaysia. While historically they did not have equal rights, they now have a much better government. I am so glad that the Japanese people have peaceful and a beautiful life here in America.
The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum was also a great place to visit. I was not only amazed but shocked when I saw how Americans gave so much importance to maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. I think this realization has to spread across the globe including my country; we have so much to learn from America! I noticed that the architecture of the school is super detailed. They really try to maximize the effort of making the buildings environmentally friendly.
Begad from Egypt: I learned a lot from the Japanese museum, the life of the Japanese-Americans in Washington state and overall during WW II, how they lived, where they worked, and how they were treated. And from the Islandwood camp, I learned new ways of generating clean energy and more nature friendly projects, and it made me think and I'm thinking in a project to compete in a student summit, Climate Change Student Summit, using some of the ideas I got from this activity.
Basak from Turkey: I learned to look from different point of views. I feel confident to have a discussion with an adult about the environment and the history of our community.
Hassan: After going back home, it would be great to suggest the idea of starting a small outdoor school, or organizing an activity somewhere in the suburbs where kids will have the time and experience to explore things and learn in the middle of the woods rather than spending most of their time in class rooms and learning about things they can explore and find out about all by themselves.
Ana from Georgia: We should take care of everything from the past, every single, simple "memory" is important and again we learned from the movie that, despite the fact that this country " upon a hill " made some mistakes to different cultures, different cultures (new generations) will learn from the example and never make the same mistake :)
Photos courtesy Linda Sohlberg, AFS Greater Puget Sound