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Created by Kids!

Building History 3.0 on Minecraft© combines youth-powered research and creativity with Minecraft© to teach the history of Japanese American WWII incarceration camps.

When high school student Gabriel Tajima-Pena visited the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, at the site where his grandmother was incarcerated, he had a brainstorm. He interviewed his grandmother and other former incarcerees, studied the exhibits and pored through research material online to create his own interpretation of the site.   The result: a virtual recreation of the Heart Mountain camp on Minecraft.

Gabriel's idea has grown into a comprehensive learning curriculum, Building History 3.0, developed by filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña of the UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications and Randall Fujimoto of Game Train Learning to create a demonstration curriculum that expanded upon the idea of creative, self-directed, game-based learning and peer teaching.  

What is Building History 3.0?

Building History 3.0 is an innovative interactive web project that uses the 3D construction and exploration online video game, Minecraft, to engage young people and the public with the historic meaning of World War II Japanese American incarceration camps. It explores the way different generations reclaim and interpret these sites, not only as places of trauma, but also of community building, creative expression and learning.

Minecraft can best be described as a video game with electronic Lego blocks and objects that players use to build virtual worlds. It is inexpensive, accessible on many platforms, and wildly popular, with over 100 million registered users. Young people (and not so young people) play Minecraft at home, and teachers around the world use it to instruct student in such subjects as history, literature and math.

Exploring Topics, Issues and Themes:

Building History 3.0 delves into the history of Japanese American imprisonment to examine themes of civil liberties, democracy, immigration and civic engagement. The preservation, dialogue, and understanding of these moments in history are becoming increasingly important for students to understand and engage.

How can we keep this history vital and relevant to new generations, as many of the people who lived through those times are passing on? How do we encourage the sharing of personal stories and public history among generations?  Young people often perceive history lessons to be boring and passive process of memorizing facts, dates, and ready-made concepts that seem to have little relevance to their lives and current events.

Using a popular and creative online game, the project will encourage young people to learn independently, investigate sources, think critically about history, and to analyze multiple perspectives. They will address ideas and debates such as balancing national priorities with the rights of individuals and minority groups, the meaning of constitutional protections and the Bill of Rights in our daily lives, how democratic processes are strengthened or weakened during times of national crisis, media literacy and assessing the representation of racial and ethnic groups, and how individuals respond to these challenges.




Renee Tajima-Peña | Project Director
Renee Tajima-Peña is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, whose films include Who Killed Vincent Chin?, My America...or Honk if You Love Buddha, and No Más Bebés. At UCLA, she is a professor of Asian American Studies, director of the Center for EthnoCommunications, and holds the endowed chair in Japanese American Studies.

Janet Chen | Project Producer, Project Coordinators

Gena Hamamoto | Project Coordinators

Randall Fujimoto | Curriculum Designer

Kim Bathker | Educational Technology Consultant

Dr. Valerie Matsumoto | Historical Advisor

Brian Niiya | Historical Advisor

Azusa Oda | Logo and Web Designer

Qris Yamashita | Graphic Designer



Video Production Team

Videography | Akira Boch, Evan Kodani, Adam Singer

Editing | Kim Bathker, Janet Chen, Gena Hamamoto, Tadashi Nakamura

Producer | Janet Chen

Director | Renee Tajima-Peña

Conceived by | Gabriel Tajima-Peña
Gabriel Tajima-Peña is a student at UC Santa Cruz.  His interests are film, photography and music.



Building History 3.0 is a project of the UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications and Visual Communications.


Fiscal sponsorship for this project has been provided by Visual Communications from funding by a grant from the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, administered by the National Park Service.

Funding for this project has also been provided by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Program, administered by the California State Library.