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Building History 3.0



Built by Kids!


Building History 3.0 began when high school student Gabriel Tajima-Peña visited Heart Mountain, where his grandmother had been incarcerated during World War II. Inspired by the bravery of his grandmother and other former incarcerees, Gabe interviewed them, read online materials, and closely studied the Heart Mountain exhibits. He soon realized how important it was to preserve this history. Then, he had an idea: he could recreate Heart Mountain for other kids to explore in Minecraft!

Years later, Gabe had not only used Minecraft to build a virtual Heart Mountain, he had also shared his project with other students studying World War II. By exploring this important history through a creative and fun game, these students engaged with the material creatively and thoughtfully, using self-directed learning and peer teaching.

Today, Gabe’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.

our mission


Building History 3.0 was created to engage the public, especially young people, with the historic meaning of World War II Japanese American incarceration camps. It explores the ways different generations have reclaimed and interpreted these sites, not only as places of trauma, but also of community building, creative expression, and learning. The preservation, dialogue, and understanding of these moments in history are increasingly important for students to understand.

Far more than a straightforward history lesson, Building History 3.0 encourages students to explore themes of civil liberties, democracy, immigration, and civic engagement. Young people sometimes perceive history lessons to be boring, placing emphasis on the memorization of facts, dates, and ready-made concepts. We aim to encourage young people to learn independently, investigate sources, think critically about history, and to analyze multiple perspectives. Building History 3.0 provides a platform for students to explore the balancing of 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, and assessing the representation of racial and ethnic groups.

The Team

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 + Coordinator

Gena Hamamoto

Project Coordinator

Randall Fujimoto

Curriculum Designer

Kim Bathker

Educational Technology Specialist

Dr. Valerie Matsumoto & Brian Niiya

Historical Consultants

Milton Liu

Visual Communications, Project Manager

Azusa Oda

Logo and Web Designer

Charity Capili Ellis

Web Designer

Qris Yamashita

Graphic Designer

Video Production Team

Akira Boch, Evan Kodani, Adam Singer


Gena Hamamoto, Tadashi Nakamura, Eben Portnoy


Qris Yamashita

Graphic Designer

Janet Chen


Renee Tajima-Peña


About minecraft

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.

Disclaimer: Building History 3.0 is not endorsed by Minecraft. Minecraft is trademarked and copyrighted by Mojang Synergies AB.


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.


Conceived by

Gabriel Tajima-Peña

Gabriel Tajima-Peña conceived Building History 3.0 and is the project assistant. He is a student at UC Santa Cruz. His interests are film, photography and music.