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The Project

Building History 3.0

The project

Building History 3.0 is a free online collection of resources on the Japanese American incarceration camps. You’ll find tools here developed specifically for kids, including short documentaries, graphics, and Minecraft activities. Our project also includes classroom-ready resources, including full-length lesson plans for grades 3-12. 

Our story

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! You can watch this history unfold in our short documentary “Gabriel’s Heart Mountain.”

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.

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Today, Gabe’s idea has grown into a collection of online resources, Building History 3.0, developed by filmmakers Renee Tajima-Peña and Janet Chen of the UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications, curriculum designer and Minecraft expert, Randall Fujimoto of Game Train Learning, high school teacher and educational technology specialist, Kim Bathker and graphic and web designers, Charity Ellis and Azusa Oda. Survivors of the incarceration camps, like Gabe’s grandmother, have been involved with this project from its start, and we have been proud to bridge the generation gap by bringing survivors into our workshops and classroom visits to meet with students and share their accounts firsthand.

 
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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.