Now and Then: Comparing life in old Japantown to students’ lives today

Image

Japanese Community Queens Court, 1931.

Writing lesson plans for elementary students was simple. The kids lack the cognitive development of secondary students, so one does not have to bother with exploring abstract ideas. Instead, the lessons can be more basic and focus on developing skills students will rely upon as they progress through school and life. I had two goals when writing my lessons: don’t bore the students, and let them create something.

The Lessons
Both lessons were designed to be used in conjunction with the photographs included the Nikkei Center’s traveling suitcases. One lesson is targeted at lower elementary, the other at upper. Both lessons challenge students to analyze what they see in the photographs, make connections between the past and their lives, and create a product demonstrating their understanding. Overviews of the lessons and links to PDFs are provided below.

Lower Elementary:
This lesson offers students a chance to develop their critical thinking skills and make connections between their community and the Japanese community that existed in Portland in the first half of the 20th century. Students will draw where they live, examine the photographs in the suitcase, create a second drawing depicting life in Japantown, and finish by comparing their two pieces and presenting their findings to the class.

Comparing Community

Upper Elementary:
In this lesson students will explore how personal experience can vary based on the community in which you live. Students will imagine they live in Portland’s old Japantown. They will examine the photographs in the suitcase to develop an interpretation of life there during the early 20th century. Using what they learned, students will write a letter to a friend describing their life in Japantown.

Letter to a Friend

Image credit:  These girls are the Japanese Community Queens Court, voted for by the Japanese community, 1931. From left: Emi Somekawa, Frances Maeda, Fumie Marumoto (queen), Chizuko Inouye, and Takako Saito. The queen and princesses ride on the Japanese community’s float in the Rose Festival floral parade.

Oregon Nikkei Endowment on Flickr

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