BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

May 7, 2018
by blogwalker
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Shoutout to PBS for “Secret War” Documentaries and More

My school district is in south Sacramento, an area that includes the hidden neighborhood of Florin. By “hidden” I mean it’s wedged between the two booming cities of Sacramento and Elk Grove, yet little, if any, construction or restoration is happening in Florin. Vacancy rates are high, with many buildings in disrepair and no longer habitable. Florin does not even have a post office or its own zip code. But hidden neighborhoods have hidden histories and stories.

442 soldier visits his mother at Florin farm.

Before World War II, Florin was known as the “strawberry capital of the West Coast” and was home to a small community of Japanese Americans, who farmed the strawberry fields, often two generations, or even three, working the fields together: Issei, Nisei, and Sansei. In the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, all persons of Japanese heritage were removed from the West Coast, virtually changing overnight and forever the history of Florin. Few would return to reclaim their farms or businesses.

Florin businesses for sale. Photo from UC Berkeley Calisphere

Thanks to the support of Bob Fletcher, a Caucasian neighbor/upstander who looked after their farm and paid their property taxes, Al and Mary Tsukamoto and their young daughter Marielle returned to their Florin farm.

Over the past 15 years, through my friendship with Marielle, I have had the privilege of learning about the internment years and their impact on the Florin community. With the reality that each year there are fewer WWII survivors left to tell their stories – and with the support of my district and the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), we began the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR). The 16-minute video below will introduce you to a number of our interviewees (including Marielle), provide you with a quick tour of Manzanar, and remind you what can happen when a nation fails to uphold the Constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens.

Today the strawberry farms of the Florin-Elk Grove region are farmed primarily by Hmong and Mien families, refugees from a hidden chapter of the Vietnam War: the Secret War in Laos. During the Vietnam War and amid fears that Communism was spreading from North Vietnam into Laos, the United States sent the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) into Laos to disrupt the spread. Over 40,000 Hmong and Mien were covertly recruited to fight in the Secret War. It was the largest CIA operation ever undertaken. Hundreds of thousands of Laotian civilians were killed in the fighting or in retaliation for their support of American troops.

Strawberry fields of Florin now farmed by Hmong and Mien refugees.

As typically happens with refugee or immigrant families, the parents may arrive not speaking English. The children often put much energy into assimilating into their new homeland and communities – and consciously separating themselves from their native language and culture. Once again, hidden histories from Florin-Elk Grove neighborhoods, those not included in history books, could disappear if we do not document them.

Thanks again to the support of my district and our partnership with SECC, Kathleen Watt (TOR co-director) and I have produced a short documentary to introduce you to our newest Time of Remembrance section: The Vietnam War.

In addition to preserving the hidden histories of the Florin-Elk Grove region, we also want to build an archive of primary source documents and accompanying curriculum that teachers can bring into their classrooms. Even if adopted textbooks do not include or reference the Secret War in Laos, or include stories from the Hmong and Mien cultures, teachers can address that void by using the growing TOR resources. For a second grade unit on folk tales, for instance, teachers can introduce our Forbidden Treasure hyperdoc lesson, which features a folktale from local author See Lor and even includes a snippet of See reading her favorite passage.

We are currently seeking more Secret War resources for secondary grades. Kathleen and I looked forward with much anticipation to the recent airing of Ken Burns 10-part documentary on the Vietnam War. We wondered if he would be including a section on the Secret War. He did not.

But we have some exciting news: Adding to their long, long list of outstanding documentaries, PBS has added two recent documentaries: The Hmong and the Secret War and America’s Secret War: Minnesota Remembers Vietnam.

We were thrilled to see independent researcher and historian Tua Vang (whom we have interviewed for TOR) and author Gail Morrison (whom we met during her CSU Sacramento presentation) both featured in The Hmong and the Secret War documentary. We are also thrilled to have two more powerful resources to add to our Vietnam War section.

A shoutout to PBS for continuing to delve into tough topics and to create invaluable classroom resources that make hidden or undertold chapters in history accessible to teachers and students. Last month I blogged about the amazing PBS series directed by Anne Curry: We’ll Meet Again,  which featured Reiko Nagumo’s painful memories of her family’s removal from their home – and Mary Frances, the childhood friend who crossed the playground to stand up for her. Next month, as part of the Crossing Lines Seminar, in addition to the above-mentioned documentaries, I will also be sharing/showcasing PBS’s: Defying the Nazis: Sharps’ War, Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust, Children of the Camps, The War at Home, and Ghosts of Rwanda.

I cannot think of a more valuable resource for helping all of us, young and old, understand the causes and impact, whether hidden or front page news, of major world and national events. With almost 50 years of bringing high-quality programs into our homes, PBS – and my local KVIE – are treasures. #ILovePBS #ILoveKVIE

March 21, 2018
by blogwalker
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A KVIE Evening at the CA Museum with Reiko Nagumo

I’ve shared before that I co-direct and curate my district’s Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR) with my colleague Kathleen Watt. Of all the interviews we have recorded for TOR, we continue to share Reiko Nagumo’s interview in our workshops, webinars, articles, and more. Start to finish, it is a beautiful story of loss and resilience.

If we are under a time constraint, we direct participants and readers to Clip 2 (04:52 ), with this short descriptor:

“In 2nd grade when war started. Shares story of her friendship with Mary Frances – ‘speaking volumes without saying anything.’ In camp from 1942-1945. Talks about returning to school.”

The courage of Mary Frances – a 2nd grader who crossed the playground to welcome Reiko back on the day she returned from the forced removal of her family and imprisonment in the Heart Mountain internment camp – truly ‘speaks volumes’ and demonstrates the lifetime impact of small acts of courage and kindness.

In case you missed our previous posts (“We’ll Meet Again” – Premiere Episode: Reiko Nagumo” and “PBS: We’ll Meet Again – Reiko Nagumo Reunited With Her Upstander“), it was 10 years ago that we (Elk Grove USD, in partnership with SECCTV), conducted the interview with Reiko, so you can probably imagine our excitement when CSU Sacramento Librarian/Archivist Julie Thomas sent out the “We’ll Meet Again” email announcing that, 70 years later, Reiko had found Mary Frances! It was thanks to the efforts of Ann Curry and PBS that the reunion happened. And how fortunate for all of us who treasure this World War II story that Curry and the PBS film crew were there (Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, CA) to document the moment as part of the series. The theme for Episode 1 was Children of WWII. This short trailerwill give you a glimpse into both Reiko’s story and Curry’s style.

What could be better than viewing Reiko and Mary Frances’ story via PBS? How about traveling down to Sacramento’s California Museum to spend an evening with Reiko … and Mary Frances?! Yes, Mary Frances flew out from her home in Kentucky to visit again with Reiko, this time spending the morning with Reiko at the Museum to share their stories with visiting classrooms of 5th grade students from the Sacramento region, including one from EGUSD’s Anna Kirchgater Elementary. A shout out to the Museum and KVIE for hosting the evening event, to Rob on the Road for balancing our tears with laughter, and to Marielle Tsukamoto and Christine Umeda for getting the word out!

As soon as KVIE posts video from the event, we will share it with our readers.

Photo: KVIE’s Rob Stewart “Rob on the Road” moderating discussion with Mary Frances (Left) and Reiko Nagumo (Right) at We Meet Again: An Evening with Reiko & Mary Frances – Sacramento’s California Museum

So proud to stand with Reiko!

At long last, meeting Mary Frances – and sharing the moment with Christine Umeda!

It will be a long time to come before we forget this evening.

January 29, 2018
by blogwalker
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PBS: We’ll Meet Again – Premiere Episode with Reiko Nagumo

Thanks to an email from Julie Thomas, Library Archivist for California State University, Sacramento,  I made sure to be home last Tuesday by 8:00 p.m.

Julie’s subject line was a grabber for me: Reiko Nagumo “We’ll Meet Again.” Her message was short:

“Here is the link to the We’ll Meet Again website and Reiko’s story is highlighted further down the page. I encourage you to tune in at 8:00 (EST and PST) and 7:00 (CST) on your local PBS station. It’s an amazing story about an amazing woman.”

PBS special We'll Meet Again

We’ll Meet Again is a new PBS series produced and hosted by veteran journalist Ann Curry. The six-part series documents reunions between people whose lives were suddenly disrupted by historic events such as war. Episode 1 features Reiko Nagumo and her childhood friend Mary Frances, who, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, stood up for Reiko when no one else would.

I have blogged before about Time of Remembrance, an oral histories project I co-direct for my district with my colleague Kathleen Watt. We had the privilege of interviewing Reiko 12 years ago. Her interview is one I often share with elementary students. I especially want them to know about Reiko’s friendship with Mary Frances (clip 2, 04:52). It’s a beautiful example of what can happen when a single person crosses the line (or playground) to extend a simple act of kindness to someone in need.

The high quality of the interviews (PBS quality, if I say so myself) are the result of our partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC). We are incredibly grateful to the talent and project dedication of SECC videographer Doug Niva.

Several years ago, following a 3-day trip to the Manzanar internment camp, Doug suggested that we make a short documentary to introduce people to our growing collection  of interviews. I’m American Too – A Story from Behind the Fences (16 minutes) includes snippets of Reiko’s interview, along with other internees, whose lives were also overnight and forever changed by Executive Order 9066.

Today, the Time of Remembrance project also includes a Vietnam War section, in which we’ve attempted to capture a little known story: the Secret War in Laos. For a quick overview, watch our 4-minute introduction:

Based on the impact of Reiko’s interview, and in every interview since hers, we always end with the same question: Can you think back to a time in your life (facing exclusion and forces removal, surviving in internment and refugee camps, starting the first day of school in a new country, etc.) when there was someone who stood up for you, making whatever challenges you were dealing with a little easier to cope with?

We are firm believers in the power of a single upstander to make a profound difference in someone’s life – or even change the course of history – and that “it is small things that allow bigger things to happen” (Sam Edleman, Holocaust historian).

January has been a painful month in my district due to a number of racist incidents, which have been widely publicized through local and national media. In an attempt to build student awareness on the exponential negative impact of bystanders, be it face-to-face or online, we invite students across the district, nation, and globe to contribute to our Upstanders, Not Bystanders VoiceThread. We started this VoiceThread a few years ago, and have had an amazing range of contributors, from kindergarten students to humanitarian Carl Wilkens. And, yes, Reiko Nagumo has already shared on the Voice Thread.

Note: A VoiceThread is like a visual podcast. Once you register with VoiceThread for a free account (a process that takes only a couple of minutes), you will be able to post a comment via voice, text, or webcam. Your comment will go “live” as soon as we approve it. If you are in a school district that is a GSuite (formerly known as Google Apps for Education) district, you already have an account, as VoiceThread is now integrated into your district Google account. Head to your Google Apps launcher (waffle) and scroll down to the More section to find the VoiceThread icon.

We look forward to hearing your students’ upstander stories – and yours too! Besides the VoiceThread, you can also leave a comment on this post. We’d love to showcase any projects or programs you are implementing in your schools to promote tolerance, respect, empathy, inclusion and global citizenship.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein

#BeInternetSafe curriculum

August 26, 2017
by blogwalker
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Teaching Digital Citizenship in 2017

Digital citizenship is often cited as the fastest changing subject in the K-12 curriculum. Thinking back 10 years to 2007, when I first began rolling out a digital citizenship program for my district, we were using iSafe, a curriculum that focused on keeping students safe from others. “Stranger danger” was a big concern, with much media coverage – and a bit of hype.

By 2008, we were concerned not only with keeping students safe from others, but also with keeping them safe from each other and from themselves. By now both the federal government and our state government had started issuing legal mandates, including the federal E-Rate/CIPA requirements. Through a district task force (which had morphed from the Internet Safety Task Force to the Digital Citizenship Task Force), we made a commitment that all students would be firmly grounded in what it means to be active, contributing (digital) citizens in all the communities to which they belong, within and beyond the school day. The Task Force agreed that out of multiple topics related to digital citizenship, we would focus on four themes: Taking a stand against cyberbullying, building a positive digital footprint, protecting privacy, and respecting intellectual property.

Elk Grove Unified's digital citizenship logo

We encouraged – and then required – that all schools teach digital citizenship, using whatever resources and teaching practices worked best for their school community and culture. For those who preferred having ready-to-go lessons at their fingertips, we recommended Common Sense Media’s k-12 curriculum. We even provided a suggested scope-and-sequence – which, to avoid an overload of content, did not include Common Sense Media’s media literacy lessons.

Times have changed.  In an age of “fake news,” media literacy should be embedded across the curriculum.

Fortunately, excellent FREE resources are available. In addition to Common Sense Media’s robust curriculum, Google, in partnership with iKeepSafe, Family Online Safety Institute, and ConnectSafely, has just released Be Internet Awesome, an interactive curriculum for grades 3-5, which includes Don’t Fall for Fake as one of five core topics.

Google's Interland Graphic

I had the good fortune to be invited to Google last Monday to join a team of Googlers and Google Certified Innovators to explore the Be Internet Awesome package and to participate in highly interactive panel and group discussions on the critical need to be teaching digital citizenship skills in the 2017-2018 school year and, as you can see from the video below, the importance of including parents in the conversations.

At the heart of the Be Internet Awesome curriculum is Interland, a “playful browser-based game that makes learning about digital safety interactive and fun.” Award-winning YA author John Green, has even joined the Google team and recorded messages for the Be Internet Awesome Challenge, a video series aimed at igniting conversations in the classroom and at home too on what it means to be smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online; in other words, how to “BeInternetAwesome.”

As we head into the 2017-2018 school year, I want to acknowledge my appreciation for Common Sense Media, the Google team, and other national organizations, including:

for scrambling to find much needed resources for teaching digital citizenship in a “post-truth” era.

 

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