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Cascade High School students learn Japanese American history firsthand

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Cascade High School students in the International District's Canton Alley. Photo courtesy of Everett Public Schools.
Cascade High School students in the International District's Canton Alley. Photo courtesy of Everett Public Schools.

From an Everett Public Schools news release.

Japanese American history comes alive with author visit and tour of International District.

Cascade High students in teacher Scott Loucks’ English class crawled inside a novel the week of April 10, 2017. They saw the few crates in which families hurriedly stuffed their personal belongings before checking into internment camps in the 1940s. They visited Japantown and caught a glimpse of the Panama Hotel, its narrow staircase and rooms still in operation. They explored the Canton Alley apartment of a character named Henry Lee. Students got a real life look at the locations in “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

Loucks’ class and a total of 130 seniors hosted New York Times best-selling author Jamie Ford at the end of March (watch video). His students had read two of Ford’s novels; “Songs of Willow Frost” and “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

The week before Ford visited the students, they hosted Atsushi Kiuchi, a Japanese-American man (87 years young), who shared his experiences as a young man in Camp Harmony (Puyallup) and in Minidoka (Idaho).

Loucks explained the curriculum goal was to “teach students relevant, rigorous, and engaging text that will challenge them to think, reflect and grow as students and citizens. Students set their own learning goals for this unit, including goals that will help them become better college-level readers and writers.”

The class unit culminated last week with a “Bitter Sweet Tour” in Seattle’s International District.

The Wing Luke Museum designed the tour to accompany the class’ reading; a large portion of the novel takes place on streets of Seattle during the 1940s and the 1980s.

Museum docents, all of whom read the novel, guided students to locations described in the story and discussed the real-world situations faced by Japanese Americans.

The students also visited the Nisei Veterans Hall, which has served as a Japanese American community center since the 1950s.

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