By Ms. Beth Cain, English faculty
In 8th grade English classes, we recently read They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, a memoir of his family’s experiences in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. In addition to exploring the literary form of graphic novel and memoir, our class discussions centered on the ideas of loyalty, point of view, citizenship and American history. As a culmination of this unit, all 8th grade students were invited on an outing to a local Tucson site associated with this time in American history.
The Gordon Hirabayashi campground and trailhead on Catalina Highway was a prison camp for conscientious objectors during World War II. Prisoners at the camp helped to build the Catalina Highway that extends from Tucson to the top of Mt. Lemmon. Visiting this beautiful location at mile marker 7 on the Catalina Highway is a wonderful way to bring closure to our unit of study.
Because we cannot take an official school field trip with our entire 8th grade during the limitations of the pandemic, I invited students and parents to join me on one of four dates to allow for small group sizes. While observing social distancing and wearing masks, groups enjoyed a tour, a short hike, and a picnic lunch at Gordon Hirabayashi campground.
"I’m glad I was able to see my friends at the first school event of the year," Campbell Finley '25 remarked. "It was enjoyable to hike through the internment camp and see what remained of the original structures."
"Literature helps us see the world through many different lenses, and one of the biggest rewards that I get from teaching Middle School English is watching students learn to see things from different perspectives. I appreciate and honor the trust that parents give me to approach difficult topics in literature with sensitivity, honesty, and, I hope, clarity. Reading They Called Us Enemy and then being able to connect it with a real location right here in Tucson was a great exercise in seeing another point of view. Thanks to all of the supportive parents who were willing to work around the restrictions of the pandemic, our 8th graders had that opportunity."
Beth Cain holds an M.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of North Texas and a B.A. in Music Education from the University of Texas, Arlington. Her Ph.D. in Music Education is in progress.