Lesson: Camp Boys
Through internee testimony, students learn about the conditions of internment in Canada, and explore a variety of primary sources relating to the responses of the “camp boys” to internment.
Links to Historical Thinking Concepts:
Establish Historical Significance – Students reflect on the significance of a variety of cultural responses to internment – writing, art, learning and religious observance – and what these reveal about the period.
Use Primary Source Evidence – Students consider what eyewitness testimony reveald about the conditions of Canadian internment camps, and about the varied responses of the internees to internment.
Take Historical Perspective – Students consider how internees with an uncertain future viewed their internment, and the broader context of war.
The Camp System
Let students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: Internment in Canada. Students also study the corresponding Map.
In pairs (or, as computers permit, individually or in groups), students view Video: Internment in Canada, which features internees speaking about the administration and conditions of the Canadian internment camps. Students should watch the video twice; on the first viewing, students watch and listen carefully, while on the second viewing, students should note the anecdotes described by the interviewees.
Students discuss their notes in pairs or small groups, commenting on what they found most interesting or surprising.
Group Activity: Responses to Internment
Divide the class into at least four groups. Assign at least one group to each of the four topics, representing a section on the website. Groups can double-up on one topic:
- The Arts
Working in their group, students explore the webpage, dossier and, if applicable, video related to their topic.
The group develops a presentation about their theme for the class. The presentation should highlight:
- At least two artefacts or documents of interest: what does each source reveal about the internees’ response to internment?
- At least one anecdote of interest from the companion video testimony or another primary source.
Each group presents to the class. Encourage students to ask questions of each group.
After each group has presented, the class discusses how each theme contributes to their understanding of internment. Prompting question: How do the sources featured (i.e. diary entries, drawings, attempts to observe one’s religious beliefs) relate to modes of expression in your own life? How does the meaning of relatively simple forms of expression change in the context of internment?
Class Discussion: Morale
In pairs (or, as computers permit, individually or in groups), students view Video: Morale, which features internees speaking about the effects of internment on their morale. As a class, discuss:
- How do the internees speak about the experiences of younger versus older internees? Point out to students that the interview subjects represent the younger internees, as most of the older men are no longer alive.
- How do the internees speak about their internment experiences compared to the experiences of their families still in Europe?
Extension: Baseball & the Internment of Japanese Canadians
Students research and develop a paper or presentation about the Vancouver-based Asahi Baseball Club, reflecting on baseball as a cultural response of Japanese Canadians interned during the Second World War.